Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2008 SEC Championship: Gators Top Tide

By Ross Everett

The Florida Gators would go on to win the NCAA Football Championship, but it was a 31-20 victory over #1 ranked Alabama in the SEC championship game that got them there. The Gators scored-- 4th quarter points to secure victory in a contest that was an epic struggle for three quarters with five lead changes and two ties.

The Gators struck first, taking a 7-0 lead on a three yard Tim Tebow TD pass to Carl Moore. The Crimson Tide quickly counterpunched, tying the score on an eighteen yard run by Glen Coffee and taking their first lead of the game at 10-7 several minutes later on a 30 yard FG by Leigh Tiffin. Florida responded in the second quarter, tying the game on a Jonathan Phillips' yard FG and taking a 17-10 lead into the halftime break on another Tebow TD pass, this one to David Nelson from five yards out. Alabama regained the momentum in the third quarter, tying the score on a 2 yard Mark Ingram touchdown run and then regaining the lead at 20-17 in the final seconds of the period on another Tiffin field goal. Florida put them down for the count in the fourth, however, on a 1 yard Jeffrey Demps TD run followed by Tebows third touchdown strike of the day.

As was the case more often than not during Floridas run to the BCS title game, Tim Tebow was the big star for the Gators. The junior QB had 216 yards passing with 3 TDs and no interceptions plus fifty seven yards on the ground. Florida head coach Urban Meyer wasnt hesitant about praising Tebow effusively in his post game comments:

"I've had some great players, and I've got some great players on this team. But I've never had one like this. Tim's got something special inside him. I'm not talking about throwing. I'm not talking about running. I'm talking about making everyone around him better. That fourth quarter was vintage Tim Tebow.

Alabama coach Nick Saban concurred:

"He's a great competitor. He takes his teammates on his shoulders a lot. They have a lot of confidence he's going to make plays, and they play that way. They scored two touchdowns where we had them covered about as well as we could cover them."

The conventional wisdom is that the Gators are a speed and finesse team, but according to cornerback Joe Haden make no mistake that they're tough:

"Our team is a tough team. The only reason they look past our toughness is our speed. They said we were a speed team and they were a tough team. We're just as tough. We can still be pretty and fast and tough at the same time."

While Crimson Tide fans were no doubt disappointed by their late season loss, some perspective is necessary: the team was only two years removed from a 6-7 record in their last year under Mike Shula. In only two years at the helm, Nick Saban has amassed a'-7 record at Alabama with no signs of slowing down.

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