Saturday November 29, 2008No. 2 Football Caps Regular Season with 45-15 Win Over No. 23 Florida State
The No. 2 Florida Gators (11-1, 7-1) defeated their fourth ranked opponent of the season, No. 23 Florida State (8-4, 5-3), 45-15, on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. The victory marks the fifth-straight win over FSU and extends head coach Urban Meyer’s streak to 4-0 against the Seminoles. The Gators have now won six-straight games on the road.
Florida amassed 502 total offensive yards, more than doubling the Seminoles’ 242 total yards. The Gators accumulated 284 yards in the first half alone, including 150 yards on the ground. With the 317 total rushing yards, the Gators have now scored more than 300 yards rushing in three-consecutive games. Junior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) finished the game 12-of-21 for 185 yards with three touchdowns and has now thrown for at least two touchdowns in eight-straight games, the longest streak of his career. He also notched 80 yards on 16 carries and one score on the ground.
The Gators were first on the scoreboard after wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) took a direct snap and charged nine yards for the score, extending the junior’s streak to 14 consecutive games with a touchdown, the longest in the nation. Senior kicker Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) added a successful extra point attempt to give Florida a 7-0 lead with 10:52 to play in the first quarter.
Florida State responded quickly, sparked by a 52-yard kickoff return by Michael Garvin to give the Seminoles possession at the Gators’ 29-yard line, but the aggressive Gator defense was able to limit FSU to only three points. Kicker Graham Gano’s successful field goal from 37 yards narrowed the Gators’ advantage, 7-3, with 9:20 remaining in the first quarter.
After forcing the Seminoles to third down at 12 yards to go, sophomore safety Major Wright (Miramar, Fla.) collected his third pick of the year, giving the Gators possession at their own 15-yard line. Poor weather conditions forced the Gator offense to keep the ball on the ground, but Florida was able to capitalize with a 24-yard carry by Tebow, followed by a 44-yard rush by freshman athlete Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.). Tebow found tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) wide open and the sophomore was able to walk into the endzone following a seven-yard reception. A successful point-after attempt by Phillips extended Florida’s margin, 14-3, in the closing seconds of the first stanza.
After a scoreless possession by Florida State, the Seminoles regained possession within minutes following a fumble by Demps, recovered by FSU defensive end Neefy Moffett at the Gators’ 14-yard line. Florida’s defense forced the Seminoles to settle for three yet again, as Gano connected on a 36-yard field goal with 10 minutes remaining in the half with the score 14-6.
Florida answered on their ensuing possession with a 10-play, 86-yard scoring drive. After converting on third down and five yards to go with a 28-yard reception by junior wide receiver David Nelson (Wichita Falls, Texas), the Gators drove down the field and Tebow dug his way through the Seminole defense for a four-yard touchdown carry to extend the Gators’ lead, 21-6, with 5:33 to play in the first half.
The Seminoles capped a nine-play, 46-yard drive with their third field goal of the game, this one complete from 32 yards by Gano to narrow the margin, 21-9.
The tandem of Tebow and Hernandez was successful once again, as Tebow found the sophomore in the endzone for a 24-yard touchdown pass within one minute of the Seminoles’ field goal. The score capped a five-play drive, highlighted by a 26-yard grab by senior wide receiver Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.), and gave the Orange and Blue a 28-9 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
The Gators came out of the locker room following halftime with a vengeance, as junior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) intercepted a pass by FSU quarterback Christian Ponder on the first play of the third quarter, giving the Gators control at the Noles’ 20-yard line. Florida’s offense took advantage of the excellent field possession as Tebow found a wide-open Murphy in the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown reception to widen the Gators’ lead, 35-9, with 13:54 to play in the third quarter.
The Gators tacked on another three points on their next possession following a 5-play drive, sparked by a 62-yard run by redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.) to set up a 29-yard field goal attempt. The successful field goal by Phillips, who is a perfect 10-for-10 on the season, gave the Gators a 38-9 lead with 11:10 to play in the third quarter.
Florida State scored their first touchdown of the game with 7:43 remaining of the third quarter off a four-yard rush by Jermaine Thomas. For the first time this season, the extra-point attempt by Gano was blocked, and the Gators maintained a 38-15 lead with 7:43 remaining in the third.
The Florida defense continued to impress as freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee, Fla.) collected his third pick of the season off a D’Vontrey Richardson pass attempt to Bert Reed with 13:09 to play in the game. The turnover allowed the Gators to start a drive in Florida State territory for the fourth time in the game. A 30-yard carry by redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Moody (Coppel, Texas) gave the Orange and Blue a first down from the two-yard line and Demps was able to punch it in on a quarterback option play with 11:48 to play in the game. The score gave the Gators a 45-15 lead and marked the seventh-straight game that Florida has scored 42 or more points.
Sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap (North Charleston, S.C) recorded his eighth sack of the season on Drew Weatherford for a loss of 20 yards. The sack also caused a fumble, which was recovered by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jaye Howard (Apopka, Fla.), which gave the Gator possession, which would prove the be the final possession of the game.
Rainey led the Gators with 97 rushing yards on eight carries, while Hernandez finished the game with four receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Ponder was five-of-14 for 60 yards, tossing two interceptions and zero scores.
Florida returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 6, when it travels to Atlanta for an SEC Championship Game showdown with Western Division winner No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0). UF will be looking for its eighth conference championship and first since 2006.