Tebow, Gators get help from defense, special teams Print
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Monday, 08 September 2008 04:50
NCAAF Headline News

 GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow spent the first three quarters against Miami scrambling right and left, backpedaling early and often, making off-balance throws and having to break tackles for every precious yard.
His linemen were getting whipped, his running backs were struggling to find holes and the offense was looking downright inept.
Florida's defense and special teams were having much more success.
The fourth-ranked Gators (2-0) got another strong outing from those much-less-hyped units in Saturday night's 26-3 victory against the Hurricanes, a win that snapped a six-game losing streak that spanned 23 years in the on-again, off-again series.
t half. You're like, 'What in the world?''' coach Urban Meyer said. ``Our defense was playing well, our special teams was playing well and our offense was just out of synch a little bit.''
The defense was stout all night, stuffing the run, blanketing receivers and sacking Robert Marve three times. The Gators allowed just 140 total yards.
The unit was nearly as good in last week's 56-10 victory against Hawaii, forcing six turnovers, getting four sacks and scoring twice on interception returns.
``That's really two weeks in a row,'' Meyer said. ``The best thing we have going for our defense right now is if you don't go hard, you stand out like a sore thumb and you won't play. Coach (Charlie) Strong and the staff are doing a heck of a job coaching it, teaching it. And they're playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder.''
Florida's defense was the team's biggest weakness last season, giving up big yardage on the ground and even more through the air.
The defenders also were reminded throughout spring, summer and fall practices about late collapses against LSU, Auburn, Georgia and Michigan.
ast year, we kind of tried to depend on our offense to do things. This year, we're just taking it as a challenge and doing our jobs.''
Florida's special teams did their jobs last season, but have been even better to start 2008.
The Gators returned a punt for a touchdown against Hawaii, and special teams helped create three scores against Miami.
They pressured Matt Bosher into a shank punt on the opening possession, giving the Gators great field possession that Tebow turned into a 7-0 lead. They blocked a punt in the second quarter that trickled through the back of the end zone for a safety and a 9-3 advantage.
And then Brandon James returned a punt 31 yards late in the game, which set up a 29-yard field goal for the final margin.
Florida needed the help, too.
The offense just couldn't get into a rhythm early against Miami. Tebow threw a TD pass on the team's first possession, but he was under heavy pressure when he floated a ball to Aaron Hernandez in the back of the end zone. And the running game was almost nonexistent, with Kestahn Moore, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps getting bottled up with nearly every handoff.
``We had a hard time blocking them,'' Meyer said.
y. Speedy receiver Percy Harvin missed most of preseason practice following heel surgery. And talented running back Emmanuel Moody has barely been on the field, something Meyer vowed to change before the Gators play at Tennessee on Sept. 20.
The Gators made some adjustments and finally got on track in the fourth quarter. Tebow led three scoring drives, and finished 21-of-35 passing for 256 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 13 times for 55 yards.
``I was able to plant and throw,'' Tebow said. ``That was big. We got momentum. We got things going. We were throwing quick, throwing hot. We got a lot of momentum going and that was huge. When you're dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds, momentum is everything. And when you lose it, you have to find a way to regain it. We were able to do that and get things moving again.''
 

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