Senior quarterback Tim Tebow knew his farewell in The Swamp was going to be an emotional one. What he may not have known was that his sendoff would include a five-touchdown performance en route to a 37-10 No. 1 Florida Gators (12-0, 8-0 SEC) victory over the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles (6-6, 4-4 ACC). The win marked Florida’s sixth straight against Florida State, their 20th all-time in Gainesville, FL.
Tebow went 17-for-21 for 221 yards and three touchdowns through the air, also rushing 15 times for 90 yards and two TDs in front of a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium-record crowd of 90,907. His numbers moved him into sole possession of the Southeastern Conference and Florida records in total offense with 11,389 career yards. He, along with the 24 other seniors, won their 47th career game, extending their dominance as the winningest senior class in SEC history. The win was the Gators’ 22nd consecutive victory and 12th of the season, marking the first time that the Orange and Blue has posted a 12-0 regular season record.
Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez was Tebow’s favorite target on Saturday, registering five receptions for 83 yards and two TDs. His two scores came on pitches, one of which he took for 37 yards into the end zone. Hernandez then threw the ball into the stands, a common move by players who score in their final home game. Sophomore running back Jeff Demps shined in the backfield, totaling 106 yards on seven carries with a career-tying long of 62. Redshirt sophomore RB Chris Rainey was also impressive, earning 73 yards on eight carries with a long of 45. Tebow had a dynamic 47-yard run of his own, but fumbled the ball at the conclusion of the play, turning it over to Florida State.
The Gators took a 30-0 lead into the end of the third quarter, when Seminoles kicker Dustin Hopkins hit a 20-yard field goal to end the shutout. FSU also scored on a nine-yard pass from QB E.J. Manuel to wide receiver Jarmon Forston against Florida’s second-string defense with 6:03 left in the fourth. Aside from those scores, the Gators defense dominated the Seminoles. Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper and junior Brandon Hicks each registered seven tackles, though two of Hicks’ were for a loss. He also forced a fumble and had two sacks on the afternoon. Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap had three tackles (one for a loss) and a sack, while junior cornerback Joe Haden and freshman Adrian Bushell each nabbed an interception.
Florida will take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0 SEC) in the 2009 SEC Championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
Senior Day Celebration: Watch
Urban Meyer Postgame Press Conference: Watch
Tim Tebow Postgame Press Conference: Watch