Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes ran an interception back 41 yards for a touchdown, senior quarterback Tim Tebow took off on a career-long 55-yard touchdown run and there was still 9:18 left in the first quarter. That was how Saturday started for the No. 1 Florida Gators (11-0, 8-0 SEC), who defeated the Florida International Golden Panthers (3-8, 3-4 Sunbelt) 62-3 in a game that was a showcase for the Gators’ record-breaking senior class and lengthened the longest winning streak in school history and currently in the nation to 21 consecutive victories.
Running onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the second-to-last time in their Florida careers, the group ended the game as the winningest all-time Southeastern Conference senior class with a record of 46-5. Tebow would take seven caries for 102 total yards on the ground while accounting for 215 more with two touchdowns through the air on 17-for-25 passing. It was the fifth time in his career that Tebow rushed for more than 100 yards. Redshirt sophomore QB John Brantley took over for Tebow early in the third quarter, compiling 146 yards passing and three touchdowns as well as 23 yards on three carries.
Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey had a monster game of his own, carrying four times for 30 yards and a touchdown while also reeling in three receptions for 61 yards and a score. Both of Rainey’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, putting the Gators up 28-0 with 9:41 left in the first half. Fellow redshirt sophomore wide receiver Deonte Thompson led the Gators in both receptions (5 – career high) and receiving yards (66). Nine Florida players had receptions on Saturday, seven with more than one including seniors Riley Cooper (48 yards, touchdown), redshirt David Nelson (45 yards) and Brandon James (15 yards) as well as redshirt freshmen Omarius Hines (50 yards, touchdown) and Frankie Hammond, Jr. (38 yards, touchdown).
Defensively for the Gators, redshirt sophomore Jaye Howard recorded a team-high seven tackles, senior linebackers Ryan Stamper and Dustin Doe each recorded a sack and redshirt junior defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh split another with Howard. Spikes’ interception at 13:10 in the first quarter was the sole turnover of the game for either team. Florida’s defense held FIU to only 189 total offensive yards (most of which came against the second and third units), while only allowing the Golden Panthers to convert 4-of-15 third-down attempts.
Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis continued to struggle, missing his fourth consecutive field goal attempt – this time a 53-yarder. Sturgis, however, made all eight of his extra points while redshirt senior Jonathan Phillips had his sole attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. James was silent in the return game, bringing back two kickoffs for 53 yards and four punts for 25 yards. Coverage teams allowed FIU an average of 24.9 yards per return on seven chances.
Florida finishes its 2009 regular season against the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 28 at 3:30 p.m. The Gators will wear special Nike Pro Combat jerseys for the game, which will feature an appearance from ESPN College GameDay and is also the last in The Swamp for the 2009 senior class.
- Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez missed the first quarter on a coach’s decision. Head coach Urban Meyer would not elaborate.
- Redshirt junior linebacker A.J. Jones injured his MCL during the game. He is out for FSU, after that to be determined.
- Redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson (ankle) and junior center Maurkice Pouncey (bone bruise) were both injured in the game but will most likely be able to play next week.