NEW ORLEANS – Tim Tebow rose above all the distractions caused by coach Urban Meyer’s uncertain future and capped a storied college career with his finest performance.
It was the best in BCS history, too.
Tebow threw for a career-high 482 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 51 yards and another score, and fifth-ranked Florida ran up a Sugar Bowl-record 659 yards to overwhelm No. 4 Cincinnati 51-24 Friday night in the Sugar Bowl.
“Tim Tebow will go down as one of the great players, if not the greatest player, in college football,” Meyer said.
For Tebow and the Gators (13-1), it was The Big Easy.
Florida’s most anticipated season ever ended in New Orleans instead of Pasadena. It came against Cincinnati (12-1) instead of Texas. It was about redemption instead of perfection.
None of that mattered in the Louisiana Superdome.
Tebow wouldn’t let it.
“This has been the best four years of my life,” he said. “We wanted to end it on a good note.”
He completed his first 12 passes, led the Gators to scores on their first five possessions and finished 31 of 35 for 533 yards – more than anyone in Bowl Championship Series history.
The Bearcats lost their bid for a perfect season while Florida became the first school in the FBS to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.
Tebow and his teammates had hoped to repeat as national champions, but a 32-13 loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game knocked them out of the title picture. The Gators spent the last four weeks regrouping.
Things got worse when Meyer announced his resignation last Saturday, three weeks after being rushed to the hospital because of chest pain. Meyer changed his mind the next day, and instead said he would take an indefinite leave of absence.
No one knows how long he will be away or whether he will return at all.
“I plan on being the coach of the Gators,” Meyer said.
Meyer didn’t look like his fiery self against his alma mater. Then again, Tebow & Co. made this a stress-free game for every Gator.
Cincinnati stacked the line, essentially forcing Tebow to beat them through the air. That worked for the Crimson Tide, but backfired for the Bearcats.
The bulky left-hander had all kinds of time to pass and picked apart Cincinnati’s sketchy defense. He nearly had a career game in the first half alone. He completed 20 of 23 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, 18 yards shy of his previous career high.
He found Aaron Hernandez for a 7-yard score to cap Florida’s first possession, hooked up with Deonte Thompson on a perfectly thrown ball to the corner of the end zone in the second quarter, then dropped a deep ball into roommate Riley Cooper’s hands for an 80-yarder, the longest completion of Tebow’s career.
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