Tebow, Gators, fans living the dream
Published: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 9:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 9:38 p.m.
Urban Meyer walked the length of Florida Field after an interview with the boys from ESPN, stopping when he got to the south end zone.
Dooley Grades the Gators
First half: After stalling on the first drive, the Gators were efficient the rest of the half and scored three touchdowns with relative ease against the FSU defense.
Second half: Only real flaw was a Tim Tebow fumble at the end of his amazing 47-yard run. The Gators came out on their first drive and put things away.
For the game: Sure, FSU's defense is awful, but you have to give the Gators credit for taking advantage of the Seminoles' inability to handle basic plays.
First half: Gators limited a potent Florida State offense to only 55 yards and shut them out while allowing the Seminoles to get only three first downs.
Second half: Florida again stuffed the Seminoles, as the drive for a field goal came against mostly second-teamers and there were some third-team players in on FSU's touchdown drive.
For the game: Dominating performance by Charlie Strong's defense. One of the best, if not the best of the season so far.
Special teams: A-
First half: Gators were OK on kickoff coverage, and the early punt to the FSU 2-yard line downed by Wondy Pierre-Louis was a big play.
Second half: Blocked extra point was a negative, but coverage was good on kickoffs as Caleb Sturgis had a good night.
For the game: The special teams weren't a huge factor in the game, but the early downed punt set the tone for the game.
Six in a row for Florida over Florida State and 22 straight wins — what's not to like if you are a Gator fan?
"I'm not sure what perfect is," he said, "but that was a perfect night."
In a season that sometimes has been lacking sex appeal for an over-the-top Gator Nation, this one delivered. It was so perfect you almost expected credits to roll on the big screen after the clock hit triple zeroes.
This was the anti-Tennessee, a game where there was a huge buildup and it exceeded expectations.
It wasn't a football game. It was an event.
And the star was, of course, No. 15, the guy who took one slow, final lap around the stadium telling the crying fans to cheer up.
"I'm going to be around," he said.
It was a surreal night from the start when Tebow couldn't control himself on his jog out to meet Meyer on Senior Day, to the strange new uniforms, to the scene on Tebow's last touchdown drive in The Swamp.
On Tebow's last real series (he went in for one play on the ensuing series), the flashing lights from cameras and cell phones was almost blinding. So many people wanted evidence of his last score in The Swamp. With third-and-goal at the FSU 1-yard line, the crowd began to chant "Tee-bow! Tee-bow!" On an option play, he scored easily, his last touchdown in the stadium.
It was reminiscent of the first time he ran out on the field in a Gator uniform against Southern Miss all those years ago.
"I remember that," Urban Meyer said. "I saw the popping bulbs."
Then, they were about a career that could be. Saturday night, they were about a career that has gone beyond anybody's wildest dreams.
"I really didn't see them," Tebow said. "But when I came off everybody was saying, 'Did you see all those cameras going off?' They said it was pretty crazy."
It was a crazy night. The players who usually shy away from taking a victory lap and leave it to Tebow were jogging around the perimeter of the stadium having a blast. The seniors posed with Meyer for a picture at midfield.
"Urban doesn't want to leave the field," Shelley Meyer said.
"You didn't want it to end," senior receiver David Nelson said.
And it hasn't. There are two more games left for these seniors and a handful of juniors (think Aaron Hernandez's heave into the stands was a sign?).
But no matter what happens, they'll always have the memories of this perfect night.
"The Gator Walk, that's something I'm going to miss a lot," Tebow said. "It has been a long day. I was telling (Riley Cooper) when we got on the bus it seems like everything is in slow motion today."
No, that would be FSU's defense.
The Seminole defense cured pretty much everything that had been ailing the Florida offense this season. The big plays were back. The touchdowns were scored without an FSU hand touching the Gators who scored them.
And so it was a complete victory. The defense toyed with FSU's offense like a killer whale with a wounded seal.
"We were in complete control," defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said.
And if things weren't perfect enough, the starters got to rest in the fourth quarter.
There was the Tebow fumble at the end of a 47-yard bruising run, and he did throw four incompletions. Oh yeah, he also took out a cheerleader on his victory lap.
"When I got to the part where the cheerleaders were, I stepped on her ankle," he said. "She went down hard. I felt terrible. I helped her up and gave her a hug."
There was a lot of hugging going on in The Swamp on this perfect Saturday night. Until, of course, Tebow got to the section of the stadium where the FSU band stood. They began to give him the chop. He responded with a chomp.
We may never see anything like him again. We may never see a class like this senior class. What was it Jermaine Cunnigham said when he spoke to the team before the game?
"I'm living the dream."
And nobody wants to wake up.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow at http://Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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