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Football flashback: When the Gators Tim Tebow topped the Tide

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Officially, the national championship would wait.

But to the University of Florida players, this was where it was won. In Atlanta, against Alabama, in the fourth quarter. This was where the toughness came out. This was where Tim Tebow’s grand promise was delivered.

It was December 6, 2008, the end of Florida’s run and the beginning of Alabama’s. But the day still belonged to Tebow and Urban Meyer. The Gators trailed Alabama and Nick Saban 20-17 going into the final period.

But the fourth quarter belonged to Florida, which put together drives of 65 and 62 yards to get past the Tide, a team that played with eventual Heisman winner Mark Ingram and future NFL great Julio Jones.

Most of all, however, there was Tebow, the game’s MVP. Tebow had his signature game. He threw for three touchdowns against the unbeaten and No.1-ranked Tide. His touchdown pass to Riley Cooper with 3:23 to play clinched the game.

“I’ve had some great players, and I’ve got some great players on this team,” Meyer said. “But I’ve never had one like this. Tim’s got something special inside him. I’m not talking about throwing. I’m not talking about running. I’m talking about making everyone around him better. That fourth quarter was vintage Tim Tebow.”

Florida star Percy Harvin missed the game with an injury.

The Gators had one loss going into the game, a 31-30 game to Ole Miss when an extra point was blocked, which led to Tebow’s rousing speech about the effort the Gators would put forth. That effort came to a head when Florida beat Oklahoma in January for its third national title.

“Every time they needed to make a play, Tebow made the plays that made the difference in the game,” Saban said.

“I think he’s the best player in college football,” Meyer said. “I think he’s the best player in America.”

Alabama win win three of the next four college championships.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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