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Tim Tebow, Caleb Sturgis come through for Florida

Tebow directs a 69-yard drive in the final minutes that sets up Sturgis' 27-yard field goal that leads the No. 1 ranked Gators over Arkansas, 23-20.

October 18, 2009|Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, FLA. — Tim Tebow stood on the sideline with his eyes closed. He couldn't bear to watch, not after seeing so much go wrong all afternoon.

Maybe he should have peeked. After all, he missed what might go down as the most important field goal in Florida history.

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

"Once I heard everybody cheering and opened my eyes and saw we made the field goal, that was fun," Tebow said.

On a day when little went right for the Gators (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference), Tebow took over down the stretch and helped extend the nation's longest win streak to 16 games. He threw for 255 yards and a touchdown, ran for 69 more and saved his best plays for when Florida needed him most.

That final drive may have been Tebow's Heisman moment. It kept Florida unbeaten and likely No. 1 in the country. It also may have preserved the team's chances of repeating as national champion.

"I always knew we had a shot," Tebow said. "We were just going to keep believing until the last second."

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner 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 (Cooper fell down, then caught the ball on one knee) and consecutive runs that gained 16 yards and put 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 best play.

Just about everything that could go wrong for the Gators did. They 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 once in their first four trips inside the 20-yard line.

"You usually don't win that kind of game," Coach Urban Meyer said.

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