GATORS NATIONAL CHAMPS
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 1:42 a.m.
MIAMI — The Florida Gators apparently were right after all.
Oklahoma obviously had not seen a defense like UF's this season. And Tim Tebow? There's no way he is the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12.
With the defense coming up with critical stops when it had to, and with Tebow, Percy Harvin and the offense generating points when the game was on the line, the Gators were clutch in the second half and beat the Sooners 24-14 Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium to give Florida its third national championship, and second in three years.
"This is one of the best teams in the history of college football," UF coach Urban Meyer proclaimed moments after the game.
Meyer becomes the first coach to win two BCS Championship games.
The Gators (13-1) earned the victory by stunningly slowing down what many consider to be one of the most prolific, high-scoring offenses in the history of college football.
Offensively, the Gators did just enough.
Tebow rushed for 109 yards and completed 18-of-30 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the game's most outstanding player. Tebow and the offense received a huge boost from the return of Harvin, the star wide receiver who sustained a high ankle sprain on Nov. 29 and dinged his ankle on Tuesday.
"I promised the guys that I would go out and play with all my heart," Tebow said. "I was so motivated tonight. Oklahoma's a great team and they came out and played hard. I'm so proud of my teammates right now. I can't put it into words. It was just an incredible night."
Harvin rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown. His 2-yard touchdown run with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter broke a 7-7 tie.
"I thought Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin sparked our offense in the second half," Meyer said. "Tim converted several big third downs running and throwing. Percy had several big plays and showed what a tough guy he is coming back from the injury."
The Gators clinched the victory with a 4-yard jump pass to David Nelson with 3:07 left in the game to put UF up 24-14.
"My congratulations to the University of Florida and Coach Meyer," said OU coach Bob Stoops, who has lost his last five BCS games. "It was a heck of a game. I'm proud of our players the way they fought and played.
"We had some opportunities early in the game in the red zone, where we've been so efficient the entire year. We had some opportunities. Down the stretch, we came up a play or two short, and (the Gators) made them. They just made more plays."
The Sooners came into the game averaging 54.0 points a game, having scored 60 or more points in their last five games.
But this was a different defense than the ones OU ravaged all season.
The Gators put a steady rush on Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford all night and came up with two critical red-zone stops (inside the 5-yard line) in the first half.
Bradford threw for only 256 yards and the Gators outgained the Sooners 480 yards to 363.
"Credit to them," OU defensive back Nic Harris said. "They're a great team with great players and they made great plays.
"Percy Harvin is a tremendous player. We ultimately just didn't make the plays when needed to make."
The victory reaffirms Florida as one of the elite programs in college football.
"It feels great," Meyer said. "It is humbling when you consider all the great coaches and players who have had an opportunity (to win two national titles in three years). It only shows the professional way that our coaches and players prepare every week.
"Our defense did a great job with two stops at the goal line in the first half, and I thought (strong safety) Ahmad Black's interception (midway through the fourth quarter) was the turning point in the game. Oklahoma was driving for the lead and it turned the game around."
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