What A Party
Tim Tebow walked out of the locker room wearing a gray, protective boot on his left foot.
After all, this was a Gator Stomp.
Tebow accounted for five touchdowns, Percy Harvin scored twice and the fifth-ranked, revenge-minded Gators thumped the Bulldogs 49-10 Saturday in one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of this storied rivalry.
``It doesn't get any sweeter than this,'' Tebow said. ``We didn't have to talk about it. We just had to go out there and show that we're a different team and prove that we worked extremely hard. We didn't want that to happen again to us.''
The Gators (7-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) shut down Knowshon Moreno, took advantage of Georgia's numerous mistakes and avenged last year's 42-30 loss in which the brazen Bulldogs used a full-team, end-zone celebration to energize them.
How about the worst loss in Georgia coach Mark Richt's career, which left the preseason No. 1 staring at being No. 2 in the SEC East for the second straight season.
Florida coach Urban Meyer even called two timeouts in the final 44 seconds - surely to prolong Georgia's misery. Meyer said he did it because running back Emmanuel Moody deserved a couple extra carries, but no one inside Jacksonville Municipal Stadium believed that.
``Enjoy the moment, enjoy the game,'' Tebow said. ``We didn't do anything wrong. We were just playing the game.''
The seemingly cold and quick handshake between Meyer and Richt might have told a different story, but the coaches denied any animosity.
``To me, the rules say you've got three timeouts per half,'' Richt said. ``They can use as many as they want. It's in the rules. They used their timeouts, and they have a right to do that.''
The Gators won for the 16th time in the last 19 meetings, and this one was one of the most lopsided of all. Florida's largest margin of victory in the series was a 47-7 win in 1996.
``It's a weight off our shoulders,'' safety Ahmad Black said. ``All we heard about was Georgia, Georgia, Georgia.''
Indeed. During each of Florida's conditioning workouts during the offseason, players had to complete 42 reps at each station in the weight room - one for every point the Bulldogs scored against them last season - and 188 push-ups, sit-ups and crunches - one for every yard Moreno gained.
``All because of this game right here,'' Black said.
Plus, strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti put a picture in each player's locker of Georgia's massive celebration. The photo next year might be of Brandon Spikes' bone-crushing hit on Moreno early; it certainly set the tone. Or one of all those empty seats left behind by Georgia fans early in the fourth quarter.
Many of the Bulldogs' faithful headed to the exits before the finish, having seen enough of Tebow, Harvin and Florida's opportunistic defense.
``We did a lot of shooting ourselves in the foot and did not take advantage of the opportunities we that we needed to,'' Richt said.
Tebow ran for a season-high three touchdowns, including two in the decisive third quarter. Florida outscored Georgia (7-2, 4-2) 21-0 in the third, scoring twice after turnovers.
Joe Haden intercepted Matthew Stafford's sideline pass to A.J. Green and returned it 88 yards to the 1. Tebow took it in from there, putting the Gators ahead 21-3.
Florida forced a punt, then Tebow threw a 44-yard touchdown strike to Louis Murphy. Moreno, who ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns last year, fumbled on the ensuing possession. Terron Sanders picked it up and returned it to the Georgia 10 - Tebow territory.
The Heisman Trophy winner rambled in from 8 yards out - and the party was on. It could rage for a while. The Gators can clinch the SEC East next week at Vanderbilt, and if they win out, they could end up playing for the national championship.
``It's a great feeling to be this close,'' Murphy said. ``We just have to take care of business in Tennessee and we'll get it done. We're playing just as good as anybody. We could line up with anybody right now. We're competing and playing, and passionate about this game.''
Florida players were silent much of the week, following Meyer's edict to not say anything about last year's contentious Bulldogs celebration. But it was clearly on their minds, and they sent a strong message on the field.
They held Moreno to 65 yards rushing and forced four turnovers. Stafford finished 18-of-33 for 265 yards, with three interceptions. He was sacked twice and injured an ankle late in the game. X-rays were negative.
The Gators were much more efficient.
Tebow was 10-of-13 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 39 yards. Harvin ran four times for 37 yards and caught three passes for another 52.
Georgia's problems started early. The Bulldogs missed two field goals, had an interception nullified by penalty and bumbled two chances for a touchdown when Stafford missed an open receiver in the end zone and Moreno had a pass slip through his hands.
Georgia also failed to recover an onside kick following Blair Walsh's 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Florida's Butch Rowley caught the ball on a short hop, and the Gators drove 41 yards to make it 14-3.
The Dawgs looked like they would answer, but Walsh's 27-yard field goal attempt clanked off the left upright. It was Walsh's second miss - he also was wide left on a 38-yarder in the first quarter - and followed two blown chances at a touchdown.
``Every game you lose is disappointing,'' Moreno said. ``We've just got to move on. You just can't win when you have these turnovers.''
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