Saturday October 17, 2009No. 1 Florida Tops Arkansas, 23-20, on Homecoming
In front of a Homecoming crowd of 90,508 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday, the No. 1 Florida Gators defeated Arkansas, 23-20, with a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds to improve to 6-0 (4-0 SEC). With its win, Florida kept a nation-leading 16-game win streak alive.
Senior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) added to his illustrious career after connecting with redshirt sophomore Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) on a 77-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter. The play marked a career-long for both, as Tebow became the SEC record holder in touchdown responsibility, with 123 (75 passing, 48 rushing), to pass former Gator great Danny Wuerffel. The touchdown marked the longest Florida touchdown pass since former UF quarterback Chris Leak connected with Chad Jackson on an 80-yard touchdown reception in 2005.
Tebow finished the day17-of-26 for 255 yards in the air with one touchdown pass and rushed a career-tying 27 times for 69 yards on the ground. Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) led the Florida receiving corps with a career-high seven receptions for a career-high 92 receiving yards.
After the Gators forced two Razorback (3-3, 1-3 SEC) three-and-out situations and one punt to start the game, Arkansas scored the first touchdown of the first half, capitalizing on a Tebow fumble late in the first quarter. Arkansas sophomore running back Broderick Green punched in a one-yarder with 14:57 to go in the second quarter, giving the Razorbacks an early 7-0 lead.
A rough patch with two more Florida fumbles early in the second quarter didn’t halt the Gators, as kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.) nailed a 30-yard field goal, capping off a five-play, 20-yard drive that put UF on the board and brought the margin to 7-3.
On Arkansas’ ensuing possession, Razorback junior kicker Alex Tejada responded with a field-goal of his own, a 22-yard success, resulting in a 10-3 Arkansas lead at the end of the first half. Despite entering the locker room down, the Gator defense held the Razorbacks to just five first downs in the first two quarters.
The Orange and Blue tacked on three more points on the first drive of the second half when Sturgis hit a career-long 51-yard field goal, the longest 50-plus yard field goal since 2004, when Gator Matt Leach found the uprights on a 52-yard attempt Oct. 30, 2004, against Georgia.
A missed 40-yard field goal attempt for Tejada on Arkansas’ first possession of the second half set up the career-long 77-yard touchdown lob from Tebow to Thompson, a one-play drive that took 11 seconds off the clock and put the Gators up, 13-10.
On the next Razorback drive, another Tejada field goal, this time a 31-yarder, knotted the score, 13-13, following the seven-play, 45-yard Arkansas drive.
A punt on Florida’s next possession gave the Razorbacks the ball on their own 13-yard line. Arkansas strung together a six-play, 87-yard drive, capped off with a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett to sophomore wide receiver Greg Childs, bringing Arkansas ahead, 20-13, with 9:40 emaining in the fourth quarter.
It only took 2:13 for the Gators to strike back when sophomore running back Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.) found the end zone for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season on a 10-yard score that brought the game to 20-all.
With 3:08 left in the game, Arkansas’ Tejada missed his second field goal of the game, a 38-yard attempt, turning the ball over to the Gators on their own 21-yard line. With the clock running down, Tebow connected three times with senior Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.), handed off twice to Demps and carried the ball six times as Florida marched downfield for a 27-yard game-winning field goal by Sturgis, resulting in the final margin, 23-20, in favor of Florida.
The Gators will next hit the road to tangle with Mississippi State Oct. 24 in Starkville, Miss. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. Check www.GatorZone.com for updated television network information.