Florida wins 8th straight while continuing dominance in intrastate rivalry

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews walked into the interview room, said he was embarrassed and then left without taking questions.

Coach, you're not alone. Tim Tebow and No. 2 Florida have left many others feeling the same way the past two months.

Tebow threw three touchdown passes, ran for 80 yards and another score, and the Gators thumped No. 23 Florida State 45-15 in sloppy conditions Saturday. It was the most points Florida has ever scored at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It was a good tail-whipping," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "I didn't think they would beat us like that here. The last time we had a beating like that was last year against them."

Florida (11-1) extended its winning streak to eight games, continued its dominance in the intrastate rivalry and set up a 1-2 showdown with Alabama in next week's Southeastern Conference title game.

The Gators have won five in a row against Bowden's team, and this one was nearly as big a laugher as last season's 45-12 victory in Gainesville.

Florida scored on five of its first seven possessions, held the Seminoles (8-4) without a touchdown for the first 2½ quarters and again proved that the gap between the two programs is as wide as ever.

"They score so many points so fast that everybody gets out of their game plan," said Bowden, whose team allowed 28 first-half points for the first time since 1989. "You're trying to catch up and you start doing things you shouldn't be doing."

Tebow and Co. pretty much ruined Florida State's day. Boston College piled on, beating Maryland and knocking the Seminoles out of the hunt for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

FSU likely will have to settle for a spot in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska. Florida's postseason outlook is much brighter. If the Gators can beat Alabama next Saturday in Atlanta, they would lock up a spot in the Bowl Championship Series national title game in Miami.

The Gators looked capable of winning it all, too.

They ran for 317 yards -- the most against the Seminoles since Clemson had 321 on the ground in 1995 -- and dominated just about every aspect of the game.

Florida State's lone bright spot was Michael Ray Garvin's 172 yards on five kickoff returns. The Seminoles were outgained 502-242, had three turnovers and finished 3-of-14 on third-down conversions.

Florida State's Christian Ponder was picked off twice, including on the first play of the second half, and eventually benched. Brandon Spikes returned the interception to the FSU 20, and Tebow took over from there.

He rolled right on third down and threw a strike across his body to Louis Murphy to make it 35-9. Tebow finished 12-of-21 passing for 185 yards and burned the Seminoles with scrambles and quarterback draws.

Late in the first, he started right, cut up field and capped a 24-yard run by bowling over safety Jamie Robinson -- an early sign of how things would unfold on a rain-soaked field.

"If it was up to me, I probably would have run him 50 times," said coach Urban Meyer, who improved to 12-1 in games against Florida's biggest rivals Tennessee, Georgia, FSU and Miami.

Tebow, who strengthened his case for becoming the second to win consecutive Heisman Trophies, also made a key block on Percy Harvin's TD run, recovered a fumble and made a touchdown-saving tackle following an early fumble by John Demps.

Tebow's only miscue came when he got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run near the goal line.

"He played very well," FSU safety Myron Rolle said. "There was really no way to stop them."

Bowden was even more complimentary.

"He deserves to be mentioned again for the Heisman," said Bowden, who compared Tebow to legendary fullback Bronko Nagurski. "I don't know if I've ever seen a better leader. ... He directed everything out there. He's a tremendous player and a tremendous leader."

The Seminoles fired up Tebow before last year's game when linebacker Geno Hayes vowed to "take him down." This time, the FSU fans offered Tebow a little extra motivation.

They cheered wildly when Harvin, the team's leading receiver, left the game in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle. He limped off the field with the help of trainers and didn't return.

Tebow was incensed by the reaction.

"That kind of irritated me," Tebow said. "I told the coach to give me the ball because I really wanted to hit somebody."

Meyer obliged, and Tebow carried several defenders into the end zone from 4 yards out two plays after Harvin's injury.

When it was over, Tebow's white uniform was stained with grass, mud and some garnet-colored paint. Maybe he should have rubbed a little of that FSU gold on there for good measure. After all, that would have been a better indication of how he played against the Seminoles.

"That's a really good football team in that locker room," Meyer said. "I've done this for quite a while, and that's as proud as I've ever been."


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