Tebow makes clear difference
Gators welcome back QB, shut down LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. - Tim Tebow arrived at raucous Death Valley ready to play. Then top-ranked Florida’s defense left No. 4 LSU in a daze.
Two weeks after suffering a concussion, Tebow - with plenty of help from the Gators’ swarming D - silenced the largest crowd in the history of Tiger Stadium with a 13-3 victory last night.
The day began with Tebow’s status uncertain for what looked like the defending national champions’ toughest regular-season test. By the time it was over, Tebow had thrown a touchdown pass and Brandon Spikes had led a Florida defense that sacked Jordan Jefferson five times.
“I’m feeling great,’’ Tebow said. “The doctors did a great job. I just want to thank them for the work they put in on me the last two weeks, our trainers, and then all the fans that were praying for me.’’
Most of the 93,129 fans who partied all day and roared like a jet engine after kickoff were heading for the exits with 2 1/2 minutes left, quiet and dejected.
Florida (5-0, 3-0 SEC) has won 15 straight games, best in the nation. LSU (5-1, 3-1) had its 32-game winning streak in Saturday night home games snapped.
Tebow completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards with an interception, and ran for 38 yards on 17 carries. Far from his best game, but more than good enough.
After a conservative start, he bounced off tacklers, scrambled away from pass rushers, and generally looked like the guy Florida fans have grown to adore and SEC defenses have not quite figured out how to stop.
“On offense, we didn’t execute the best but we played really hard,’’ Tebow said.
The LSU offense looked all too familiar as well. The Tigers came in ranked last in the SEC in total offense and managed only 162 yards. They never even threatened to score in the second half.
The Tebow mystery - would he play or sit for the first time in his college career - raised the drama for a game that hardly needed a subplot to energize the LSU fans. The last time two teams so highly ranked played at Tiger Stadium was 1959, when No. 1 LSU played No. 3 Mississippi.
“You know Tim,’’ coach Urban Meyer said. “It was, ‘Let me play. Let me play.’ Nonstop.’’
Tebow was cleared to play before he arrived at Tiger Stadium.
He was the last Gator off the team bus, and the last Florida player to jog on the field for pregame warmups. He chugged out of the tunnel to cheers from the Florida fans and went down a line of teammates in the end zone, doling out high-fives and hand slaps.
About 30 minutes before kickoff, the teams briefly squared off at midfield. The Gators were done with their warmups and gathered at the Eye of the Tiger for one last team jump around before heading back to the locker room.
As the crowd booed, the Tigers decided to defend their turf, with most of the team sprinting toward midfield.
Officials quickly stepped in and no contact appeared to be made between the teams. After a quick encounter, each squad ran off the field in opposite directions to its respective tunnel.
Tebow’s first play was a simple handoff and he didn’t need to do much more than that to lead the Gators to a 28-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis, and a 3-0 lead. Sturgis added a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter and also missed a 20-yarder in the third.
Late in the second quarter, Tebow fired a pass down the right side to Riley Cooper for a 24-yard touchdown. Tebow clapped his hands and jumped into the arms of a teammate to celebrate a 10-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the half.