With a 30% filled stadium, it appeared that the Beavers travel well, owning about 60% of the sold seats. Being a 14-hour drive made it easy for the fans to arrive in time for the opening kick-off. I could feel the energy as I walked among the fans during the pregame festivities. I could see the Gators were outnumbered outside, but I needed to see if the energy was the same inside the stadium. So I vacated the 40-something temperature and went into the covered stadium…Allegiant, for the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl. As I looked around I could see and feel both positivity and expectations of the Beavers fans.
The coin was tossed. A determination was made. The Beavers elected to kick it away. Once underway, the Gators appeared to be swatting butterflies in the desert because a trapped Ricky Pearsall lost two yards on his 1st run. Then Montrell Johnson Jr was the victim of a bad throw while the 3rd down ended with a dropped pass by Caleb Douglas as he heard footsteps. So a 3-and-out forced an early punt that ended up on the Beavers’ 25.
A series of +3 yards by Damien Martinez, -10 yards by Ben Gulbranson, and five yards by Martinez forced the second three-and-out of the game. After receiving the kick and a little scrambling, Florida was to start their 2nd drive from their own 14-yard line. The first couple of series were not far left and not far right as the ball travels. Then it looked good for the Gators to put up the first points of the game before a few penalties retreated them back for a 52-yard field goal kick. That, which failed, would be their only real try at points through the 1st quarter.
Receiving the ball on their own 35 was the starting point of the 30-3 blowout as the Beavers first meeting with the Gators (who they drug through the Vegas Bowl Swamp), showed true determination. The Beavers drove to the 11-yard line including an NFL acrobatic catch of 35 yards by Silas Bolden and a Red Zone scamper to the house by Tyjon Lindsey. That made the first quarter score 7-0 Beavers.
As the dice continued to land on numbers for the Beavers, the fans became louder and louder as if they were in Seattle as the 12th Man! Pulling the One-Armed Bandit continued to show triple zeros for the Gators who carry the longest streak of scoring games in the NCAA. They would extend that record to 436 consecutive games, but only with one 37-yard 3-pointer kicked by Mihalek (#49).
The scoring ended in the 1st quarter with the Beavers 7 and Gators 0. It was the Beavers 10-0 at the half. The Gators appeared refreshed after the half, but that was misleading as they fell to an embarrassing 23-0 after 15 more minutes. And in the game’s last minute, the Gators got life to slip the 3-pointer in for a final score of Beavers 30 and the Gators 3.
As the OSU Beavers wrapped up their first 10-win season, Gulbranson, throwing for 165 yards, including 1 TD, and running for 1 TD, was named the Las Vegas Bowl MVP.