Meyer at Peace with His Decision

With one arm around his wife, singing the Florida alma mater as they do after every win, Urban Meyer was swept up in the moment. He saw the tears starting to form in Shelley's eyes. It was only a matter of time before Meyer started to tear up, too. Fans packed around the band to sing the alma mater with Meyer and the players one more time to create a moment that will never leave his mind.

"We love Florida," Urban Meyer said. "We've given six years to Florida and six equals about 40 years of your life. We couldn't have dreamed of doing it anywhere else."

There were individual moments on the sideline where Meyer was able to share his happiness with coaches and players. After Ahmad Black's interception return for a touchdown to clinch the 37-24 final, Meyer hugged multiple players and coaches on the sideline and also received a Gatorade bath.

The first moment on the sideline that stood out to Meyer was an embrace with safeties coach Chuck Heater.

"This is the fourth job Chuck Heater and I have worked together," Meyer said. "He gave me a big hug and just said, 'What a run.' We've been together for seven straight years and a whole bunch of rings."

Another came in a moment with offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. It's been a long, strenuous season for each of the coaches, but the maligned coordinator has remained close with Meyer. Addazio coached his final game with the Gators on Saturday and will head north to be the head coach at Temple.

"Steve Addazio and what he's gone through this year with disappointments in offense," Meyer said. "He's my best friend. To see him have an opportunity to go run his own program, it makes it all worthwhile."

After resigning for one day last year and returning, Meyer has heard plenty of questions this season about the peace with his decision. He has never batted and eye or thought twice when saying that he knows he is doing the right thing.

The belief was confirmed when he walked into the locker room after Saturday's game.

"I'm at peace because I saw a bunch of smiles in that locker room," Meyer said. "Locker rooms aren't much fun when there aren't smiles and a pain in your stomach. That was a lot of fun in there. It was great to see smiles on those seniors. I know this year wasn't a great year, but those guys will leave here as one of the best groups to ever play at Florida."

The upbeat attitude in the locker room after a bowl game has been experienced by Meyer every season but one since he took over at Florida. The 2007 Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan was the only bowl game he lost in his tenure, and he knows what an important victory it is. The team now heads into the offseason with a positive energy, which is even more important with a new head coach taking over.

"It feels great because Will Muschamp is getting a good group of young men on a positive note," Meyer said. "It's awful in the offseason when you go through one after you lose a bowl game. It is terrible. Will Muschamp is going to get a group with bright eyes and ready to get to work and get back to where we need to be."

OUT IN STYLE: Black's interception to clinch the game was perfect on multiple levels, but it was the best way for the senior to end his career. He was named Outback Bowl MVP after the game, and his head coach won't soon forget him.

"Ahmad Black is one of my closest friends," Meyer said. "I can call him a friend now because he's no longer my player. He is family. He is the best safety in college football."

The transformation of Black as a player has been almost as drastic as his transformation as a person. Black changed his work ethic and became an accountable player under Meyer.

He developed a mental and physical toughness to his game, evidenced when he came out of Saturday's game after breaking his helmet and "busting up" his nose and mouth.

"Ahmad Black was not the Ahmad Black (he is) when we got him four years ago," Meyer said. "Ahmad Black has turned into a grown man that's going to pay taxes, have a family, be a great father and a great husband."

DEFENSIVE ISSUES: The Florida defense struggled, allowing 350 yards and 211 of those through the air. The secondary had depth issues because of injury.

Janoris Jenkins missed the game after having surgery on a torn labrum. Jeremy Brown and Matt Elam got injured during the game. Cody Riggs missed a few plays, at which time the Gators were down to only Jaylen Watkins and Moses Jenkins at cornerback.

"I was looking at some of our receivers thinking I'd have to stick some of those guys in there," Meyer said.

The Gators also got a momentum change when Solomon Patton blocked a punt and Lerentee McCray returned it for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Gators a 14-7 lead.

"We used to be known to do that around here," Meyer said. "That's been our signature. Solomon Patton is going to be a great player. That changed the game for us because we were sputtering around."

OFFENSE STRUGGLES: When the offense and defense don't have their best day, it's tough to win a game. Somehow Florida managed to do it by double digits. The offense put up only 279 yards.

"Our goal was to get in the second level (of the defense), and they were doing a good job," Meyer said. "Whenever you have three weeks to prepare, they did some stuff they hadn't shown."

Jordan Reed was the most important player to the offense. He was 8-for-13 for 60 yards. He also added 68 yards rushing.

"Jordan Reed is a hell of a player, and he did a great job moving that offense," Meyer said. "We did up-tempo, and I think they wore out on defense. You could see them start to give."

GOING OUT AGAINST A LEGEND: Meyer couldn't have scripted a better opponent to face in his final game. Penn State coach Joe Paterno is one of his good friends, and the mutual respect between the two was evident all week.

"He will go down as the greatest head coach in the history of the game, and he should," Meyer said. "Every young coach should take a lesson from not, him all this other stuff going on.

"If I ever start a coaching school, I'm going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno and say, 'That's the way you should act in coaching.' You don't want to lose that man. You don't want to lose what college football is."


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