Senior quarterback Tim Tebow threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, yet the Florida Gators (7-0, 5-0 SEC) held on to defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-5, 1-3 SEC) 29-19 on the road Saturday night in Starkville, MS. In an environment where Florida has not earned a victory in their last four visits, the Gators played dominating defense and held the Bulldogs’ offense to six points on two early field goals.
Florida’s defense held Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon to a season-low 53 yards. The Bulldogs’ defense did their job, too, stymieing the Gators in the red zone all night long. Florida was kept out of the end zone on their first four trips in the area. Tebow scored a 26-yard rushing touchdown early to tie Georgia Bulldogs RB Herschel Walker‘s SEC rushing touchdown record (49), and RB Chris Rainey scored an eight-yard touchdown after the Bulldogs muffed a fake punt. Rainey would also block a punt in the game. Linebacker Dustin Doe intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown, though he seemed to fumble near the goal line when showboating. The touchdown was upheld by the officials.
Mississippi State’s two interception returns for touchdowns were from cornerback Jonathan Banks, who brought back one for 100 yards and caught another when Tebow’s arm was hit mid-throw in the Gators’ end zone. Tebow had just one pick-six in his collegiate career prior to Saturday night’s game. Florida linebacker A.J. Jones caught his first career interception in the game, safety Major Wright added one of his own, and kicker Caleb Sturgis missed both a 37-yard field goal and an extra point.
In the second quarter, Florida RB Jeff Demps injured his neck and has undergone X-rays to determine the extent of his injury; cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis was also injured, aggravating his hamstring. Head coach Urban Meyer said during his post-game press conference that he is not sure of the health status of the two players. Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes was dressed for the contest but did not play while nursing a sore groin.
The Gators continue to own the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games and, with their latest win, have extended their SEC road game winning streak to nine straight games. Florida will travel to Jacksonville, FL, next weekend for their annual meeting against Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.