Andreu's Answers: Tebow goes out with a bang
Published: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 2:09 a.m.
NEW ORLEANS — Before every game this season, veteran Sun football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions, then answers them after each game. Here is week 14:
1. Both teams have had to cope with major distractions heading into the game. Which team will come out more focused and ready to play?
If the Gators were at all distracted by everything that's gone on over the past seven days, it wasn't evident in any way. The Gators came out focused, fierce and ready to play. They came out hot and stayed hot, with the Gators scoring a touchdown on their first possession in what turned into a dominant first-half performance by UF in all phases of the game. With quarterback Tim Tebow completing 20 of 23 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, Florida played a near-perfect first 30 minutes, rolling to a 30-3 halftime lead. This is a team that clearly put the distractions aside and came out with a purpose. The Bearcats didn't look distracted, just overwhelmed by the first-half onslaught.
2. Will the Florida defense rebound after its uncharacteristically poor performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game?
The defense looked a little shaky on the game's opening drive by Cincinnati, but the Gators settled down and then dominated one of the nation's most potent offenses for the rest of the first half, as UF built a big lead. The defensive front definitely looked different with end Carlos Dunlap back in the lineup. The UC offensive line could not handle Dunlap and the UF defensive line, and the Bearcats had almost no chance of running their offense. Considering the caliber of the offense they were going against, the Gators played one of their best defensive games of the season, holding the Bearcats to a mere 55 total yards in the first half. Cincinnati picked up some yards and points in the second half, but the game was over by then.
3. Will quarterback Tim Tebow respond with a great performance in his final game for the Gators?
Let's put it this way: In the first half alone, Tebow put together one of the best passing performances of his illustrious career, completing 20 of 23 passes for three touchdowns and 320 yards. By the time he was done, he'd set a Sugar Bowl record for total yards. He came out smoking, completing his first 12 pass attempts and putting the Gators in command early in the game, throwing a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez on UF's first drive of the game. The Bearcats' game plan seemed to be to make Tebow beat them with his passing arm, loading up the box with seven and eight defenders to stop the UF ground game. Tebow made them pay. He certainly looked like a top NFL quarterback prospect with his pinpoint passing and pocket presence. By early in the third quarter, he established a career-high for passing yardage in a game. So, yeah, the big guy went out with a memorable, big-time performance.
4. Will turnovers turn out to be a major factor in the outcome?
There were none in the first half when the game was on the line, so turnovers were no factor in this one-sided Florida victory.
5. Can the Gators contain big-play wide receiver Mardy Gilyard?
The Florida cornerbacks and safeties were all over Gilyard from the start. So was the kickoff cover team. Gilyard is the Bearcats' best offensive player and one of the nation's most dangerous playmakers. But the Gators diffused him when the game was on the line. With Gilyard neutralized, the Bearcats needed someone else to step up and make plays, but no one came forward. All season, UF's secondary has found ways to contain the top wide receivers they've faced. They did it one more time. Gilyard set the Sugar Bowl record for kickoff return yards, only because he had so many returns.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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