Chips, Crowds, Carries and Catches: How The Gators Clicked On All Cylinders

M. BlackCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2008

The chip on their shoulders was more like a boulder.

The Gators had something to prove to the nation; They had to avenge the game that got away last season in Baton Rouge, and they had to prove to the football world that the Ole Miss game was an anomaly.

With cries from fans and the media alike claiming the supposedly vaunted offense was a predictable variation of Tebow and Harvin, something needed to be done.

They needed a spark. Some motivation. Some life.

And then Ricky opened his mouth.

"If we get a good shot on [Tebow], we're going to try our best to take him out of the game," the LSU defensive lineman said.

Like a rock scraping flint, a fire was born.

"I don't think it's ever a good thing to talk trash, because I think all it does is really fire your opponent up," quarterback Tim Tebow said in reaction to Jean-François' comments. "At least I know that's how it is for me."

Everyone was in on it. From coaches to players. Offense to defense. Special teams to the guys on the bench. The team that seemed so lackluster against Ole Miss and in the first few quarters of the Arkansas game now had a burning desire for payback and redemption.

"We've got...a fire in our eyes to kick somebody's butt," Gator linebacker Brandon Hicks said days before the showdown in the Swamp.

Now all the Gators needed to do was execute and take advantage of the "fire."

Before two full minutes ticked off the clock in the first quarter, they did just that with a 70-yard aerial strike from Tebow to Harvin. With that play, the chains were broken and the 51-21 rout ensued.

The Gators were able to get everyone involvedthe crowd especially.

"I want to thank the crowd tonight," head coach Urban Meyer said. "That was as fine of a crowd as I have ever seen."

The Swamp reverted back to its old self by becoming a hostile, deafening vat of noise, wreaking havoc on opposing teams.

"It was a great environment to play in," LSU freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee said after the game.  "The crowd was so rowdy; they made us have a lot of communication problems.”

"We fed off the crowd," UF defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh said. "It fired us up to hear the roar."

It was not hard for the crowd to get into the game, however, with the big play-makers on offense like Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow doing what they do best; but the real spark on offense lies with the "little backs," Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.

The speedy freshmen combined for 195 of the 265 rushing yards the Gators racked up against LSU. 

Tebow finished with 232 total yards and three scores (two passing and one rushing), and Harvin accounted for 125 total yards and two receiving touchdowns.

With the offense firing on all cylinders, it was up to the defense to put the Tigers away–and they did just that.

"[Florida's] defense took us out of the game," LSU wide receiver Chris Mitchell said. "We couldn’t execute the things we wanted to. They made us pay for all of our mistakes."

The Gator defense forced three turnovers in the game. Brandon Spikes, the clear emotional leader of the defense, intercepted Jarrett Lee twice, returning one for a 52-yard touchdown, and linebacker A.J. Jones recovered a Charles Scott fumble in the 2nd quarter.

LSU was able to cut the lead to six, trailing 20-14 early in the second half, but the Gators quickly scored 21 unanswered points to make the game 41-14 and never looked back.

The fire never smoldered.

"It was a great win for us," Tebow said. "We knew it was a big game coming in...We wanted to start strong and we did that. They rallied back and made it a game, but we responded with maturity and took over at the end."