Tebow becomes NCAA's first 20-20 player, leads No. 14 Gators to 59-20 win over FAU
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida coach Urban Meyer didn't tell his players they were eliminated from the Southeastern Conference race Saturday.
He didn't have to, either.
The Gators were watching the scoreboard for updates and knew Georgia was beating Kentucky. They learned the final score in the locker room, a result that knocked Florida out of contention for the Eastern Division title.
The Gators still had reasons to celebrate after hammering Florida Atlantic 59-20.
Tim Tebow became the first player in NCAA history with at least 20 touchdowns passing and rushing in the same season and Andre Caldwell broke the school record for career receptions.
"That's pretty cool," Tebow said.
Tebow finished 25-of-34 passing for a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. He has 20 rushing touchdowns and 26 TD passes.
His 20th on the ground broke the previous SEC single-season record of 19 held by Georgia's Garrison Hearst (1992), Alabama's Shaun Alexander (1999) and LSU's LaBrandon Toefield (2001).
Tebow certainly solidified his case for the Heisman Trophy.
"He's definitely as deserving as the other guys out there," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "He's had a phenomenal season. He's obviously a major, major part of our offense - one of the most important parts of our team - and he's a great person. If I had an award to give, he's a guy I wouldn't mind representing you for that award."
Caldwell caught a career-high 13 passes for 164 yards, giving him 177 career receptions and breaking the previous mark of 172 set by Carlos Alvarez (1969-71).
"That means a lot to me because there's a lot of receivers that came throughout Florida history," Caldwell said. "This isn't like West Virginia or a school like that that doesn't throw the ball. This is the University of Florida. We throw the ball up and down the field. To be on top of that list is a big achievement."
Alvarez was on hand to see his record fall. He also witnessed another dominating performance by Tebow & Co.
Tebow completed his first 10 passes for 145 yards, finding Caldwell open all over the field. Caldwell again filled in for Percy Harvin, who missed his second consecutive game because of a sinus infection and migraine headaches. Caldwell caught 11 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown last week at South Carolina.
Tebow probably would have been on the bench by halftime, but Florida's defense struggled to stop Florida Atlantic's passing attack, so the sophomore stayed on long enough to turn a close game into a rout.
The Gators (8-3) scored on nearly every possession. They led 21-0 after the first quarter, 35-20 at half and 52-20 early in the fourth.
The Owls (5-5) moved the ball well, just not as well as Florida. They racked up 311 yards in the first half and presented plenty of problems early.
Every time FAU got close, Tebow took over.
His 2-yard run made it 28-13 with 5:04 to play in the first half, but FAU answered when quarterback Rusty Smith ran up the middle from a yard out with 1:13 remaining.
That left plenty of time for Tebow, who capped a 63-yard drive with a 26-yard TD pass to Cornelius Ingram.
"Tim didn't play his best game," Meyer said. "That's being critical. I'm being critical of Tim because he needs a little critical analysis every once in a while. He did not play his best game, but that tells you how good a football player he is."
Still, Tebow ended the day with better numbers than any other college quarterback.
"That's unbelievable," Meyer said. "I can't believe that's never been done before. That's a great record to have. I'd much rather have our ninth win next week."
Tebow left with 11:11 remaining, giving way to freshman Cameron Newton.
Tebow's biggest flaw was an interception in the second quarter. His pass sailed over Louis Murphy's head and into Corey Small's hands. Small returned it 36 yards, setting up Smith's 20-yard TD pass to Cortez Gent that made it 21-10.
Smith finished 18-of-33 for 290 yards. Gent caught six passes for 118 yards.
FAU added to its woes with a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter and a fumble deep in its own territory that led to a field goal.
"We made some plays intermittently, scored some points intermittently, but never quite made it happen," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said.
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