VETTEL: Tebow Tremendous in Must-Win Win

The Florida Gators had two possibilities heading into Saturday's game at Kentucky. They could win, hope Tennessee lost at Alabama and regain control of their destiny in the SEC. Or they could come up short to the best Kentucky team in three decades and start asking around about winter fun in Shreveport and Nashville.

Urban Meyer's team chose the former, executed the offense beautifully and knocked off the seventh-ranked Wildcats in front of a record crowd of 71,024 at Commonwealth Stadium. It was a win Florida had to have to avoid a three-game losing streak, and it was a win that Florida went out and took. It didn't hurt that the Gators were coming off an idle week, while Kentucky had a gut wrenching game with LSU. It also didn't hurt to have Alabama blow out the Vols, giving the Gators a little pick-me-up right before kickoff.

The Florida defense was victimized for more than 500 yards and 37 points, but six quarterback sacks did just enough to contribute to the effort Florida put forth on offense and in dominating special teams.

It was a great game for Bubba Caldwell who caught six passes for 73 yards and a touchdown and added a 20-yard run as well. That's one more catch than Caldwell had in the first six games combined, and it shows how dynamic this offense is when everyone is healthy.

But the story of this game is Florida's sophomore sensation Tim Tebow who is unquestionably near the top of every list of Heisman Trophy candidates. Tebow threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another 78 yards and a score while directing a turnover-free Gator effort. He burned Kentucky with deep throws and intermediate ones. He threw a spectacular deep ball to Percy Harvin to put the game on ice and gained tough yards on the ground as well. He even overcame two dropped touchdown passes when the Gators had a chance to go up by 18 points, keeping Kentucky within two scores.

Tebow is a completely different athlete than Vince Young of Texas two years ago, but he dominates the game in much the same way. It's almost like watching Herschel Walker on some of these plays. You know he's gonna run it. They know he's gonna run it. And yet he keeps getting what he needs.

Off Week was Huge Factor

There's no doubt that the Gators benefited from the extra time to heal up physically and mentally prior to this game. Florida looked to have a little more bounce in its step and played with energy for the entire 60 minutes. Kentucky seemed to have trouble maintaining their energy level at times.

The meaningless late touchdown on the game's final play shouldn't overshadow what was a pretty decent effort against Kentucky's superb offense. Andre Woodson is going to be a high first round draft pick. Jacob Tamme is an excellent receiving tight end and Kennan Burton heads up a very talented an experienced group of wide outs. Florida got some very important play at tackle from Torrey Davis and more often than not Derrick Harvey and Jermaine Cunningham brought outside pressure.

Another big factor in this game was field position, which Florida won overwhelmingly. Brandon James was superb returning kicks, Florida's kickoffs and coverage were excellent and freshman punter Chas Henry had his best day.

Clock Management Improves

The Gators used the clock as an ally late in the first half and went into the locker room with an eleven point lead. Florida took over after a Kentucky field goal with 2:38 to play and got great field position courtesy of Brandon James. They Gators then marched into scoring range and cashed in the chance when Tim Tebow threw a jump pass to Aaron Hernandez for a touchdown with just 14 seconds to play. That was a very big score, and a great job of taking away any chance for Kentucky to do anything before halftime.

All in all, an important win that keeps the Gators on schedule for a return to the SEC Championship game.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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