SEC on CBS Top 10: No. 7, Dec. 6, 2008 Florida vs. Alabama
Florida's Tim Tebow had a promise to keep, and he pulled it off with one of the best quarters of his college career in the 2008 SEC title game against Alabama as we count down the best of the SEC on CBS.
About an hour before the kickoff of the 2008 SEC Championship Game, I was visiting with a member of the Alabama coaching staff on the floor of the Georgia Dome.
I asked if there was anything "special" I should be looking for as the No. 1 Crimson Tide (12-0) prepared to face Tim Tebow and No. 2 Florida (11-1) with a berth in the BCS Championship Game on the line.
"We're going to show him some things he hasn't seen before," said the coach. "The only question is how long it will take him to figure it out. And when he does figure it out, we hope to have a decent lead."
It looked like Alabama had gotten its wish when the Crimson Tide put together a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to open the second half and then got a 27-yard field goal from Leigh Tiffin to take a 20-17 lead going into the fourth quarter. In Nick Saban's second year as head coach, it appeared Alabama had taken control of the game and was destined to play for the national championship.
But Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, still had a promise to keep. And the way he kept that promise earned this game a spot on our SEC Top 10 on CBS.
Back on Sept. 27 Florida's dream of an undefeated season came crashing to Earth as the No. 4 Gators lost at home to Ole Miss, 31-30. After the game, an emotional Tebow shouldered all the blame for the mistake-filled loss. And then he said this:
"You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of this season and you'll never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of this season, and you'll never see a team play harder than we will the rest of this season. God Bless."
Then he walked away from the podium.
Florida dominated the rest of its opponents to move back up the polls and earn the shot against Alabama in the first time No. 1 and No. 2 had ever met in the SEC Championship Game. Trailing by a field goal with 15 minutes to play, Florida coach Urban Meyer put the ball in the hands of Tebow and gave him a chance to fulfill that promise.
Tebow drove Florida 62 yards on 11 plays to give the Gators a four- point lead. The Florida defense got a three-and-out and the Gators had possession at their 35-yard line with 7:27 left.
After three straight running plays netted a first down, Tebow threw two of the best passes of his life. He dropped a perfect ball between two Alabama defenders into the arms of Louis Murphy for 33 yards. Then he threw a strike of 15 yards to Aaron Hernandez down to the Alabama 6 yard line. Three plays later Tebow threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper with only 2:50 left.
Alabama's final drive was stopped by a Joe Haden interception with 1:39 left and Florida won 31-20.
After the game, I found the Alabama coach who had given me the pre-game scouting report on Tebow.
"I don't want to hear from anybody ever again that he can't pass," said the coach. "Every time they needed to make a big throw, he made it. We threw everything we had at him."
Tim Tebow and the Gators went on from Atlanta to take the final step in fulfilling his promise, beating No. 2 Oklahoma 24-14 for the BCS title. Today there is a plaque honoring "The Promise" outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
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