Sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) threw for a career-high 338 yards and was 25 for 34 with three touchdowns in the No. 14 Gators’ 59-20 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday. Before a crowd of 90,107 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Tebow rushed for 31 yards and one touchdown in the victory. He became the only player in NCAA history to rush for more than 20 touchdowns and pass for more than 20 touchdowns in a season. Tebow has also rushed for more touchdowns, with 20, than any player in SEC history.
In a day filled with highlights, senior receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) had a career-high 13 receptions for 164 yards and surpassed Carlos Alvarez’s school record (172) to become the all-time leader in receptions.
After forcing the Owls to punt on their first possession, junior running back Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) opened the scoring with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter with a nine-yard run. Tebow was 6-for-6 on the Gators’ first possession including a 22-yard pass to Caldwell. The drive, lasting 4:00, covered 85 yards in eight plays. A successful point-after kick by senior Joey Ijjas (Clearwater, Fla.) gave the Gators a 7-0 lead.
The Gators added another quick six after sophomore wide receiver Joey Sorrentino (Ocala, Fla.) blocked Mickey Groody’s punt and junior cornerback Markus Manson (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) ran it back 19 yards for the score. The last time that the Gators had a touchdown off of a punt block was on Jan. 2, 2006 versus Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Manson’s score extended the Gators’ lead 14-0 with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Following a three-and-out possession for the Owls, Tebow found junior tight end Cornelius Ingram (Hawthorne, Fla.) in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown reception with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter. Tebow connected with four different receivers during the 74-yard, nine-play scoring drive, giving the Orange and Blue a 21-0 lead.
The Owls added 13 straight points to the scoreboard in the second quarter. The first three points came from a 40-yard field goal completion by Warley Leroy with 12:55 remaining in the half. FAU regained possession at the Gators’ 37 yard line after Tebow’s pass was intercepted by defensive back Corey Small. They capitalized on the turnover when quarterback Rusty Smith connected with wide receiver Cortez Gent on a 20-yard touchdown pass play, narrowing the Gators’ lead 21-10 with 10:25 remaining. After forcing the Gators to punt, Leroy added another three points on a 43-yard field goal completion bringing the score to 21-13 with 7:18 remaining in the half.
The Gators answered to extend their lead, 28-13, with 5:04 remaining in the half with a 2-yard touchdown run by Tebow. The drive, spanning 69 yards in six plays, was highlighted by a 40-yard gain by Caldwell. The TD was Tebow’s 20th on the ground this season.
The Owls put another seven on the scoreboard following a one-yard touchdown run by Smith with 1:13 remaining. It took only 1:04 for the Gators to expand their lead following a 63-yard, seven-play drive capped off with a 26-yard touchdown reception by Ingram with just nine seconds remaining. The score for Ingram marked the first time in his career that he had scored more than one touchdown in a game. The Gators led, 35-20, entering the locker room at the half.
The Gators opened the second half in impressive fashion beginning with a 22-yard kickoff return by junior wide receiver Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.). It took only four plays and 1:08 for the Gators to score on a six-yard run by Moore. Earlier in the drive, Tebow carried the ball himself for a 14-yard gain, connected with freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) for a 16-yard reception and handed off to Moore for a gain of seven. The Gators extended their lead to 42-20 with 13:12 remaining in the third quarter.
After the Owls failed to convert on fourth and one, the Gators regained possession at their own 41-yard line. The Gators took advantage of the field position by mounting a 56-yard, nine-play scoring drive. The drive, lasting 4:28, ended with a 13-yard touchdown reception by Hernandez. The score marked the fifth game this season where Tebow has thrown for three or more touchdowns. With 5:16 remaining in the third quarter, the Gators controlled the game, 49-20.
Sophomore linebacker Ryan Stamper (Jacksonville, Fla.) gave the Gators possession of the ball at FAU’s 18-yard line after recovering a fumble by Smith with 13:10 remaining in the game. The Gators made the most of the turnover with a successful 36-yard field goal by Ijjas, giving the Gators a 52-20 lead with 12:51 remaining. The Gators’ final score occurred on a 24- yard touchdown carry by freshman quarterback Cameron Newton (College Park, Ga.). The score, which gave the Gators their biggest lead of the game at 39 points, gave the Gators a 59-20 lead and proved to be the final score of the game.
The Gators will conclude their regular season when Florida State travels to The Swamp for a 5 p.m. meeting next Saturday. The game will air nationally on CBS.