Saturday November 28, 2009No. 1 Florida Defeats FSU, 37-10, on Senior Day
A Ben Hill Griffin Stadium-record 90,907 fans were present as the No. 1 Gators bid farewell to 22 seniors with a 37-10 defeat over Sunshine State rival Florida State Saturday at Florida Field. Already the winningest class in SEC history, the 2009 seniors helped UF extended the Gator win streak over FSU to six games, adding its 20th all-time victory in Gainesville over the Seminoles.
The 12th win of the season against FSU marked UF’s NCAA-leading 22nd straight victory and also marked the first time in UF history the Gators have posted a 12-0 regular season record. The last time UF went 12-0 was the 1995 season, when the undefeated record included the SEC Championship Game.
For the 12th time in his career at Florida, senior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville , Fla.) threw for at least two touchdown passes and rushed for at least two more. Tebow additionally moved into sole possession of the SEC and UF records in total offense, with 11,389 career yards. Tebow finished the day 17-of-21 for 221 yards passing and three touchdowns, and rushed 15 times for 90 yards and two scores in his final game in The Swamp.
Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) led the Florida receiving corps with five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns, a career-high that Hernandez last achieved against FSU in 2008. Sophomore athlete Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.) had a 106-yard rushing day, with seven carries to lead all Gator rushers.
With just over five minutes in the fourth quarter, redshirt sophomore quarterback John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) took over for Tebow and finished the evening 2-of-2 for 13 yards through the air.
Florida held Florida State scoreless through the first half of play, tacking on three touchdowns and a field goal by sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.). Florida’s defensive efforts forced the ‘Noles to punt four times in the first half, while Thorpe Award finalist, junior cornerback Joe Haden (Ft. Washington, Md.), came up with his fourth pick of the season to halt FSU’s final drive of the half. Haden now leads the Florida defense this season in interceptions and has eight career interceptions donning the Orange and Blue.
The Gators struck for the first time in the game on an 18-yard shovel pass from Tebow to Hernandez following a six-play, 48-yard drive. The score gave Hernandez his third touchdown of the season and put the Gators up, 7-0, with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter of play.
A key sack on the Seminoles’ next drive by junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap (North Charleston, S.C.) forced FSU’s second punt of the half, putting the ball back in the Gators’ possession. The 69-yard UF drive belonged to sophomore running back Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.), who accounted for 55 of the 69 yards on the ground, with advances of 45 yards, six yards and four yards. Sturgis hit the uprights on a 37-yard field-goal attempt to extend the Florida lead, 10-0, to start the second quarter.
An FSU punt with 11:43 to go in the second quarter set up UF’s longest drive of the season, by time, as the Gators marched 80 yards down field for an 18-yard Tebow touchdown rush that ate 7:44 off the clock. The score was Tebow’s 55th career rushing touchdown and gave the Gators a 17-0 advantage, following the extra point.
The UF defense held strong on FSU’s ensuing drive, forcing three-and-out, putting possession of the ball back in the Gators’ hands with 2:19 left in the half. Hernandez rallied for 49 yards receiving on the 51-yard scoring drive, including a 37-yard touchdown pass from Tebow that gave Hernandez his second score of the game. Hernandez’s score tied a career high, with two touchdown scores in a game, last achieved against FSU in 2008, as Florida took a 24-0 lead.
A Haden interception halted Florida State’s final drive of the half, and UF’s 6-of-8 in third-down conversions took the Gators into the locker room at the half with a 24-point advantage.
The Seminoles received the ball to kick off the second half of play, but the UF defense held strong, forcing yet another FSU punt. Florida was quick to capitalize, striking on a four-play scoring drive with a 39-yard lob from Tebow to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.). While Sturgis’ extra point was blocked, Cooper’s team-leading eighth touchdown catch was the 17th of his career as the Orange and Blue took a 30-0 lead.
After a wide-left 44-yard Florida State missed field goal attempt, the Seminoles put their first points on the board with three seconds remaining in the third quarter, capitalizing on a Tebow fumble at the FSU 30-yard line, with a 20-yard field-goal success by freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins that narrowed the margin, 30-3. The Seminoles were forced to a field-goal after the Gator defense held FSU to fourth-and-goal at the UF two-yard line.
A season-long and career-tying 62-yard advance by Demps set up Florida’s next touchdown drive, allowing Tebow to score his 56th rushing touchdown on a one-yard quarterback keeper that extended the UF lead, 37-3.
The Seminoles responded with their only touchdown of the night when FSU freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel connected with sophomore wide receiver Jarmon Fortson on a nine-yard pass that narrowed the Gators’ lead, 37-10.
After a UF fumble on the Gators’ ensuing possession, Florida State took the ball the length of the field on its last possession, but redshirt freshman cornerback Adrian Bushell (DeSoto, Texas) solidified the UF victory, picking off a Manuel pass in the end zone to end the game.
Florida will take on No. 2 Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship game, its second consecutive appearance in the showdown, Dec. 5, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. Kick off is set for a 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on CBS.
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