8:00 PM ET, October 11, 2008
BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM, GAINESVILLE, FL
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow jumped around and waved his arms high above his head as he jogged off the field late in the fourth quarter.
Florida fans responded with chants of "Tebow, Tebow, Tebow."
Low: Spikes Sparks GatorsBrandon Spikes, Florida's All-SEC linebacker and emotional leader, intercepted a Jarrett Lee pass and returned it for a 52-yard touchdown, giving the Gators a 41-14 lead and turning the Swamp into one deafening party, writes Chris Low. Blog
Tebow vowed to play harder following his last home game, a humbling home loss to Mississippi two weeks ago. The Heisman Trophy winner backed up that promise with his best game of the season Saturday night.
Tebow threw two touchdown passes to Percy Harvin and ran for a score, and No. 11 Florida thumped defending national champion LSU 51-21 at Florida Field.
"I think we had a little chip on our shoulder going into the game," Tebow said.
The fourth-ranked Tigers (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had won six consecutive games, 19 in a row at night and 23 straight in regulation. Florida (5-1, 3-1) ended all those streaks with a fast start and some huge plays from Tebow, Harvin, Jeff Demps and Brandon Spikes.
LSU has allowed 50 or more points just five times in its long history of SEC play. Saturday night's debacle in Gainesville, however, marked the third time Florida has been the culprit. Here's a look at the figures:
The Gators also may have put to rest all those uneasy feelings about an inconsistent offense and a suspect defense. They enjoyed their best game of the season -- maybe their best game since beating Ohio State 41-14 in Arizona for the 2006 national title.
LSU, meanwhile, lost for the first time in regulation since falling 23-10 two years ago in Gainesville -- taking the worst beating of coach Les Miles' four-year career with the Tigers. They had three turnovers, a near interception that went for a touchdown and a costly face-mask penalty.
It was the most-lopsided loss for LSU since a 31-0 beating at home by Alabama in 2002, when Nick Saban was leading the Tigers. The last time LSU gave up more points, Steve Spurrier's Gators beat the Tigers 56-13 in 1996.
LSU trailed 20-0 late in the first half Saturday, but scored touchdowns going into the locker room and coming out to make it a game and put all the pressure on Florida.
The Gators folded in a similar position in Baton Rouge last year and lost 28-24.
Tebow hardly flinched this time around, responding with a 67-yard TD drive that included a perfect pass to Louis Murphy down the sideline and a few nifty runs.
"That was a huge drive," Tebow said. "That's the big difference between this year and last year. We knew we had to put a drive together. I think that's where you see a difference now -- a more mature team, a more poised team. We drove down the field. That was a huge touchdown for us. It gave us the momentum back."
The Gators pulled away from there, getting a 42-yard TD run from Demps, a 52-yard interception return for a score from Spikes and a short TD run from Kestahn Moore.
"We spotted them 20 points in the first half," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We never got out of that hole."
Tebow finished 14-of-21 passing for 210 yards. He also ran 12 times for 22 yards. Harvin had six catches for 112 yards.
Maybe the biggest difference between this game and others for Florida this season was Tebow got plenty of help.
Demps ran 10 times for 129 yards, and Chris Rainey added 66 yards on the ground. The Gators finished with 265 yards rushing and outgained LSU 475-321.
Jarrett Lee, a freshman making his first SEC road start for LSU, was 23-of-38 passing for 209 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Charles Scott, who had run for 100 yards in each of his first four games, finished with 35 yards on 12 carries for the Tigers.
"That might be one of our best defenses performances in recent history," Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "Our defense really answered the bell against the run."
After having just about everything that could go wrong go wrong early, LSU caught a break in the final minute before halftime.
Trailing 20-0, Trindon Holliday fielded a kickoff near the sideline and stepped out of bounds at the 13. But officials said by rule, the kick was out of bounds, which gave the Tigers the ball at the 40.
Lee directed a six-play touchdown drive in 44 seconds. He rolled right, and with Spikes bearing down on him, floated a pass to Chris Mitchell in the corner of the end zone.
LSU had 65 yards in its first five possessions, but doubled that with the late TD drive.
The Tigers started the second half in similar fashion, driving 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-14 and make just about all the 90,684 at Florida Field a little nervous.
He brought the Gators right back and gave the first matchup since 1990 between the previous two national champions a familiar feel. The home team had won the previous five meetings. Make it six in a row.
Tebow was just as good to start the game. The Gators scored on their first three possessions and jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Although they outgained LSU 186 yards to 4 in the first quarter, they got all sorts of help from the Tigers in building a big lead.
"I thought we fought back well, but they were just too much in the end," Lee said.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Ricky Jean-Francois started talking and gave Tim Tebow and Co. some juicy bulletin board material.
Gameball goes to... Tebow, who led the Gators to their most dominating offensive outing, threw for 210 yards and two TDs and ran for another score.
Stat of the game... 265. The Gators speedy backs racked up 265 yards rushing, while the Tigers managed just 80.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-11||5-10|
|4th Down Conversions||0-2||0-0|
|TD||13:22||Percy Harvin 70 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||0||7|
|FG||07:00||Jonathan Phillips 20 Yd||0||10|
|TD||01:09||Percy Harvin 7 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||0||17|
|FG||00:49||Jonathan Phillips 34 Yd||0||20|
|TD||00:05||Chris Mitchell 6 Yd Pass From Jarrett Lee (Colt David Kick)||7||20|
|TD||08:41||Andrew Hatch 3 Yd Run (Colt David Kick)||14||20|
|TD||04:16||Tim Tebow 2 Yd Run (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||14||27|
|TD||01:02||Jeffrey Demps 42 Yd Run (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||14||34|
|TD||14:48||Brandon Spikes 52 Yd Interception Return (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||14||41|
|TD||11:10||Richard Dickson 6 Yd Pass From Jarrett Lee (Colt David Kick)||21||41|
|FG||06:47||Jonathan Phillips 25 Yd||21||44|
|TD||02:03||Kestahn Moore 2 Yd Run (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||21||51|