Gators prove greater

bcs title game no. 1 florida 24, no. 2 oklahoma 14

Tebow throws game-clinching TD

defense keeps Okla. offense off balance all night

January 09, 2009|By Chicago Tribune

MIAMI - One by one, the Florida players posed next to the crystal football they hoped to claim three days later in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

When a photographer asked what the trophy would say if it could talk, cornerback Janoris Jenkins replied, "I want to go to The Swamp!"

Told that the Oklahoma players had all but smooched the trophy during their time with it, Gators offensive lineman Kyle Newell quipped, "That's the closest they're going to get to it."

Jenkins' words proved prophetic last night, as No. 1 Florida beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 24-14, at Dolphin Stadium to send the jewel to Gainesville for the second time in three years.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops lost his fifth consecutive BCS bowl game, a feat, you would think, a Big Ten coach would claim.

The Gators (13-1) iced the game with a 4-yard touchdown - a jump pass from Tim Tebow to David Nelson - that capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with 3:07 left for a 10-point lead.

Tebow added to the title he helped the Gators win in 2006 with a rout of Ohio State and, one season after winning the Heisman, brought home another trophy.

"Tebow, just call him Superman," Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin said.

Tebow was picked the game's Most Outstanding Player, running for 109 yards. His passing wasn't so precise - 18-for-30 - yet it was his sheer will that kept coach Urban Meyer's team going.

It was the third straight national title for a team from the Southeastern Conference and marked the Sooners' fifth straight loss in a BCS game. Oklahoma (12-2) set a modern record for scoring with 702 points this season and put up at least 60 points in its last five games, yet never found its rhythm.

The score was tied at 7 until 4:21 remained in third quarter, when Harvin took a direct snap, followed a wall of blockers to his right and flew into the end zone from 2 yards out, scoring a touchdown for the 15th consecutive game.

Tebow dominated the 75-yard drive, carrying six times and firing up Gators fans by pumping his fist and gesturing for more noise.

Oklahoma came back to tie it at 14 at 12:13 of the fourth when this season's Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford, hit Jermaine Gresham for an 11-yard-touchdown pass to complete an eight-play, 77-yard drive.

But the Gators regained the lead, 17-14, on the next possession when Harvin rushed for 52 and 12 yards. Jonathan Phillips subsequently kicked a 28-yard field goal with 10:45 to play.

Florida struck first in a first half that was, well, strange.

It featured just 14 points and several odd occurrences, such a sack of Bradford (just the 12th in 447 pass attempts) and two interceptions by Tebow, matching his regular-season total.

Tebow, though, enjoyed a signature moment before the intermission.

On third-and-nine from the Oklahoma 20-yard line, he rolled right and threw across his body to Murphy, who shed Dominique Franks' tackle and reached across the goal line.

Franks, you will recall, said Tebow would have been just the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12.

Franks' favorite quarterback, Bradford, completed 17 of 23 first-half passes, but the half all but ended on an incredible Gators interception. With 10 seconds left and Oklahoma 6 yards from a go-ahead touchdown, Bradford fired a rope to a tightly covered Manuel Johnson.

Joe Haden knocked the ball loose, and then it pinballed from one Gator to the next. Major Wright finally corralled it to kill the drive.

It was the second time Oklahoma was denied inside the 6.

The Gators stuffed Chris Brown on a third-and-one. Stoops then passed on a chip-shot field goal, and Florida tackle Torrey Davis fired through the line to bury Brown at the 3.

The 7-7 halftime score marked the first time in 11 BCS title games that neither team took a lead into the locker room.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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