8:00 PM ET, January 8, 2009
Sun Life Stadium, MIAMI, FL
MIAMI -- The game defied expectations. Tim Tebow fulfilled them.
Tim Tebow took his game to another level in the fourth quarter of his last two games. Against Alabama and Oklahoma, the Florida signal-caller was nearly flawless when it mattered the most. Here's a look:
He rescued No. 1 Florida, running through and throwing over No. 2 Oklahoma for a 24-14 victory Thursday night that gave the Gators their second BCS championship in three years.
It was hardly a high-wattage matchup of Heisman winners -- more a sloppy, choppy affair that the rough-and-tumble Tebow took over at the end.
The style won't satisfy fans of Utah, Southern California and Texas, who all want to claim the top spot.
No matter to the Gators.
"I'll tell you, we're going to enjoy a big win, we're going to enjoy the national championship," coach Urban Meyer said. "Let someone else worry about that. Gators are No. 1."
Beaten out for the Heisman this season by Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Tebow outplayed him and was picked the game's most outstanding player. Percy Harvin ran wild and Florida made two goal line stands against the highest-scoring team in modern history.
• The Gators win their second national championship in the past three years and third in school history.
• Florida is the fourth school in the modern era to win two outright national titles in three years, joining Oklahoma (1955, 1956), Miami (1987, 1989) and Nebraska (1994, 1995).
• Florida finished the 2008 season with a 13-1 record, matching the single-season school record for wins (also 13-1 in 2006).
• Tim Tebow became the fifth player since 1950 to win a Heisman Trophy and two national titles, joining Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Gino Torretta and Johnny Rodgers.
• Thursday's win makes Urban Meyer the fifth active FBS coach with multiple national titles, and the fifth coach since the AP poll began in 1936 to win two national championships in his first four seasons at a school.
-- ESPN research
"Tebow, just call him Superman," Harvin said.
National chomps, indeed!
The Associated Press will release its final poll early Friday morning.
Tebow shook off a career-high two interceptions and drove the Gators (13-1) to the clinching score. He took two hard steps toward the line, jumped and zipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson with 3:07 left to make it 24-14.
Tebow carried the ball on the Gators' final six plays, smashing into the line five times. He also drew an unsportsmanlike penalty for woofing at the Sooners and doing the Gator chomp.
"I was already motivated for a national championship game. But you know, there was some trash talking going on, and it just gets me going during the game," said Tebow, who ran for 109 yards.
His passing wasn't so precise -- 18-for-30 -- yet it was his sheer will that kept the Gators going.
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.
Harvin returned from an ankle injury and dashed for 122 yards on only nine carries for the Gators. His 52-yard gallop set up Jonathan Phillips' 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 17-14 lead.
It was Florida's third national title overall, and the third straight for a team from the Southeastern Conference, and it was 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.
Tim Tebow's 109 rushing yards Thursday against Oklahoma marked the third-highest ground total by a quarterback in a BCS title game. Here's a look at the list:
|2006||Vince Young, TEX||200|
|2002||Eric Crouch, NEB||114|
|2009||Tim Tebow, FLA||109|
|2000||Michael Vick, VT||97|
"In the end, I'll be glad to try again next year," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "If that's the biggest burden I have to bear in my life, I'm a pretty lucky guy."
Bradford was a disappointing 26-for-41 with two interceptions. Like Tebow, he's going to explore his potential for the NFL draft -- not exactly the performance he wanted.
"Obviously, they're a great defense. I think just a couple times we got ourselves in trouble," Bradford said.
These teams totaled an average of 99 points per game, but wound up with a scoreless first quarter. In the second quarter, Florida's defense made a pair of goal line stands that left it 7-all at halftime.
By then, college football fans around the country were certainly wondering whether these were indeed the two best teams. And it surely gave steam to the suggestion by President-elect Barack Obama and others that a playoff system is needed.
Cheered on by a flock of rooters who made the five-hour drive from The Swamp in Gainesville, the Gators became the second team in the 11-year history of the BCS to win two titles.
Nicknamed "Big Game Bob" for his early success, Stoops lost for the third time with a national championship on the line. This was the first time Florida and Oklahoma played -- Stoops was the Gators' defensive coordinator when Steve Spurrier led them to the 1996 title.
Tebow struggled throughout the first half, his lone highlight a 20-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Bradford came right back with a swift 65-yard drive, capped by his 6-yard TD toss to Jermaine Gresham.
Florida's defense, rather than Tebow, Harvin and its speedsters on the other side of the ball, kept the Gators close.
Poised to break the tie midway through the second quarter, Oklahoma owned a first-and-goal at the 9. Chris Brown carried four straight times and the Gators stood up the 1,100-yard rusher, twice stuffing him from the 1.
Rarely turned back in the red zone this season, the Sooners let it happen to them again in the final minute before halftime.
There were 10 seconds left and Oklahoma was out of timeouts when Bradford dropped back from the 6. He tried to hit Manuel Johnson at the goal line, but the pass deflected off him and the Gators ran a perfect tip drill, with three defenders touching the ball before Major Wright had the interception.
Tebow, meanwhile, kept stopping the Gators.
The interceptions were bad picks, too -- Tebow telegraphed a long, cross-field throw that Nic Harris easily grabbed and later made a short flip over the middle right to Gerald McCoy.
Were the Gators out of whack? Hard to tell, though offensive coordinator Dan Mullen certainly had a lot to think about. Hired recently by Mississippi State, he becomes the Bulldogs' full-time head coach Friday.
Both teams seemed to have trouble with the game officials. The crew kept interrupting play for various reasons, and the result was a sloppy, scoreless first quarter.
Stoops and Meyer took turns hollering at ACC referee Ron Cherry, as if to tell him "Let 'em play!"
Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes was equally vocal. A few days after calling Big 12 defenses "a joke," he got into a couple of early shouting and shoving skirmishes with the Sooners. It was even a bit edgy before the game -- warming up in the end zone, an Oklahoma kicker rolled his eyes when two Gators leaned against the goal post right behind him.
Tebow, naturally, came out charged up.
He got off the team bus, walked over to a clutch of Florida fans, waved his arms and then ripped off his tie and threw it into a bunch of tailgaters -- tail-Gators, in this case.
By the time Tebow trotted out for warmups, most of the Gators were already kneeling along the goal line to stretch. Tebow walked up and down the line, slapping hands and backsides of all 90-some players.
The BCS title game next year will be played at the Rose Bowl. ... Oklahoma opens the 2009 season against BYU in the Dallas Cowboys' new $1 billion-plus stadium. Florida starts off at home vs. Charleston Southern.
It was over when... Tim Tebow threw a jump pass to David Nelson for a 4-yard TD pass with 3:07 left to give Florida the 24-14 lead.
Gameball goes to... Percy Harvin. The junior returned from an ankle injury and registered 171 total yards and 1 TD.
Stat of the game... 5. The SEC has five BCS championships, and Oklahoma has lost five straight BCS games.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||12-17||6-13|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-2|
|TD||14:02||Louis Murphy 20 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||7||0|
|TD||11:49||Jermaine Gresham 6 Yd Pass From Sam Bradford (Jimmy Stevens Kick)||7||7|
|TD||04:21||Percy Harvin 2 Yd Run (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||14||7|
|TD||12:13||Jermaine Gresham 11 Yd Pass From Sam Bradford (Jimmy Stevens Kick)||14||14|
|FG||10:45||Jonathan Phillips 27 Yd||17||14|
|TD||03:07||David Nelson 4 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||24||14|