Sat Oct 10 11:37pm EDT
Florida 13, LSU 3. So Tim Tebow played, and ran around and put his head down and most of his usual Tebow things, and had a presentable game -- 11-of-15, one touchdown, a couple memorable (albeit cringe-inducing) runs and some of his patented short-yardage conversions. I'm tempted to say John Brantley could have scored 13 points for the win, too, but I'm not sure about that if the Gators managed to blow the same red zone chances they did tonight with their miraculously healed star at the helm. Thirteen points is easily Florida's worst output with Tebow as a starter and the worst under Urban Meyer since a three-point effort against Alabama back in 2005, his fifth game as head coach.
And when the polls come out Sunday afternoon, the Gators will still be No. 1 in all three of the mainstream editions, because they confirmed their status as the best defense in the country. I say that without equivocation: This is not only the most experienced D, and the most talented according to recruiting rankings or the abstract "eyeball test," but is also giving up fewer points on fewer yards (and fewer yards per play) than any other defense in the country, and will still carry both of those distinctions this week after wrapping up the Tiger offense in a nice, neat bow and dropping it on its star quarterback's doorstep.
Tebow may or may not be hailed as the valiant, wounded hero leading his tribe to victory (CBS' broadcast named him the Player of the Game basically for playing every snap), but in the biggest game of the season, the vaunted Florida offense did not hold up its end of the bargain in terms of points, yards or taking advantage of every opportunity -- it turned the ball over on downs and a missed field goal in the LSU red zone. But the defense exceeded its billing in every regard, hounding Jordan Jefferson, grinding the Tigers' running game to a halt and allowing exactly one play (a 27-yard pass to Brandon LaFell) longer than 13 yards. It was the first time LSU was held out of the end zone since early 2006.
Every good team has to find a way to win "ugly" when its meal ticket has an off-night, but that's not really the right description in this case -- when you recall that the UF defense was the bigger story after its other big win this season, against Tennessee, it's more accurate at this point to consider that the defense is the meal ticket. If Tebow and Co. are called upon at some point this season to pull out a win in the fourth quarter, it's only going to be because they didn't live up to their billing during the first three. This defense needs no bailing out.