The Florida Gators took care of Kentucky Saturday night and the first quarter started in grand fashion. With 15 players flying in plane's separate from the rest of the team due to illness, the Gators had one of the most exciting and dominating first quarters in the history of the program. The Gators outscored the Wildcats 31-0 in the quarter.
The commanding lead meant the game would never be close, but midway through the third quarter, the Gators got a bigger scare. Quarterback Tim Tebow was hit and sacked and on his way to the ground ran into the leg of tackle Marcus Gilbert. The original hit was strong, but Tebow saw it coming at the last second. It was the hit to the back of the head that knocked the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback unconscious and to the ground where he lay for several minutes.
Florida head coach Urban Meyer spoke after the game and gave whatever details he had of the injury.
"We are going to find out more about Tim, I know that is one everyone's thoughts including myself," Meyer said. "We believe it is a concussion. He got hit pretty good and hit the back of his head. That is one tough cat and our team prayed for him. He will be fine but I know that is on everyone's mind."
"He was dinged a little bit, he never lost any feeling. He was fine...we are very precautionary. Our medical staff, I want to take our hat off to them getting some of these players ready to play."
Meyer likely felt like his stomach dropped when Tebow fell to the ground and didn't get up on his own. His whole team felt it.
"Imagine your son on the ground," he said. "My knees were shaking, goodness. It's every player. This team is so close and every kid came up to me and asked, 'How was Tim?' It's a good group."
Meyer ran to the middle of the field and knelt over Tebow talking to him while the doctor's were there talking with his star quarterback. Meyer let everyone in on that conversation.
"I grabbed his hand and he grabbed mine," Meyer said. "I looked at him and asked him 'How are you doing?', he said, 'Good'." He asked me "Did I hold on to the ball?"...typical Tebow. I asked him what play it was and he said "stick-lion", I winked at him and said 'It's great to be a Florida Gator' he said, 'It's great to be a Gator.'"
As for Tebow's return, Meyer can't say at this point.
"That is all up to the doctors," he said.
The flu and some upper respiratory issues have been the main theme of health issues around the team. There have been over 35 players sick in the last couple of weeks.
"We haven't had Tim for about a day and a half," Meyer said. "He was in isolation all day on (Friday). He came up to me on Thursday and he had that look...I know Tim and I don't like that look. I think we have 20 something kids that have either respiratory or GI or something. I can't tell you how fast our training staff worked and did a phenomenal job."
"The thing I found out is that if you are going to get sick, your roommate is going to get it. Joe Haden and Major Wright were out for two days and we didn't think we would have them. Major wasn't feeling as good as Joe was, but they both played. Riley Cooper...we didn't think we would have him either. He took IV, two bags before the game. So did Tebow, so did Major, so did Joe Haden. (THEY PLAYED) Just phenomenal."
"We had 12 people on planes other than our plane. Josh Evans, Mike Gillislee, James Wilson, Marcus Gilbert, John Fairbanks, A.J. Jones, were some of the guys that were sick. They battled through it, and that is what I loved to see."
There was no way Meyer was going to be able to keep Tebow off the field.
"Tim, you would have to shoot him to hold him out," Meyer said. "He's going to play. A lot of those runs...they were the read scheme and he had 130 yards. I saw him pull the reads and Tim played great."
He doesn't know what to do, but Meyer is ready to do whatever to make sure there is a sterile working and teaching environment back in Gainesville.
"We have to get it right, we have to fumigate that place or do what we have to do," he said. "I'm not sure. I'm kind of being smart about it, but we need to make sure our kids are getting healthy."
35 players sick, a starting receiver (Deonte Thompson) out with a pulled hamstring and everything else associated with the first road game and Meyer is very thankful for his mature team he has this year.
"I am just trying to visualize, we have had immature teams," he said. "Can you imagine the week we had on the road the first road game, then having three planes come up to Lexington? Most of the kids, at least 15 were held out of meetings. Then the coaches had to meet with them separately on Friday night. It was a mess and a credit to the maturity of our players."
Meyer believes it was a good win for his program whether they came in completely healthy or not.
"That was a very good Kentucky team and a team that has won three straight bowl games," he said. "It is a team that we consider in the upper echelon in the SEC, In an hostile environment we came out and played hard in the offense, defense, and kicking game."
"To take the opening kickoff and then go down the field and score and then just boom, boom. Then a blocked punt. Once again it's who we are playing...an SEC opponent on the road, full house, noisy stadium, to come out and play like that, that was good."
Meyer loved the running game that tallied a whopping 362 rushing yards on the day. Tebow led all rushers with 123 yards on the day and had his career highest run of 30 yards. Kentucky could do little to stop the Florida ground game.
"It was a phenomenal effort," Meyer said. "We probably left about 70 yards of rushing offense on the field due to silly penalties. We don't coach loafs. The thing we preach is 4-6 seconds of unbelievable effort. If you get a penalty lets come back and do it again. Cooper had a couple of penalties that were discouraging."
It was the running game and a stifling defense and special teams that set the stage for the big blowout win.
"College football is all about playing great defense, and offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage," he said. "Then we got our hand on a punt and deflates the stadium. I thought our guys came out really charged up and really played hard. That was after a difficult week. I love this team, I love these guys. I love being around them. I love the fact they fight for each other and pray and care for each other. It's really cool. For all the negatives in college athletics, it's really neat and I wish some of you could see that, because it's really special in that room (motioning to the locker room). But, we have a long way to go."
The Gators got to see some of backup quarterback John Brantley in the game. It came likely only a play or two sooner than Meyer wanted to. As soon as Tebow went down, Brantley came in and did a pretty nice job handling the offense. Meyer said he wasn't far from substituting for the next Gator great quarterback. He also wanted to give Brantley some time with the rest of the starters on offense and did so.
Once again, it isn't over till it's over, but it was getting close," Meyer said. "We were just playing the game. We wanted to give John the opportunity to go play the game."
Meyer is comfortable with Brantley and so is the rest of the offense.
"The Pounceys and the line have great confidence in him," Meyer said. "Maurkice even said that to us, I asked what he thought about this, and he said 'Brantley, he will get it'" There is a lot of confidence with John."
We also saw a great deal of Brantley taking snaps from under center, something we have seen very little if any from Tebow in the first four games.
"We will have a little bit different game plan, a little under center," Meyer said. " Some drop back, a little like we did with Chris Leak. The good thing is we have both packages ready to go."
The Gators changed up the offensive line moving Mike Pouncey from right guard to left guard and inserting Mo Hurt at left guard. Carl Johnson who has fluctuated between left guard and left tackle then moved to left tackle. Meyer gave his reasons for it.
"We wanted to stabilize the left side of the line a little bit," he said. "We felt like Marcus Gilbert (right tackle) was now stabilized, Maurkice Pouncey (center) and Mike. We wanted to stabilize the others and settle them down. The best way to do that is to get one of your main guys on the left side as well. Now we had three guys spaced out and I think that helped."
"It also has to do with the no huddle, the silent cadence. A lot of that is on the squeezing the hands and the guards have to be the real deal on that."
* Florida defeated Kentucky for the 23rd consecutive time and raised its nation's best winning streak to 14 games.
* UF increased its winning streak against SEC Eastern Division opponents to eight.
* The 31 points scored by the Gators in the first quarter was the most during the opening frame in Urban Meyer's head coaching career.
* The Gators totaled 362 yards rushing, their second time over 300 yards this season (369 vs. Charleston Southern).
* Redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey blocked a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter, the Gators' first blocked kick of the season and the 27th kick blocked under Urban Meyer. Since Meyer took over prior to the 2005 season, Florida has blocked 17 punts, 7 field goals and 3 extra-point attempts. It was the first block of Rainey's career.
* It was the fifth time Florida has blocked a kick against Kentucky, matching the most by the Gators against an opponent under Meyer with South Carolina.
* Entering today, the Wildcats led the SEC and ranked second nationally in kickoff return average with 42.3 yards per return. For the game, Kentucky had seven returns for 129 yards (18.4 avg.).
* Senior athlete Brandon James established an SEC record for return yardage with a 27-yard kickoff return to open the game. Following that play, his career total of 3,370 yards surpassed the mark of 3,357 held by Kentucky's Derek Abney.
* Tebow had two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown to bring his touchdown responsibility total to 121, one shy of Danny Wuerffel's SEC record of 122.
* Tebow moved into sole possession of second place on the SEC's career list for rushing touchdowns with his 47th score in the first quarter. Herschel Walker from Georgia (1980-82) holds the record with 49.
* Junior safety Major Wright collected his second interception of the year in the fourth quarter