Saturday September 27, 2008Football Falls to Ole Miss, 31-30
In front of a crowd of 90,106 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the No. 4 Florida Gators (3-1, 1-1) were defeated by the Ole Miss Rebels (3-2, 1-1), 31-30, on Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels were the first to strike following a 70-yard, 10-play drive at the 3:12 mark of the first quarter. The score came as a result of a fake punt executed by Ole Miss which gave the Rebels possession at the Gators’ 46-yard line. Quarterback Jevan Snead finished the drive on a one-yard touchdown run to put the Rebels up 7-0. The score marked the first time that the Gators trailed this season and the first time the UF defense allowed a touchdown in the first half.
The Gators were forced to settle for three after failing to convert on a third down and 12 yards to go from Ole Miss’ 14-yard line. Senior Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) converted on a 38-yard field goal attempt to narrow the Rebels’ lead, 7-3, with 13:31 remaining in the half.
The Gators seized the lead a little over one minute later, spurred by an interception by sophomore safety Major Wright (Miramar, Fla.), his second of the season, with 12:38 left in the half. It only took one play for the Orange and Blue to take the lead, as quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) connected with junior wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) on a 43-yard touchdown pass, giving Florida a 10-7 advantage with 12:26 to play in the first half.
The Gator defense showed their resilience by holding Ole Miss to a three-and-out after the Rebels were able to regain possession when defensive tackle Ted Laurent recovered a fumble by UF tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) at the Ole Miss 35-yard line. The fumble was Florida’s first turnover of the season.
Tebow and Harvin led the Gators on an 81-yard, five-play touchdown drive to give UF a 17-7 lead with 1:06 in the first half. Tebow scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a one-yard quarterback keeper. Earlier in the drive, Tebow connected with Harvin twice for significant yardage with 22- and 29-yard passes.
The Gators got off to a rocky start on their first possession of the second half after Harvin fumbled on a rush up the middle. Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry recovered the ball, giving the Rebels possession at Florida’s 34-yard line. The Gator defense was able to hold the Rebels to three points after Joshua Shene converted on a 33-yard field goal to narrow the Gators’ lead to 17-10 with 11:00 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than 10 seconds later, the Rebels had possession once again after Tebow fumbled the ball at UF’s 18-yard line. Ole Miss was able to capitalize on the turnover and tie the game, 17-17, following a 18-yard touchdown reception by Cordera Eason with 10:30 to play in the third stanza.
With 52 seconds remaining in the third, Ole Miss capped a 72-yard, seven-play drive with a 40-yard touchdown run by Dexter McCluster to give the Rebels a 24-17 advantage.
Sparked by a 25-yard kickoff return by junior Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.), the Gators rallied back to tack another seven points on the scoreboard with 11:26 to play in the game. Tebow punched in his second rushing touchdown of the game on a one-yard carry to cap a 49-yard, nine-play drive. A successful point-after attempt by Phillips evened the score at 24-24.
The Rebels took the lead for the third time in the game following an 86-yard touchdown reception by Shay Hodge. The score put Ole Miss ahead, 31-24, with 5:26 left in the game.
Harvin scored his second touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run with 3:28 to play in the game. Five of the six plays of the 68-yard scoring drive were for 14 yards or more. Ole Miss’ Kentrell Lockett blocked Phillips’ extra-point attempt, maintaining the Rebels’ lead and the final outcome, 31-30.
Tebow finished the game 24 for 38 with 319 passing yards with one touchdown. He also scored his first two touchdowns of the season on the ground. Harvin carried 10 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. He set career highs in receptions (13) and receiving yards (186).
Ole Miss quarterback Snead was nine of 20 for 185 yards and two scores, while Hodge caught three passes for 133 yards and the winning touchdown.
The Gators continue SEC play by traveling to Fayetteville to face Arkansas on Oct. 4 at 12:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on Raycom Sports.