Gators keep BCS dream alive in wet win over FSU


Tim Tebow runs towards the goal line during the third quarter of the Gators' 45-15 win against rival Florida State University on Saturday.

Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 12:09 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE — And the beat goes on.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you throw at the Florida Gators — rain, mud, a hostile environment, adversity, a family tragedy. They bat away the bad stuff and then beat down their opponent.

That’s the way it played out once again Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium, with the No. 2 Gators (11-1) following their recent blueprint and pinning a 45-15 loss on arch-rival Florida State before a rain-soaked crowd of 83,237. It sends UF into next Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against No. 1 Alabama on a dominant eight-game winning streak.

“That’s as hard as our guys have played,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “The environment, the weather, there were all kinds of things that were equalizers, or supposedly equalizers, and I was just very proud. That’s as proud as I’ve ever been of this football team.

“What I saw tonight, the effort and the focus was phenomenal. I’m proud of them. I’ve done this for quite a while and this is the proudest I’ve ever been. That’s a good football team in that locker room, a really good team, really good guys. They’re just a bunch of good people.”

In absolutely dreadful conditions for offensive football, the Gators had the answer: Tim Tebow. The 235-pound Tebow seemed to enjoy the rain and the mud, and seemed undeterred by both. Playing one of his best games of the season, Tebow threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 80 yards and a TD to lead an offensive onslaught that produced 502 total yards against one of the nation’s strongest defenses.

“(FSU) was fired up and the crowd was into it,” Tebow said. “We just had to go out there and execute. I think we showed our toughness for most of the game.

“It was a great moment, being there on the sideline in the fourth quarter and being able to look around and see what was happening, knowing what we have ahead. We probably control our destiny (in terms of having a chance to play for the national championship). We’re really excited about that. We’re looking forward to a great game with Alabama.”

The victory came with a price. Star wide receiver Percy Harvin went down with a sprained ankle midway through the second quarter and his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain. Also, defensive tackle Brandon Antwine sprained his knee in the second half and he will be re-evaluated during the week.

Other than the injuries, it was all good for the Gators, who left quite an impression on legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden.

“That game surprised me because I didn’t think they would beat us like that here,” Bowden said. “The last time we had a beating like that was last year against them. I don’t think anybody else has beaten us like that. They beat us good last year and they did the same thing today, on our field. I thought we’d make it closer.

“That was just a real good whipping. If you asked me what happened, I don’t have to say we fumbled or I don’t have to say we threw an interception. It was just a good tail whipping.”

As they have done throughout their eight-game winning streak, the Gators took command early, driving 65 yards for a touchdown (a 9-yard run by Harvin) on the game’s opening possession. The FSU defense had difficulty dealing with the UF offense the rest of the game.

Defensively, the Gators neutralized dual-threat quarterback Christian Ponder and came up with key stops that forced FSU to settle for three first-half field goals as the Gators built a 28-9 halftime lead.

“Our defense played great,” redshirt freshman tailback Chris Rainey said. “If they keep doing that, we may win the whole thing.”

The next step is the SEC title game Saturday in the Georgia Dome.

“It’s great going to that dome,” Meyer said. “That’s why we get up, that’s why we shave, that’s why we hug our kids, to go to that dome.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreu@gvillesun.com.

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