6:00 PM ET, September 26, 2009
Commonwealth Stadium, LEXINGTON, KY
Top-ranked Florida jumps on Kentucky early, loses Tebow late in win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With one scary hit on Tim Tebow, the fate of No. 1 Florida -- and really, the entire complexion of the college football season -- could have changed.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was knocked out of Florida's 41-7 victory against Kentucky after a hard shot to the head in the third quarter, and taken by ambulance to a hospital.
Tim Tebow's two rushing TDs against Kentucky put him in second place on the SEC all-time rushing list. Tebow rushed for 123 yards and two scores and added another 103 yards passing and a touchdown before leaving the game following a hard hit in the third quarter.
"I don't know, I think it's a concussion," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "I think he'll be all right.
"He took a pretty good shot."
Tebow was scheduled to stay overnight in the hospital, Florida spokesman Steve McClain said.
The Gators were leading 31-7 and driving deep in Kentucky territory when Tebow was sacked by Kentucky defensive end Taylor Wyndham on a vicious but clean hit. As he fell back with Wyndham on top of him, Tebow's head struck teammate Marcus Gilbert's leg, violently bending his neck forward.
• Florida jumped out to a 31-0 first quarter lead and coasted to the Gators' 14th consecutive victory.
• Tim Tebow passed for 103 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 123 yards and two scores before leaving with a head injury in the third quarter.
• The Gators totaled 363 yards on the ground and improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
• Florida has now defeated Kentucky 23 consecutive times, including 11 straight in Lexington.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Tebow, a tank of a quarterback at 245 pounds, lay motionless for several minutes while Common- wealth Stadium fell silent. He sat up with some help then slowly made his way off the field to a loud ovation. He was eventually carted off the field with concussion-like symptoms, vomiting several times.
Florida is off next week, then plays at LSU on Oct. 10. It's probably the toughest game on Florida's regular-season schedule and would be even tougher without Tebow.
A third national title in four seasons for Florida, a second Heisman for Tebow, all that becomes iffy if his injury causes him to miss games. Oddly, Saturday started with questions about Tebow's availability because of a respiratory illness.
Meyer said Tebow had just one question after the hit.
"He asked me 'Did I hold onto the ball?'" Meyer said. "I told him he did and he winked at me and said 'It's great to be a Gator.'"
Still, the image of their leader laying helpless proved unsettling for the defending national champions.
"He was a little fuzzy coming off the field," said backup quarterback John Brantley. "He was looking around. I guess making sure he was in Kentucky."
The win extended Florida's winning streak to 14 games, tops in the nation as the Gators (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) continued their mastery over the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1). Florida has won 23 straight in the series, the second longest active winning streak by one team over another in the country.
Yet the outcome became a mere footnote after Tebow went down.
And now two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks have been knocked out of games in the first month of the season, with Tebow joining Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, who injured his shoulder in Week 1 and hasn't played since.
The injury put a stop to another vintage performance by Tebow, whose status appeared to be in doubt in the hours before the game.
Tebow was one of several Gators who took a separate plane north because of respiratory and congestion issues, leading to speculation the Heisman Trophy winner wouldn't play.
If Tebow wasn't feeling well, it didn't show. He walked off the field following pregame warmups trading head slaps with teammate Brandon Spikes and nearly sprinted into the huddle on Florida's first possession.
He rumbled for 29 yards on the third play of the game, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and bolting through the secondary before getting shoved out of bounds.
The drive ended in a field goal, but he was simply getting started. Tebow put the Gators up 10-0 on a 3-yard touchdown run, silencing a crowd hoping Florida could be had.
The Wildcats couldn't get out of their own way. An illegal motion penalty on a punt forced them to re-kick, and the Gators took advantage when Chris Rainey blocked it and then fell on the ball in the end zone to make it 17-0 Florida.
The Gators had it back five plays later and Tebow led them on a 58-yard drive that included a pair of vintage Tebow runs. First he shook Kentucky cornerback Cartier Rice with some nifty footwork then spun forward for an extra yard to get the ball to the Kentucky 2.
On the next play Tebow turned to hand the ball off to running back Jeff Demps. One problem: Demps had run the other way. No biggie. Tebow tucked the ball, stepped through a tackle and walked into the end zone for his 48th career rushing touchdown, leaving him one shy of Herschel Walker's SEC record.
He later added a 44-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez on the last play of the first quarter, ending a 31-point deluge that left the Wildcats stunned.
"We were doing what we wanted to do," said Florida wide receiver David Nelson. "We did just about anything."
Kentucky eventually found its composure, but by then it was too late.
"We got our fannies kicked all over the field in every phase," said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. "I didn't have my team ready to play."
The Gators had struggled in last week's win over Tennessee, leading to whispers that Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had found the blueprint on stopping Florida's high-powered attack.
Those problems seemed long gone during a nearly flawless first half, and the Gators were going for more when Tebow went down.
Brantley came on in relief of Tebow and led Florida to a late touchdown, but by then the focus of the game had turned from the action on the field to Tebow's health.
Tebow finished with 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He added another 103 yards and a score through the air, numbers that seemed unimportant the second he hit the turf.
"He ran for 130 yards and that wasn't the plan," Meyer said. "That's one tough cat out there."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... With a 31-7 lead at the half, Florida's D didn't allow Kentucky to get back in the game in the third quarter, or the fourth.
Gameball goes to... Tim Tebow. Battling the flu, Tebow ran in two touchdowns and threw for another. He left in the third quarter with a possible concussion.
Stat of the game... 362. The No. 2 rushing offense in the country kept up the attack, as the Gators rushed for 362 of their 495 total yards.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-13||3-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||1-2|
|FG||11:13||Caleb Sturgis 22 Yd||3||0|
|TD||07:11||Tim Tebow 3 Yd Run (Caleb Sturgis Kick)||10||0|
|TD||06:04||Chris Rainey Recovered Blocked Punt In End Zone (Caleb Sturgis Kick)||17||0|
|TD||02:15||Tim Tebow 2 Yd Run (Caleb Sturgis Kick)||24||0|
|TD||00:00||Aaron Hernandez 44 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Caleb Sturgis Kick)||31||0|
|TD||02:44||Ross Bogue 2 Yd Pass From Mike Hartline (Lones Seiber Kick)||31||7|
|FG||03:45||Caleb Sturgis 32 Yd||34||7|
|TD||06:39||Riley Cooper 8 Yd Pass From John Brantley (Caleb Sturgis Kick)||41||7|