The defense was shaky at times, but the Gator offense was able to continue to move the chains, winning the time of possession by more than 10 minutes. After jumping out to a 27-9 lead in the middle of the third quarter, it looked as if the Gators had everything under control. But a couple of big plays from the Rebels' offense narrowed the margin to just three points heading into the fourth quarter.
"We're a pretty good team," Urban Meyer said after the game. "We're a young team. We just beat a team on the road. I'll choke someone if I hear the style point thing again."
Saturday's win was a tough win for a young team, but when the going got tough, Meyer turned to the toughest Gator, quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow had a decent passing day, completing 20-of-34 passes for 261 yards, but did most of his work on the ground. Tebow carried 27 times for 166 yards. He became the first Gator quarterback in 30 years to rush for more than 100 yards. He's the fourth quarterback to do so and broke Larry Rentz's record that dates back to October 14, 1967 for most rushing yards from a Florida quarterback.
In the fourth quarter, Meyer turned the game over to Tebow as the Gator defense didn't have any answers for the Ole Miss passing game.
"It's a crutch," Meyer said. "Let's give it to the horse. We let him go, and he had 27 carries and that's far too many."
It wasn't all Meyer's fault, though. Ole Miss had the ball down 30-24, but were stopped with 3:01 left to play. Kestahn Moore was dinged up earlier in the game, so it was up to Tebow to run out the clock.
"I wasn't really thinking about how many carries I had," Tebow said. "I was just trying to get the first downs and manage the offense. It never really crosses your mind when you're in a game."
"He's his worst enemy because he's in my ear," Meyer said. "He did a nice job. When there's four minutes and they have all three timeouts, that's something we were able to do last year. We were able to close that game."
After shutting out the Gators in the first quarter for the first time all season, Ole Miss took an early lead. Joshua Shene kicked a 40-yard field goal with 4:36 left in the quarter to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.
Florida answered with a 10-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a touchdown. Ole Miss took the deep ball away from the Gators and forced Tebow to be patient moving the ball down the field. Tebow connected with Percy Harvin six times, including a 19-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter, and the Gators took a 7-3 lead.
"We knew we had to nickel and dime them," Harvin said. "We knew they wouldn't let us have the big play. We just had to run the 5-yard stops and some of the little things."
Harvin finished with 11 receptions for 121 yards.
"He played phenomenal," Tebow said. "Percy is just a competitor. He's flashy and brilliant and runs great, but when you get down to Percy, he's a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants to get out there and win. He'll do anything he needs like block. He's a great guy to have on your team."
Ole Miss answered on the next drive with another field goal. This time from 32 yards out. But after Brandon James slipped at the 2-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, the Gators drove 98 yards for another score. Tebow ran six times for 40 yards, including a 9-yard scamper into the end zone. The Gators led 14-6 at halftime.
Florida quickly extended the lead in the third quarter behind some solid running by tailback Kestahn Moore. Moore started the drive with 14- and 16-yard runs. Then a 20-yard pass play to Louis Murphy on a third-and-long and a pair of runs from Tebow put six more points on the board for the Gators.
But Ole Miss charged back with a 21-yard field goal on the next drive after a 50-yard pass play from quarterback Seth Adams to wide receiver Michael Hicks, cutting the lead to 21-9.
Tebow responded with two big strikes of his own – one to Cornelius Ingram for 25 yards and then a 37-yard touchdown pass to Murphy. But another touchdown pass from Adams and then a 77-yard bomb to Mike Wallace cut the Gator lead to just three points heading into the final 15 minutes.
The Gators held the ball for 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, though, and Joey Ijjas added another 25-yard field goal to preserve the win.
In addition to Harvin's big day, Murphy caught two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Moore rushed for 62 yards, and Brandon James returned the opening kick of the game 55 yards.
Florida heads back home next weekend and will try to avenge their only loss of 2006 when they face the Auburn Tigers.
Gators Hold off Rebels
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