Not flashy, just a professional team win

Published: Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 12:20 a.m.

BATON ROUGE, La. He sees them all the time so he knows.

Now we know.

He loves this team.

He calls this team professional and mature.

You got a load of both Saturday night.

There were so many times on an intense night when things could have flipped so quickly, so many times when it started to feel like two years ago, and here come the Tigers and here comes the crowd and everything feels purple and gold.

But this is a different team.

This team took two weeks bulging with craziness and used it as fuel. These Gators came to Baton Rouge and sent a record crowd home grumpy.

No matter what happened, they had an answer.

Against the fourth-ranked team in America, there was no doubt which was the better team.

OK, so it wasn't flashy. Anyone complaining?

On a night when Tim Tebow made his triumphant return, the story and here's the shocker wasn't only Tebow.

The story was the Gator football team.

On Saturday night, Florida showed the world what it knew in the preseason and forgot in September that this is a great defense.

Charlie Strong's group went onto the field with an attitude that said, "Whoever is playing quarterback, we don't care. All we need is two scores. We'll take care of the rest."

"We didn't care," safety Will Hill said. "Tim doesn't play defense."

The numbers are amazing. LSU had 162 yards and three points. You don't win many games scoring three points. You certainly don't lose many.

"Defensively, that was one of the best efforts I've ever seen," said Florida coach Urban Meyer. "Good teams are tough and that team in the blue jerseys is tough."

This, my friends, was a statement game for Florida's defense.

When Florida let LSU hang around on the first drive of the second half, going 81 yards and getting no points, the defense didn't care. Two sacks later, UF had the ball back. Two years ago, Les Miles went five-for-five on fourth down. Not this night. Not against this defense. The Gators made a stop on one, then had to go back on the field after a rare Tebow mistake.

No problem.

You come into this place and hold LSU to three points? Are you kidding me?

"We didn't play great defense in the first half," Hill said. "But Coach Strong came at us and we came out and played great defense in the second half. We were trying to show them that the defense came to play."

Don't get me wrong, this was another vintage Tebow performance. To do what he did after the two weeks he had, well, it just adds another chapter to the book. I don't know if the Heisman Trophy was decided Saturday night. But it might have been. Tebow's performance was not big in numbers but big in moxie, capped with the clinching lunge for a first down with a little over two minutes to play.

There were some amazing Tebow moments. Just that he was out there was an amazing moment.

Two hours before the game the LSU student section was full and in full throat. They were chanting, "We Want Tebow." Well, they got him and he got the win he wanted so much.

He was cleared medically and dominant physically. You knew he was himself when he gave his head coach a playful shove as Tebow came out on the field in full pads and hour before kickoff.

The Florida game plan allowed Tebow to work his way into the game. And on the final drive of the first half, he showed he was right in the middle of it.

Tebow started the drive with a Heisman-worthy escape act to gain 8 yards. He hit Brandon James with a perfectly thrown ball for 20 yards. Florida finally called his number on a third-and-short and he delivered.

And then he hit Riley Cooper, who used the old Louis Murphy slingshot manuever to get open in the end zone.

Of course, everyone knew that a small lead at the half against LSU was hardly reason to celebrate. Whether you were on the couch or in the stadium, you remembered the game two years ago when LSU fought back from a 17-7 halftime deficit.

But that was a young team, a team finding its way.

This team, well, this team is something special. From its quarterback to its Pounceys to its NFL tight end to its suffocating defense to its plucky little kicker who bounced right back from a big miss to make a big kick.

That's what mature, professional teams do.

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