You knew sooner or later the Florida Gators would have an off day. You knew the young, inexperienced defense would play like young, inexperienced players. You knew Tebow was human (really!), and would miss a receiver now and then. You knew they'd miss a field goal or extra point. So when all that happened on Saturday, Florida fans have to be thankful it happened in a game they still won.
Tebow nearly single-handedly carried the Gators to the 30-24 victory, racking up 427 yards of total offense and accounting for all four Florida touchdowns (two rushing, two passing). But he also missed on some throws that showed he can improve as a quarterback. His passing numbers (20 of 34, 261 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INT) weren't bad, but they could have been better.
Having said that, Tebow literally carried the Gators to the win with his best day rushing as a Gator, setting a school record for a quarterback with 166 yards on the ground. He churned up yardage and clock as Florida nursed a six-point lead late in the game.
Percy Harvin had another fine day, with 127 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Lewis Murphy (57 yards, 1 TD) had the best game of his career. But Florida's offense hurt itself with too many penalties (14 for 127 yards) and too many failed conversions on third down (8 of 15). The Gators overcame that against Ole Miss, but what about Auburn or LSU?
The Florida defense clearly showed its inexperience on Saturday, giving up 390 total yards and some big plays that help the Rebels get back in the game. The Gator pass rush has been spotty at best, and non-existent at defensive tackle. To its credit, the defense only gave up only 107 rushing yards, but until the pass defense improves, the Gators will always be vulnerable to second-half comebacks like we saw against Ole Miss.
So how good are these Gators? It won't take long to find out. Auburn has not looked like the same team that beat Florida last year, but they will put up a fight next week. Then comes LSU, which is perhaps the most impressive team in the country this season.
No doubt Florida's upcoming opponents will be studying the Ole Miss game tape to try to exploit the vulnerabilities exposed Saturday. Trying, however, is not doing. And as Ole Miss found out, even if you do have success against the Gators, that doesn't mean you can beat them.
For Florida, the task at hand is to learn from their mistakes. Cut down on the penalties. Tighten up the holes in the defense. Get to the opposing quarterback. Make better throws. Because you can't have too many off days in the SEC if you want to win a title.
FLORIDA GATOR NATION PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Tim Tebow (261 yards passing, 166 yds rushing, 4 TDs)
Joe Haden (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 pass breakups)