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Tebow sparks Florida to big SEC win over LSU

Oct 7, 2006 - 11:44 PM GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Tim Tebow was a high school junior the last time Florida lost at home. On Saturday, the true freshman was a big part of a revenge victory for the Gators.

Continuing to get snaps to spell senior Chris Leak, Tebow threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the fifth-ranked Gators posted a 23-10 victory over No. 9 Louisiana State in a Southeastern Conference showdown.

The Gators had won 12 straight home games since a 24-21 setback to the Tigers in 2004. LSU also won here in 2002 and has taken three of the series' last four meetings, including a 21-17 triumph in Baton Rouge last year.

Tebow helped Florida (6-0, 4-0 SEC East) run their streak at "The Swamp" to 13 with his best performance of the season.

He completed both of his passes for 36 yards and added 30 yards on 10 carries. Tebow's one-yard TD run in the first quarter made it 7-7 and he gave the Gators a 14-7 halftime lead with a leaping one-yard TD pass to Tate Casey with 27 seconds remaining before the break.

"We ran a tight end pop," Tebow said. "We figured they would load the box trying to stop the run. I was just able to throw it up there and Tate Casey made a play."

"Tim made a good play," Casey said. "I sort of stumbled back but I concentrated on the ball and made sure I brought it in. It felt like the ball was up there for an hour."

The Gators - who are off to their first 6-0 start since 1996, when they went on to win the national championship under Steve Spurrier - took control of the game in the third quarter.

They extended their lead to 16-7 on a safety on the opening kickoff of the second half. Early Doucet mishandled the kick at the LSU 3 and fumbled into the end zone on a crushing hit by Riley Cooper. Josh Graham recovered the fumble for the Tigers to save a TD.

"At half time, I felt like our team wanted to come back out and play like they're capable, but the on ensuing kickoff and two-pointer certainly didn't help us," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We made mistakes in a number of spots, and it's work to do. We're a good football team but we didn't play like it today, and we're all disappointed."

The Gators struck again on the ensuing possession, covering 66 yards in five plays capped by a 35-yard TD pass from Tebow to Louis Murphy to extend the lead to 23-7.

"Lou Holtz always tells me that the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half determine the outcome of the game," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "If you had to say what was the checkmate point today, it was the first five minutes of the second half."

LSU (4-2, 1-2 West) managed to win a close one over Florida last season despite five turnovers. The Tigers were not able to duplicate the performance this time, committing another five turnovers and losing to fall two games behind division rival Arkansas.

Reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week JaMarcus Russell completed 24-of-42 passes for 225 yards and three interceptions. He also fumbled at the Florida 1 midway through the second quarter.

"It was a sneak and the center had a guy hit up on him too soon, and I didn't really get a chance to get the ball," Russell said.

The fumble was costly as the Tigers ran 17 plays and used up six minutes only to squander an opportunity to take a 14-7 lead.

"There's no question that it certainly affected the momentum," Miles said. "We would've never thought we would go into the half behind."

The win was a big one for the Gators, but they will have little time to celebrate it. They travel to Auburn next week for another huge SEC showdown and, after a bye, play Georgia in the annual matchup in Jacksonville.

Russell gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 6:45 to play in the first quarter on a two-yard TD pass to Jacob Hester. LSU's only other points came on a 45-yard field goal by David Colt with 11:53 to play.

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