Go ahead. Give him the trophy. There is no doubt about it no matter what anyone else did this weekend or next week when conference championships are played. Tim Tebow is the best football player in the nation. Period. End of story. Now give him the Heisman Trophy. He earned it.
On this evening at The Swamp with 90,664 witnesses, Tim Tebow did what he’s been doing all year long, which is to say he was to Florida State what Gallagher is to a tomato. He was your slicer, your dicer, your chopper and your hopper. He was Sledge-O-Matic and by the time this 45-12 Tebow-led beatdown came to a merciful end, the distance between Gainesville and Tallahassee looked like light years and not 146 miles. The 9-3 Gators looked like a team capable of beating anyone in the nation. Bowl representatives from the Capital One, Outback and Chick-Fil-A bowls were there and they would all three love to have the Gators on New Year’s Day. The Seminoles looked like a 7-5 team that might be spending its New Year’s Day on the Smurf Turf in Boise.
The Gators were dominant on both sides of the ball and they were the faster, better coached team and with all his playmakers healthy again, Tebow played like you expect a Heisman Trophy winner to play. He was good for five touchdowns, bringing his season total to 51 (22 rushing and 29 passing). When he wasn’t flattening another Seminole defender foolish enough to try to tackle him when he took off running, he was throwing darts to wide receivers so open they could have had the plague. The two rushing touchdowns were raging bull variety. The three touchdowns through the air were laser-guided smart passes.
The final numbers told the story. Tebow rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries (6.8 per carry) and he completed 19 of 28 passes for 268 yards. On Florida’s first five possessions (four in the first half; first possession of the second half), Tebow delivered two rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and got the Gators in position for a 35-yard Joey Ijjas field goal. Tebow made the Seminoles look like the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Name the defense, Florida State threw it at him Saturday night. The Seminoles blitzed a lot but all that got them was one sack for four yards and three hurried passes that fell incomplete. Tebow was near perfect recognizing defenses and getting the Gators into the right play to beat it. On his second touchdown pass, a 32-yard pass to Louis Murphy, Tebow recognized the Seminoles were trying to cover Murphy with a safety while putting cornerback Michael Ray Garvin, a sprinter on FSU’s NCAA champion track team, in single coverage on Percy Harvin.
“That was actually their safety who was man to man coverage on Murphy because they had put their corner in the slot on Percy,” said Tebow, who praised his receivers for running good routes to get open and his offensive line for playing “with a little bit of an edge.”
On those occasions when the Seminoles sent more blitzers than the Gators had blockers to cover, Tebow tucked and ran. The first touchdown of the game was totally Tebow improvisation. On second and one at the FSU 23, defensive end Justin Mincey broke free on Tebow’s right side. He had Tebow dead to rights but Tebow ducked, spun to his right and saw the middle of the field open up. Tebow ran untouched until the five yard line. He ran over the three Seminoles that dared try to stop him.
“It was man to man coverage and we were looking to take Percy on a corner and Bubba on a go route,” said Tebow. “They had it defended pretty well actually. I’m not sure exactly what happened with the protection but he came around pretty nice. I didn’t really see him. It was play action and I rocked back was looking down field. I got hit from behind and I just tried to get out of it somehow. I don’t remember what I did but I got out of it. It was man to man so the defensive backs were all scattered so I just cut back and somehow I got in.”
That first touchdown may have been a take-that statement to the Seminoles. Earlier in the week, FSU linebacker Geno Hayes vowed to take Tebow out of the game and said his goal was to deny Tebow the Heisman Trophy. On Florida’s first possession, a delay of game penalty against the Gators was called just as Drew Miller snapped the ball to Tebow. Tebow drifted to his left but Hayes, who was blitzing on the play, got in his face. There were a couple of slap-like swings and Hayes had some choice words.
“He said stuff that you probably wouldn’t say with your mom around,” said Tebow with a grin after the game. Tebow said there might have been some contact with the swings but he wasn’t flustered. If anything, it only fired him up more.
“I got a little fired up,” said Tebow, who scrambled up the middle for 16 yards and a first down on the next play. After Harvin ran for nine yards to the FSU 32, Tebow ran for his first touchdown.
While Tebow put up Heisman worthy numbers, Hayes made all of one tackle.
Tebow also delivered a 14-yard scoring pass to Murphy in the second quarter, a five-yard run up the gut for a touchdown on Florida’s first possession of the second half, and a 31-yard scoring strike to Bubba Caldwell in the fourth quarter. Caldwell, a senior from Tampa, heaved the ball into the second deck of the south end zone, following the tradition first set by Carlos Alvarez, who threw the ball into the stands after his final touchdown in Gainesville his sophomore year back in 1969.
For good measure, Percy Harvin, who sat the last two weeks due to serious migraine headaches, scored on a dazzling 24-yard run with three minutes left in the game to put the final icing on the Florida cake. Harvin didn’t play like someone who had been sitting two weeks. His final numbers were 157 yards on 16 carries and five catches for 67 yards.
With healthy playmakers at every position, Tebow had a trump for every card that FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews played.
“It’s not the offense, it’s not the style of offense, it’s the personnel and we’ve got some pretty good personnel,” said Florida coach Urban Meyer.
Whether it’s style or personnel, Tebow has accounted for 51 touchdowns this season — an NCAA record-tying 22 touchdowns rushing for a quarterback and 29 touchdown passes. Those numbers are better than Houston quarterback Andre Ware put up in his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 1989. Ware accounted for 49 touchdowns, which is the best ever by a Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow’s season numbers read 838 rushing yards (4.3 per carry) and 3,132 passing yards, which brings his total offense this year to a Florida-record 3,970 yards, which breaks Rex Grossman’s record set in 2001.
Tebow dominated the game in Heisman-like fashion but Meyer refused to talk up his sophomore quarterback as the Heisman Trophy favorite. Meyer’s one concession was to say, “If I had a first draft pick I kind of like who I’ve got.”
FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who has coached a couple of Heisman Trophy winners (Charlie Ward, 1993; Chris Weinke, 2000) knew Tebow was good coming into the game. By the time Tebow had turned the FSU defense into a ship with more leaks and holes than there was bubble gum and baling wire to hold together, Bowden conceded that Tebow was even better than anticipated.
“You know, he’s always been better than I thought,” said Bowden, whose team has lost 31 games since 2001, almost as many losses as the Seminoles suffered combined from 1983-2000 (29). “I saw him in high school. I knew he was good. I’ve seen him in college and he’s better than I thought. I knew before we played against him tonight that he was good but after we played against him, he was better than I thought. We could not get him down. If he doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy, it’s because of the sophomore thing, but if he doesn’t he should win the next two years.”
Harvin, who looked like a Heisman candidate himself with 224 rushing and receiving yards, said there is no doubt who should win the Heisman this year.
“He played tremendously all year,” said Harvin. “He directed a difficult offense, he played in the SEC and he proved he could play in the clutch. He played in a lot of big games so I feel he should win it.”
The Florida fans started chanting “Tebow Heisman” with about seven minutes left in the game. By the time Harvin got Florida’s last touchdown, the chants were bouncing off the steep walls of the old stadium. Tebow’s teammates wanted him to strike a Heisman pose in the final minute of the game.
“We were taking a knee for victory and they were trying to get me to do it but I wasn’t going to do it,” said Tebow. “It was funny.”
He should be all smiles and laughter in two weeks. That’s when he should be making his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech in New York. The trophy is supposed to go college football’s most outstanding player and if you’re looking for the candidate who stands head and shoulders above everyone else, it’s Tim Tebow, sophomore quarterback, University of Florida — 351 total yards and five more touchdowns on this night against Florida State. Those were Heisman Trophy-sealing numbers.
Just give him the trophy now. He’s earned it.