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All in his hands
Tim Tebow makes his final case for the Heisman and leads a UF rout.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007
GAINESVILLE - Tebow, Heisman! Tebow, Heisman!
That was the chant that resonated throughout Florida Field from the majority of more than 90,000 fans Saturday night as the clock ran down on the Gators' regular season.
The fans were making their case. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had already made his.
With the second of his two rushing touchdowns in the game, the sophomore tied the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season 22 and threw for three more to lead Florida to a 45-12 victory over archrival Florida State.
It was UF's largest margin of victory over the Seminoles since a 53-14 win in 1983 and gave the No.12 Gators their fourth consecutive victory over FSU.
Tebow began the week as the favorite to win the award, but by week's end found himself in a dogfight with Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing. During the final minutes of the game, Tebow's teammates tried to get him to strike the Heisman pose in the huddle, but he refused.
"I'm trying to be humble and do it the right way," he said.
With his 31-yard touchdown to Andre Caldwell in the fourth quarter, Tebow (19-of-28 for 262 yards) broke Rex Grossman's single-season UF record for total offense with 3,970 yards. Grossman had 3,904 in 2001 and finished as the Heisman runnerup. Tebow has been responsible for 51 touchdowns this season, 29 passing and 22 rushing.
"I really can't put that into words," said UF coach Urban Meyer, who said he'd much rather talk team than individual awards. "That's a lot of touchdowns. Good for him."
For Florida State, things started on a good note. The Seminoles (7-5) drove the field on the opening drive, but the 13-play effort ended with a 21-yard field goal by Gary Cismesia for a 3-0 lead. Florida responded with a 23-yard Tebow touchdown. Florida scored on its first three possessions to take a 21-6 lead; the Gators eventually scored on every possession in the first half.
FSU appeared to steal some momentum back when Cismesia hit a school- and ACC-record 60-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to pull the Seminoles to within 24-12 at halftime. But the Seminoles never scored again.
The Florida defense, which has been the team's weakness all season, played arguably its best game of the year, holding the Seminoles to 287 yards, 99 rushing.
"We knew it was going to come sometime, and it just happened to come tonight," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said. "We hope this is something that we can build on for next year."
For the Gators, it wasn't just Tebow who thrived.
Sophomore receiver Percy Harvin, who missed the previous two games with migraine headaches, had five receptions for 67 yards and rushed for 157, his second 100-yard rushing game this season. Junior Louis Murphy and senior Caldwell had four receptions each for 58 and 56 yards, respectively, and combined for three touchdowns.
"It's great for the seniors," Caldwell said. "These are two rival teams and to whip up on them four years is extra special. I'm going to remember this the rest of my life."
The Florida State defense gave up 541 yards, including 298 on the ground.
"They just kept pounding us and pounding us," said FSU sophomore running back Preston Parker, who had six catches for 55 yards and 12 rushes for 55 yards. "Tebow and Harvin did their thing, and we simply couldn't stop them. Then the rest of their team started making plays. They simply had more playmakers than we did."
Meyer said he won't lobby for Tebow, but when it was all said and done, FSU coach Bobby Bowden said Tebow is worthy of the Heisman.
"If he don't make it this year, he'll make it the next two," Bowden said. "I think he'll win it this year unless the sophomore thing gets him."