At times, it didn’t look pretty, but in the end, the Florida Gators’ offense came through when it needed to. Quarterback Tim Tebow led the offense down the field at the end of the fourth quarter to set up the game-winning field goal by Caleb Sturgis to beat Arkansas 23-20. The late score helped the Gators avoid an upset in a game that looked similar to the Ole Miss game they loss last season.
Although the first 57 minutes of the game might have resembled the Ole Miss game, Tebow and the other players would not let the last few minutes end the same way.
“It was a game like (Ole Miss) where we weren’t playing up to our full potential, we were doing things we don’t usually do — it was not typical of us to not hold on to the ball and not capitalize in the red zone,” Tebow said. “That’s what we did against Ole Miss too, but did I have a doubt that this team was like that and we weren’t going to keep fighting? I always knew we had a shot.”
On the last drive, Tebow rushed six times for 22 yards and was 3-of-5 passing for 30 yards, accounting for 52 of the drive’s 69 yards.
But when it came time for Sturgis to try the 27-yarder, Tebow couldn’t bare to watch.
“I was praying that’s why I couldn’t (watch), and I was holding (John) Brantley’s hand and I was just like ‘Tell me it’s good, just tell me it’s good,’” Tebow said. “Pretty soon after, I heard the fans, and he didn’t have to tell me anything.”
Even though the offense had its problems throughout the day, the unit was not going to let the game slip away from it.
“As an offense, we were not going to let this happen,” Tebow said. “We were going to do whatever we have to. We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but we were going to keep fighting.”
Last year against Ole Miss, that wasn’t the case.
The Gators couldn’t drive the field for a score to win. Tebow could not plow his way for a first down on 4th-and-1.
After that game, there was a switch in mentality for the Gators, and that’s what got them through this game.
“Just at the end, (we were) fighting tooth and nail with everything to make that last play, to stop that last run when the defense stepped up and stopped it,” Tebow said. “As an offense, we had the opportunities; 3rd-and-10, the guy has great coverage on Riley Cooper and he just fights his way to make the catch. Does that happen last year against Ole Miss? I don’t know; it would happen later in the year though.
“I just think we learned that earlier, and at the end of the game, we were doing everything we could to win that game.”
The downside of the win is the Gators still did not look dominant on offense. They lost four fumbles — two by Tebow, one by Aaron Hernandez and one by Chris Rainey — and the line allowed six sacks.
“One of these day, and I am glad it wasn’t today, these turnovers and not executing could hurt us,” Tebow said. Thank God, it wasn’t today.”
The blame for the sacks doesn’t fall solely on the line’s shoulder. Tebow deserves some of the blame, and Arkansas’ defense deserves some of the praise.
“The offensive line played good. It was just some things they did with some good blitzes and they have some good players. You gotta give credit where credit’s due,” Tebow said.
He added, “Sometimes they had some good coverage, and I probably should have thrown it away or do something else. Sometimes it was just me holding on to the ball.”
Another aspect the offense struggled with was red zone scoring. On its first three drives into the red zone, Florida walked away with no points. One drive ended with a missed field goal and the other two because of fumbles.
Tebow said it is something the Gators need to work on and get better at.
Another positive note for the Gators is they may have found the go-to receiver they have desperately needed in Riley Cooper.
Cooper made all three of the catches on the Gators’ final drive and finished the game with six catches for 58 yards.
“We do have a great connection, and we believe in him,” Tebow said. “Obviously, he was a little banged up, had a little issue and had to sit out some in the second half, but we believed in him.”