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Hot Tebow leads Florida to rout of Florida Atlantic

Nov 17, 2007 - 10:43 PM GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow may have played himself back into the Heisman Trophy race.

Trying to become the first sophomore to win college football's most prestigious award, Tebow passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns Saturday as the 14th-ranked Gators posted a 59-20 victory over Florida Atlantic.

Tebow also rushed for his 20th touchdown, setting a Southeastern Conference single-season record. The four scores give him a combined 46 touchdowns - passing and rushing - for the year, also an SEC mark.

"He's so confident right now and he knows he can make every play," Florida receiver Andre Caldwell said of Tebow. "He loves to get the ball into the playmakers' hands and let us make plays."

In the last two games, Tebow has been responsible for 11 TDs. He accounted for seven - five rushing - in last week's 51-31 victory over South Carolina.

"We have moved the ball really well the last few games," Tebow said. "If we keep executing like this, we'll be all right."

Tebow's favorite target was Caldwell, who caught eight passes for 165 yards to become Florida all-time leader in career receptions with 173.

"It (the record) means a lot to me," Caldwell said. "There have been a lot of great receivers who have played here, and to be on the top of that category means a lot to me."

Caldwell broke the previous Florida mark of 172, set by Carlos Alvarez from 1969-1971.

"Andre Caldwell is doing a great job and our offensive line is really protecting the quarterback," Tebow added.

After Florida (8-3) opened a 21-0 first-quarter lead, Florida Atlantic exposed the Gators' suspect secondary, scoring two touchdowns and a pair of field goals on their four second-period possessions.

Florida, which surrendered more than 300 yards through the air, allowed the Owls to close within 28-20 on Rusty Smith's one-yard TD run with 1:30 remaining in the first half.

But Florida Atlantic (5-5) could not slow down Florida's potent offense as the Gators responded with 31 unanswered points.

"Offensively, I think we played OK," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "Once again, we had some penalties and offset some big gains against a team that I think has a very good defense."

The back-breaker for the Owls was Tebow's 26-yard TD pass to Cornelius Ingram with 14 seconds left in the half.

Florida scored again on its first possession of the second half, needing only four plays to extend its cushion to 42-20 on Kestahn Moore's six-yard TD run less than two minutes into the third quarter.

"We were not good enough team to beat a good football team - the best we've played at Florida Atlantic, by far," Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger said of the Gators. "I'm certainly disappointed in the play of our football team today."

Tebow, who completed 25-of-34 passes, added a 13-yard TD to Aaron Hernandez that made it 49-20 with five minutes left in the third period.

Smith completed 18-of-33 passes for 290 yards with a touchdown for the Owls.

"I feel like we came out in the first half and played hard," Florida Atlantic linebacker Frantz Joseph said. "In the second half, we were not able to keep up with them."

Florida, which has been eliminated from the SEC race, concludes its regular season next week against Florida State.

"We still have a whole lot to play for - a top-10 ranking, a great bowl game and obviously a bunch of seniors getting ready to play against our rival," Meyer said.

Florida Atlantic trails first-place Troy by one game in the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls play at Troy in two weeks.