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Saturday September 1, 2007Gators Throttle Hilltoppers, 49-3, In Season Opener

Gainesville, FL

Before a crowd of 90,086 at The Swamp on Saturday, the sixth-ranked Florida football team scored touchdowns on its first four possessions en route to a 49-3 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The triumph marked the Gators’ SEC-best 18th-straight win in a season opener and raised head coach Urban Meyer’s record at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to 14-0. Sophomore Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) connected on 13-of-17 passes in his starting debut for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for 38 yards and one score. 

 

The game was terminated with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter after a one hour and two minute delay due to lightning in the area.

 

After stopping WKU on 4th down and 1 inside of their own 10, the Gators marched 90 yards in six plays to seize a 7-0 lead. Tebow reeled off an 18-yard run on second down and then connected with senior Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) on a 48-yard pass down to the Hilltoppers’ 19-yard line. Following a seven-yard rush by sophomore Jarred Fayson (Tampa, Fla.) and an 11-yard run by sophomore Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.), Tebow capped the drive by plowing through the line from one yard out for his ninth career rushing touchdown.

 

Florida extended its lead to 14-0 on its next possession by covering 77 yards on four plays in 1:59. Tebow converted a 3rd and 4 by hooking up with Caldwell for 12 yards and then found sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) streaking down the right side for a career-long 59-yard touchdown pass. 

 

Harvin hauled in a 19-yard reception from Tebow just 1:24 into the second quarter for a 21-0 margin for the Gators. All three plays on the 40-yard drive came from the speedy wideout, who previously had a 13-yard rush and 8-yard reception. 

 

After forcing WKU three and out, Tebow moved the Gator offense 62 yards in nine plays in 3:13 for a 28-0 advantage with 8:11 remaining until the half. Tebow had a 13-yard rush to the Hilltoppers’ 43 yard-line and a 15-yard personal foul tacked on to the end of the run brought the ball to the 28. Junior Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas), who finished the game with a career high 91 rushing yards, brought the Gators into the red zone with a 12-yard burst up the middle and a Tebow run of eight yards set the stage for a 10-yard reception by junior Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.).   

 

A 26-yard field goal with no time remaining by senior Chris James brought the Hilltoppers into the locker room down by a 28-3 count. In the first half, Tebow was 9-for-11 with 192 yards and spread the ball to four different receivers.  

 

Tebow threw a 43-yard pass to Caldwell and a 42-yard touchdown pass to Cooper back-to-back with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter to bring the score to 35-3.  After forcing the Hilltoppers to a negative-rushing yard series, the Gators answered quickly with Moore rushing for 28 yards in the series, capping with a 1-yard touchdown to give the Gators a 42-3 lead. 

 

Freshman quarterback Cameron Newton (College Park, Ga.) took the helm for the Gators in the fourth quarter leading the team to a 1:29, 4 play scoring drive.  Newton capped off the drive with a 4-yard run for his first career touchdown as a Gator. 

 

The Gator defense was equally as impressive as the offense with defensive end Derrick Harvey (Greenbelt, Md.) leading the team with two sacks.  Linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) was explosive tallying 11 tackles, including seven solos. 

 

The Gators return to action next Saturday when defending Sun Belt Conference champion Troy visits The Swamp for the first-ever meeting between the schools. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m.

 

-UF-

 

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