Tebow Lights up Gamecocks

The Florida Gators were hoping for loses from Tennessee and Georgia combined with a win against South Carolina. They only got one-third of the equation, but perhaps the most important piece. They finished the SEC season with a 51-31 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Many of the 81,215 at Williams-Brice Stadium headed for the exits early on Saturday night, but those that stuck around witnessed an offensive clinic by Gator quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow's been limited in the last two weeks because of a sore right shoulder, but with wide receiver Percy Harvin watching from his dorm room in Gainesville because of the flu, Tebow placed the load of the Gator offense squarely on his shoulders.

Tebow rushed 26 times for 120 yards and an unprecedented five rushing touchdowns. And he threw the ball, too. Tebow completed 22-of-32 passes for 304 yards and two more touchdowns. In doing so, Tebow set personal bests for passing yards and rushing touchdowns and tied his career high for completions.

"That was one of the finest performances I've ever seen," head coach Urban Meyer said. "He's finally healthy again. He's tough as nails. He threw the ball well and had a couple of drops. He could have had well over 300 yards."

Despite Tebow's big night, it was actually the Gator defense that set the tone for the game. On the very first play of the game, the Gamecocks mishandled the center/quarterback exchange resulting in a fumble that was scooped up by Brandon Spikes. The Gators quickly answered with Tebow's first rushing touchdown.

Florida added another score when the defense forced South Carolina off the field after just three plays, and John Curtis blocked the ensuing punt. Less than four minutes in, the Gators led 13-0.

"I thought our defense did a great job starting the game they way they did creating some turnovers and keeping the ball in front of them," Meyer said. "They were a little sloppy in the second half, but I was very proud of our defense."

But this night belonged to the Gator offense. Florida put 537 yards on the beleaguered Gamecock defense. They threw up more than 50 points for the second time against an SEC East opponent this season and averaged close to seven yards per play.

Without Harvin making the trip, the Gators had to turn to some of their other weapons. Senior Andre Caldwell had a monster game, hauling in 11 catches for a career-high 148 yards and a touchdown.

"I thought Bubba was phenomenal," Meyer said. "He did a great job."

The Gators also turned to Brandon James, Jarred Fayson and Kestahn Moore. Moore saw his normal number of carries out of the backfield, carrying six times for 38 yards. Both Fayson and James lined up in the backfield and Fayson also lined up wide and had three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown.

"Jarred played very well, receiving and rushing," Meyer said. "He picked up some of the slack. And Brandon James picked up some of the slack as well, and other than the fumble, I thought he played well."

The Gators showed that they have the same offensive firepower without Harvin in the lineup as when he's on the field. Given the choice, however, Meyer would obviously choose to have Harvin suited up.

"We don't want to play without with him," Meyer said. "It shows that we have some depth. We talk about competitive excellence and when someone can't go, you have to pick up the slack."

The Gators finish the SEC season 5-3, but still trail both Tennessee and Georgia by one game in the loss column. Both the Vols and the Dawgs face a common opponent with the Kentucky Wildcats heading to Athens next week before hosting the Vols the following week. Tennessee also has a date with Vanderbilt next week, but the fate of the Gators falls in the hands of the team from Lexington.

"We're big Wildcat fans here for the next couple of weeks," Meyer said. "The light at the end of the tunnel is still there. They needed a little juice and that juice is still there. "I think Kentucky is a heck of a football team. I think I have to call Rich [Brooks] tonight."

Florida finishes off the regular season with home matchups against Florida Atlantic and then Florida State.

Tebow for Heisman

A huge night in a spotlight game in front of a national television audience should propel Tebow on to everyone's top three list of the Heisman Trophy. If not, Meyer is ready to push the cause.

"I think that was a Heisman performance," Meyer said. "We're near the end of the season. I don't normally say things like that, but I didn't know about the statistics. For a young guy to have 120 yards rushing and five touchdowns and then he threw for 300 yards. That's seven touchdowns he accounted for and it's a pretty good day. I think I'll buy him a sandwich on the way home."

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