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Sunday September 7, 2008Gators Knock Off Hurricanes, 26-3

Gainesville, FL

In front of a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium record crowd of 90,833 fans and a national television audience watching on ESPN, the fifth-ranked Gators (2-0) handed Miami a 26-3 defeat on Saturday night. The victory snapped a six-game Florida losing streak against the Hurricanes dating back to 1985. The win improved UF head coach Urban Meyer to a perfect 6-0 against in-state opponents, outscoring the opponents by a 227-56 margin. Miami’s three points were the fewest the Hurricanes have scored against the Gators since an 18-0 Florida shutout in 1960.

 

Junior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) was 21-of-35 for 256 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 13 times for 55 yards. He established a school record with 130 consecutive passes without an interception and also surpassed UF legend Steve Spurrier on Florida’s all-time total offensive yards list to move into ninth place with 5,473 total yards.

 

Sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) had a career-high five receptions for 58 yards, highlighted by a 14-yard touchdown catch on UF’s initial drive of the game. The Gators totaled 345 yards of total offense and limited Miami to 140 yards on the night.

 

Junior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) led a Gator defense that allowed only 61 yards rushing and 79 yards passing. Spikes racked up 11 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss of three yards.

 

After winning the coin toss and electing to defer until the second half, the Gators held Miami to a three-and-out situation on the first possession of the game, forcing a 14-yard Hurricane punt that gave Florida possession on UM’s 35-yard line. The Gators punched the ball into the end zone on a five-play drive that only took 1:44, putting six points on the board when Tebow connected with Hernandez on a 14-yard lob. Gator senior Jonathan Phillips’ (Wellington, Fla.) point-after attempt was good, giving UF a 7-0 advantage at the 12:24 mark of the first quarter.

 

The Hurricanes later countered early in the second quarter on its third possession, following an eight-yard rush for a fourth-down conversion by UM redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve. The visitors elected to kick a 50-yard field goal after facing fourth-and-17 from their own 32-yard line and sophomore Matt Bosher connected on attempt to reduce UM’s deficit to 7-3. The 42-yard drive spanned 8:42.

 

The Gators capitalized on a fourth-and-24 Miami situation with 47 seconds left in the first half when freshman Jeff Demps (Lakeland, Fla.) blocked a Bosher punt, good for a safety, giving UF a 9-3 lead at the half. Demps’ blocked punt was the 38th under Meyer, tallying the third-most blocked punts in the nation since 2001.

 

Late in a scoreless third quarter, junior receiver Carl Moore (Roseville, Ca.) kept UF’s drive alive with a 28-yard catch falling out of bounds on third-and-nine. The catch set up a score early in the final stanza when Florida junior running back/wide receiver Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) tallied UF’s second touchdown of the evening on a two-yard run. Phillips’ extra point put the Gators ahead, 16-3, with 13:19 left in the game.

 

The Gators’ defensive stance on the next Hurricane possession led to a Miami 46-yard punt by Bosher that landed at Florida five-yard line. UF responded with a season-high 95-yard, five-play drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to senior wide receiver Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.).

 

Two possessions later, the Gators rallied with consecutive quarterback sacks, one each by junior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap (North Charleston, S.C.), pinning Miami at the Florida eight-yard line and forcing a 39-yard Bosh punt.

 

Following junior running back/wide receiver Brandon James’ (St. Augustine, Fla.) 31-yard punt return, followed by a nine-yard James’ reception, the Gators notched the final points of the game when Phillips kicked his first career field goal, a 29-yard boot, to finalize the margin at 26-3.

 

The Gators will enjoy a bye week before returning to action in Knoxville on Sept. 20 against the Tennessee Volunteers to open Southeastern Conference play.

 

-UF-

 

 

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