Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow suffered a concussion last Saturday while playing in the third quarter of what (at the time) was a 31-7 game against the Kentucky Wildcats on the road in Lexington. Yet if you listen to some of my brethren in the media tell the story, you would think the score was 49-3 with 3:57 left in the third quarter at home in The Swamp – like it was when these teams played in 2008.
From ESPN and FOX to the Orlando Sentinel and The Tennessean (and everyone in between), the criticism being laid on head coach Urban Meyer for having Tebow on the field at the time of his concussion has even led opposing SEC coaches to defend his decision-making. You know an the competition is being unfairly criticized when a guy like Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban (notorious Miami Dolphins back-stabber) has his back, “I certainly wouldn’t have any issue with the way that was managed at Florida.”
But Saban’s best quote explains exactly how I feel about the criticism being slung Meyer’s way. “31-7 in the third quarter is not a game that’s out of reach,” he said. “One score and an onside kick, and that team’s right back in the game.”
Did I miss something? Did I miss the new rule in college football that says a 24-point lead is insurmountable? Did I miss Saban being criticized when he had his starters in up 35-7 on the Arkansas Razorbacks last week? I suppose that I overlooked the media’s outrage over Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown allowing his quarterback (and Heisman hopeful) Colt McCoy to start the third quarter after being up 47-7 going into the half.
Florida’s drive began with 8:23 remaining in the third quarter, and Tebow had engineered his team 60 yards down the field in 3:49 before defensive end Taylor Wyndham came from around the corner and knocked him out cold on a 3rd-and-9 at Kentucky’s 11-yard line. And guess what? Chances are Tebow was coming out of the game following that drive anyway.
So where is this vilification of Meyer coming from? Isn’t it ironic and quite hypocritical that the media is bashing Meyer for having his star quarterback in the game just one week after it roundly criticized him for “only” defeating the Tennessee Volunteers and head coach Lane Kiffin by 10 points? Apparently a 24-point lead is too much, but a 10-point victory is not enough.
LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles did not question Meyer either. In fact, Miles’ mentor and former Michigan Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler would never have taken his star quarterback or team of starters out of the game early.
“[Schembechler] said we keep our starters in there and fight like hell to the end. And I didn’t think that he had it exactly right, and then as a head coach I think back on some of those things and I say, ‘You know what? He’s exactly right. You finish this thing right.’”
Better yet, using a phrase Tebow has dubbed one of his mottos, you “finish strong.”
Meyer was not padding Tebow’s stats (no need), trying to put the hurt on Kentucky coach Rich Brooks (they’re friends) or proving a point to his critics. Meyer was trying to win the game. He was trying to “finish strong.”