Tide’s team effort too much for QB to overcome despite solid stats
By CHRIS WHITE
ATLANTA — For four years, Tim Tebow has been finding new ways to win.
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He was a short-yardage specialist on a BCS title team as a freshman. He rallied his team over Alabama a year ago and then led the Gators to a BCS title. And the only season he didn’t reach a title game he won the Heisman Trophy.
But his sideline cheers were drowned out by boisterous Alabama fans, and the usual not-to-be denied attitude he has carried with him was stifled by Alabama, which won the SEC Championship 32-13 on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
The senior quarterback was 20-for-35 passing for 247 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass to David Nelson, and his 63 yards rushing made him the only Florida player to get double digits on the ground.
The numbers weren’t out of the ordinary for Tebow, defeating Alabama was too heavy a task for him to carry alone.
Seeing Alabama’s Mark Ingram run in a 1-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the fourth quarter took things out of Tebow’s hands.
“Really when I felt it slipping away was when they scored their third touchdown, took up a lot of time, and you knew it was in the fourth quarter, but no one panicked or did anything like that,” Tebow said.
“We regrouped, drove the ball down the field and threw an interception in the red zone. So could we have come back? I don’t know, but we sure were trying.”
It was hardly the finish Tebow was looking for.
“It was frustrating, obviously,” Tebow said. “This is not how we wanted to finish our season in the SEC, and, you know, there were a lot of goals and a lot of goals we won’t able to accomplish. But it was frustrating. To say it wasn’t it would be a lie.”
Tebow threw a pair of incomplete passes to lead up to the first of four punts on the Gators’ opening drive. Florida’s second possession went a little better with Tebow passing for 39 yards, but the Gators offense stalled again, relying instead on a field goal to get on the board.
Tebow’s 23-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson made it 12-10 late in the second quarter. A 59-yard pass to Riley Cooper made up another big piece of Tebow’s 247 passing yards, but again he couldn’t find a way around tight Alabama coverage and a stiff defensive line and Florida took the field goal.
The second half was just as rough for Tebow, who led Florida to a fourth-quarter rally over Alabama in last year’s SEC title game. The Gators were stopped in their own zone and punted away their two third-quarter possessions. In the fourth quarter, Tebow threw an interception to Javier Arenas on a first-and-goal play at the Alabama 6 and then threw an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs on Florida’s final drive.
At 34-6 as a starter after Saturday’s loss, Tebow had another learning experience.
“I took a lot from the game,” Tebow said. “Good or bad, there’s still a lot you can get out of it.”
Asked what, exactly, he leaves Atlanta with, Tebow responded with an answer that showed he was already in preparation mode again, regardless of where the Gators will be headed next.
“Something you’ll get out of this is just that drive to prepare and work harder,” Tebow said.
“… That’s my job as quarterback, to get that done, and we didn’t do it.”