Tebow comes alive in UF's decisive drive over Sooners

Tebow comes alive in UF's decisive drive

Tebow is happy

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(Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel / January 8, 2009)

MIAMI

OK, so maybe Tim Tebow is good enough to be third-team quarterback on the All-Big 12 team.

He probably even got a few votes from Oklahoma precincts after Thursday night's performance. It wasn't the prettiest game Tebow ever played, but it will go down as one of his best.

It began with two interceptions but ended in a national championship. That's No. 2 for Tebow if you're counting at home, and I'm sure every Gators household is this morning.

What made the performance so memorable was how it started. Those two interceptions in the first half were as many as he had all season.

The second was snagged by Gerald McCoy, who's a 295-pound defensive tackle. That's the kind of indignity that's supposed to happen to sixth-team All-Big 12 quarterbacks, not Heisman heartthrobs like Tebow. At that point, Florida fans had to be wondering who had inhabited the body wearing No. 15.

It would have been a lot worse had Oklahoma remembered how to score. It racked up roughly a gazillion points in the regular season, but it will be remembered for failing on two goal-line chances Thursday night.

Tebow can thank Florida's defense for keeping things close long enough for him to re-appear. It came after a 12-yard gain. Tebow popped up, ran toward the Gators sideline and went into one his fist-pumping frenzies.

His theatrics have gotten pretty old to Florida's opponents. But you can't argue with the effect they have on the performer. And as Tebow goes, so follow the Gators.

As he started to boil, Fox cut to the tape of Tebow's Ole Miss post-game speech. The one where he vowed no player would work harder and or try harder the rest of the season. It's been continually cited as the turnaround moment of Florida's season. Tebow's Heisman candidacy was built on him carrying Florida with his spirit more than his statistics.

It didn't sell well enough to outdo Bradford's ridiculous numbers. It Heisman voters got to re-vote, they might still give it to Oklahoma's sophomore. But they'd also have a renewed appreciation for the intangibles that make Tebow Tebow.

He rushed for 48 yards on the drive that gave Florida a 14-7 lead. I would call it the go-ahead drive, but every time Florida got ahead the Sooners came back.

That was largely due to Bradford, who is as smooth as Tebow is rowdy. The popular angle going in was the Heisman showdown, but neither quarterback had a dominant statistical game.

Tebow bested Bradford because he got more help from his defense, and he had a guy named Percy Harvin to hand off to. But make no mistake, the BCS game was still The Tebow Show.

He got the Gators going with his running early in the second half. He finished the night with a passing exhibition. It was punctuated by a short touchdown pass to David Nelson. Naturally it had a little Tebow flair, with a jump thrown in.

At that point, you wondered what Oklahoma's Dominique Franks was thinking. He was the unfortunate cornerback who said Tebow wouldn't be one of the top three quarterbacks in the Big 12.

That made him the designated goat after Thursday night, but you really can't get on Franks too much. The Big 12 did have three great quarterbacks, and he was just standing up for his league.

But as the game ended, the chant that echoed around Dolphin Stadium was " SEC! SEC!" And the biggest reason was the guy leading the Gator Chomp.

It was better than even being named All Big-12.

David Whitley can be reached at dwhitley@orlandosentinel.com.

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