Tebow Directs Late Drive as Gators Survive

By Mark Long
Associated Press
Sunday, October 18, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Oct. 17 -- Tim Tebow kept Florida's perfect season intact.

Tebow directed a 69-yard drive in the final minutes, setting up Caleb Sturgis's 27-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining that gave the top-ranked Gators a 23-20 win against Arkansas on Saturday.

On a day when little went right for Florida, Tebow took over down the stretch. He threw for 255 yards and a touchdown, ran for 69 more and saved his best plays for when Florida (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) needed him most.

"I always knew we had a shot," said Tebow, who threw for 30 yards and ran for 22 on the final drive.

Three plays stood out: His 12-yard pass to Riley Cooper on third down and consecutive runs that gained 16 yards and got Sturgis well within his comfort zone.

Sturgis overcame an early miss and finished with three field goals, including a 51-yarder in the third. For much of the day, it was Florida's biggest play.

Just about everything that could go wrong for the Gators did and Arkansas (3-3, 1-3), a week after knocking off Auburn, showed it is making fast progress in its second season under Bobby Petrino.

The Gators had four turnovers, three dropped passes, were gashed against the run and gave up more big plays in one game than they had all season. They missed a field goal and scored just once in their first four trips inside the 20-yard line.

But after struggling to move the ball on a chilly, sun-drenched afternoon, Tebow led the Gators to scores on three of their final four possessions.

He hooked up with Deonte Thompson on a 77-yard touchdown pass that gave Florida its first lead of the game, 13-10 with 2 minutes 59 seconds to play in the third. Another deep pass to Thompson drew a pass-interference penalty and set up Jeff Demps's 10-yard run that tied the game at 20 midway through the fourth.

And Tebow put Florida in position for the game-winner with a 14-play drive that took just about all the time off the clock."When it came down to it, you knew we were going to play with a little bit more heart and our guys were going to dig a little bit deeper, and they did," Tebow said.

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