VETTEL: Gators Survive and Advance

That phrase is one Billy Donovan uses often to discuss his team in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Well, it certainly applies to college football, which has no playoff. Most teams just need to survive and advance; and that's just what the Gators did in Oxford, Mississippi Saturday.

Florida outlasted the Ole Miss Rebels 30-24, grabbing a big lead and then doing just enough to hang on for the victory. The Gators seemingly had the game in hand at 27-9 late in the third quarter, but a missed extra point and two major penalties sparked the Rebels to begin a furious comeback.

Tebow Amazing

He's not Vince Young, but Tim Tebow is the most dangerous combo quarterback in college today. The phenomenal sophomore from Jacksonville by way of St. Augustine Nease carried his older teammates on his broad shoulders in this one. Tebow combined for 426 yards running and throwing with two touchdowns in each category. When the Gators needed to move the chains late in the game to try and run out the clock, it was Tebow doing the overwhelming majority of the work. It was stunning to see, considering EVERYONE in the stadium or watching on TV knew what was coming.

In four games, Tebow has run for 356 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for 1,097 yards and ten scores. He had a direct hand in all four Florida touchdowns in Oxford and took a pounding from Rebels defenders without surrendering an inch. The kid is just that good.

More Weapons Need to be Involved

While it was fascinating to watch Tebow at work, Kestahn Moore averaged 5.6 yards a carry but had just eleven runs to Tebow's 28. Percy Harvin caught eleven of Tebow's 20 completions, while Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram each caught just two. There were times when Tebow was obviously focused in on Harvin and missed chances to connect with others more easily. That is something that is likely to change as Tebow matures as a quarterback, but having your quarterback carry the ball 28 times in the SEC is a great way to find out how good your backup quarterback is.

Defense Rested

Not that the Gator coaches wanted them to, however. Florida did a nice job in the first half, limiting Ole Miss to just over 120 yards and a couple of field goals. But the second half was just dreadful. Ole Miss racked up 270 yards after intermission and scored 18 points. Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams had all day to throw and shredded the Florida secondary for 310 yards.

The Gators had two chances to intercept passes in the end zone with a 21-6 lead, but neither Kyle Jackson nor Tony Joiner could make the play. With the Gators up 27-9, Jackson jumped a route and looked to have an interception, possibly one that could go the distance. But just as quickly as the senior made his move, he hesitated, stumbled forward and Ole Miss had its first touchdown. A play there might have ended the game; instead Ole Miss was within eleven and it got very interesting. The next possession saw Florida's precocious freshmen look like freshmen when Mike Wallace streaked past Joe Haden and Major Wright was late reacting on a 77-yard touchdown.

A Win is a Win is a Win

Despite those shortcomings - and others - Florida partisans should celebrate tonight, not worry about the Gators shortcomings. One of the things I like best about Urban Meyer is his attitude that ALL victories should be celebrated. Winning on the road in the SEC is always an accomplishment, and when it happens under duress it's even more beneficial for the future.

This is the Gator team I expected this year much more than the domination of Tennessee. You don't lose ten of your top twelve players on one side of the ball and rebound as quickly as the game with the Vols might indicate. This year will be a lot like ‘94 and '95 when the Gators had to win a shoot out every two or three games. As I recall, those were pretty good seasons.

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