Tuesday January 1, 2008No. 12 Football Edged By Michigan at Capital One Bowl, 41-35
The Gators rallied from a 14-point deficit to tie the score at 28-28 in the latter stages of the third period, but a pair of late scores by Michigan prevented UF from winning its third-straight bowl game.
Sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) accounted for four touchdowns, including three through the air, and set the single-season NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with his 23rd, a one-yard plunge, in the third quarter. Harvin ran for a career-high 165 yards and a score, setting a Capital One Bowl record for rushing average with a mark of 12.7 per carry, and caught a game-high nine passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The effort marked the second game of his career in which he recorded a touchdown both on the ground and through the air.
Senior wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) was on the receiving end of two of Tebow’s scoring tosses, and finished the day with four catches for 40 yards.
The Gators’ defense forced a season-high four turnovers on the afternoon, while also converting a critical fake punt situation in the third quarter that led to a UF touchdown. Freshman defensive linemen Mike Pouncey (Lakeland, Fla.) and freshman safety Major Wright (Miramar, Fla.) recorded interceptions for Florida, while junior defensive end Derrick Harvey (Greenbelt, Md.) led the charge up front with a pair of sacks that brought his season total to a team-best 8.5 for the year.
Florida’s fake punt, on which freshman punter Chas Henry (Dallas, Ga.) connected with freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) for 15 yards and a new set of downs, was its first of the year. In three years under head coach Urban Meyer, UF has converted each of its five fake punts.
The Gators and Wolverines exchanged the lead four times and combined for 76 points to tie for the third-highest scoring game in Capital One Bowl history.
Michigan got on the board first when quarterback Chad Henne orchestrated a 12-play, 93-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard scoring connection with wide receiver Mario Manningham for the early 7-0 lead.
Tebow tied the game late in the first quarter with his 30th touchdown pass of the year, finding Harvin crossing in the middle of the end zone for a 10-yard strike. The scoring reception was Harvin’s fourth of the year.
Tebow hooked up with Caldwell to give UF its first lead of the contest after the quarter change. Caldwell received the ball on a screen play and took advantage of the Gators’ perimeter blocking, racing 18 yards into the end zone, and represented the 14th-consecutive time Florida has scored while in the red zone, dating back to the South Carolina game.
Michigan running back Mike Hart evened the score at 14 with 9:51 remaining in the first half, a one-yard plunge to capitalize on a 13-play drive.
Harvin exploded through left side of the Michigan defense, racing down the sideline untouched for a 66-yard run on the first play of Florida’s next drive. The run was the second-longest of Harvin’s career, one yard shy of his personal-best 67-yard touchdown carry against Arkansas in the 2006 SEC Championship game.
Following a blocked field-goal attempt, Michigan’s offense took over as Henne reversed the field in a five wideout bunch-right formation on a screen-play to tight end Carson Butler for a 65-yard gain deep into UF field position. The drive would end there when Florida regained momentum on the ensuing play as freshman defensive tackle Justin Trattou (Ramsey, N.J.) forced a Hart fumble and was recovered by sophomore linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) near the goal line.
Wright intercepted a Henne pass deep in his own territory at the 4:08 mark of the second quarter to record the first pick of his UF career.
Arrington got free on a slant route for a 23-yard gain to set up his own one-yard touchdown reception two plays later as Michigan regained the lead, 21-14, with eight seconds left in the first half.
Michigan recovered an onside kick to open the second half and marched down the field for Hart’s second score of the game, a one-yard scamper that put the Wolverines up by a count of 28-14.
Tebow answered with his 23rd rushing touchdown of the year, extending his record streak to 14 games with at least one passing and one rushing touchdown. Tebow also became the all-time single-season rushing touchdown leader by an NCAA quarterback on the play, separating himself from Air Force signal caller Chance Harridge (2002).
Florida’s defense again halted a Michigan drive in the red zone on the next series as Wright knocked the ball loose from Hart and finished the play with the recovery. Henry and Hernandez hooked up on the fake punt to keep the ensuing drive alive, and Tebow threw his third touchdown of the game, finding Caldwell for a 14-yard scoring strike to even the score.
On UM’s next possession, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (Stone Mountain, Ga.) tipped a Henne pass at the line of scrimmage that landed in Pouncey’s arms to give Florida the ball deep in opponent territory. Harvin converted the UM turnover into a touchdown on an end around for a 10-yard score, helping UF reclaim the lead, 35-31.
Michigan answered with a Henne touchdown pass to Arrington to regain the lead, 38-35, and salted the game away with a 41-yard field goal with 2:21 left on the clock.
Florida is now 16-19 all-time in bowl games, and is now 6-4 in the postseason against teams from the Big Ten Conference. Tuesday’s game was UF’s 14th January bowl game in the last 15 years.