Columbia, S.C. – The 17th-ranked Florida football team (7-3, 5-3 SEC) recorded 536 yards of total offense and defeated South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC), 51-31, Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback (Tim Tebow, Jacksonville, Fla.) continued his record-breaking campaign in his first year as a starter, rushing for a career-high five touchdowns while throwing two scores through the air.
Tebow broke Florida’s single-season rushing touchdown record and padded on to his staggering totals to give him 19 rushing touchdowns on the year. The two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Week garnered a career-best 304 yards passing, completing 22 of 32 passes and totaled 424 yards of total offense. He gained 120 yards on the ground on 26 carries, one rush shy of his personal-best he set earlier this year at Ole Miss.
Already the single-season SEC record-holder for touchdowns by a quarterback, Tebow is closing on the all-time Div. I leader mark by a quarterback, Chance Harridge from Air Force, who had 22 rushing touchdowns in 2002.
Tebow broke the school record for the most rushing touchdowns in a game in school history, besting four previous marks set by Jesse Palmer, Fred Taylor, Rammy Ramsdell and Tommy Owens, who all had four in a game. He also extended his school-record touchdown game scoring streak to 12 games.
The Gators essentially opened with the game’s first possession after a forced fumble on the opening kick return. With a short field to work with, Tebow and the Florida offense had no trouble putting the first points on the board.
Running backs Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) and Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) aided the ground attack, combining for 92 rushing yards on 16 carries.
The Gators received a career-day from senior wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) who had career-high totals in yards (147) and receptions (nine), one week removed of setting a personal-best mark in catches in last week’s contest against Vanderbilt with nine.
Caldwell caught his fourth touchdown of the year, a 21-yard scoring catch from Tebow in the fourth quarter to conclude the scoring.
Caldwell was all over the field and continued his march up the all-time receptions list despite missing two games this year due to injury. Coming in ranked third in Florida history with 153 grabs in his career, Caldwell took sole possession of second place, moving past Willie Jackson to give him 164 in his career. He trails only Carlos Alvarez by nine receptions to become the school’s all-time leader in receptions.
The Florida defense was able to force three turnovers that resulted in points for the offense. The Gators were led by sophomore linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) with a team-high 13 tackles and a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Senior safety Tony Joiner (Haines City, Fla.) registered his second interception of the year.
Several Florida freshmen defenders made their presence known on the field in safety Major Wright (Miramar, Fla.) and Carlos Dunlap (North Charleston, S.C.). For Dunlap, it was a homecoming as he played his high school career at Fort Dorchester and he responded by recording his first career sack. Wright forced two fumbles, one that resulted in a turnover to give him four on the season.
Another first-year player made an impact on the other side of the ball, freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.). Hernandez has been a fixture in goal-line packages this year and showed the ability to break a big play as he caught a career-long 55-yard pass to set up a Florida score.
The win over South Carolina completes Florida’s conference schedule. The Gators are back in action this weekend against Florida Atlantic University at Ben-Hill Griffin Stadium. The game is set for a noon kickoff.