Payback Party — Gators trounce Bulldogs

Published: Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 8:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 8:59 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE There are two significant numbers that were burned into their brains this summer. And into their biceps, triceps, pecs and just about every other muscle group you can imagine.


Three Things to Know

1. The Florida defense held tailback Knowshon Moreno to 65 yards rushing on 17 carries and came up with four turnovers, three of them leading to touchdowns in the second half.

2. Quarterback Tim Tebow had one of his Heisman-like games, rushing for three touchdowns and throwing for two to lead the offense.

3. The Gators were obviously fired up for this one, but played hard and under control and never let their emotions get them off their game.

Forty-two and 188.

It was the idea of strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti. It was his method for motivating the Florida players and reminding them of what happened in Jacksonville Municipal Stadium a year ago.

Forty-two. The number of points Georgia put up on the Gators in a 42-30 victory.

One-hundred-eighty-eight. The number of yards the UF defense surrendered to Knowshon Moreno.

Every time the Gators had a workout with Marotti in the offseason, they had to do 188 crunches, sit-ups and push-ups (each). And on every lift, they had to do 42 reps.

So yes, the Gators have been thinking about the Bulldogs for a long, long time.

"That meant a lot," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "We worked on a lot of different things in those midnight lifts. We did it for this game. Those are numbers we were embarrassed by. We worked on that. Those numbers were on our minds all year."

Now, the Gators have another number they will happily burn into their brains.


The satisfying payback for last year's loss (and end zone celebration by the Bulldogs) is in the books.

"We didn't talk about (the celebration) this week, but we saw it, we knew about it," Tebow said. "It was all over the place. We knew about it.

"You're right, this is the best answer. It doesn't get any sweeter than this. We just had to go out there and show that we're a different team and prove we worked extremely hard and were not going to let that (42-30) happen again."

For a team that had been building for Saturday's moment for, oh, about 365 days, the Gators dismantled the Bulldogs before 84,649 with cold, ruthless efficiency and with surprisingly little obvious emotion. They didn't celebrate anything until after the game, when they did their traditional post-game routine of singing the fight song and the alma mater in front of the UF band. That celebration did happen to occur in the same end zone where the Bulldogs held their controversial celebration after their first touchdown a year ago.

The victory lifts the No. 5 Gators to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Florida can clinch the conference's Eastern Division title with a win at Vanderbilt on Saturday night. The Gators also remain solidly in the national title hunt. In the last four games, the Gators have outscored the opposition 201 to 43, and will get a lot of national attention for Saturday's crushing of preseason No. 1 Georgia.

"I admire this team," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "The admiration is starting to get real strong. I told them I love them. All a coach ever wants is a team to take a real professional approach. With all the nonsense going around this whole week, it was awesome.

"We have to get a team ready to go to Nashville next week. I know we're competing to get to Atlanta. That's real important to us."

The Gators certainly looked like strong championship contenders Saturday.

Tebow rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two more. And the UF defense, trampled in this game a year ago, forced four big turnovers that helped turn a close game into perhaps the ultimate revenge rout.

"I thought (defensive coordinator Charlie Strong) called a brilliant game and credit goes to the players for executing the plan," Meyer said. "When you play great defense, you're going to win a bunch of football games."

This victory started taking root during those tough workouts with Marotti. On Saturday, the Gators finished it off in a big way.

"I knew we had this in us," said senior wide receiver Louis Murphy, whose 44-yard TD reception gave the Gators a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter. "We've been getting better and better.

"Last year, everybody knew what happened. We didn't need anything to motivate us. It was in the back of our minds and we came out and played our hearts out. The best answer is to come out and play like this. We were ready, we hit on all cylinders. I didn't see this coming, but I knew we had a chance to do what we did tonight."

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