Tebow cemented himself as one of college football's all-time greats
Tebow threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 109 yards
The Florida superstar answered a number of critics Thursday night
The question remains: Will Tebow return for his senior season or bolt to the NFL?
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Megan Mullen will deliver her first biological child three weeks after national signing day -- this is how coaches' wives keep track of time -- but Thursday, her eyes went glassy at the thought of leaving behind her 6-foot-3, 240-pound adopted son. "He's greater than anybody thinks he is," Mullen said.
Those who have lived inside Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's orbit these past three seasons all sound like Mullen, whose husband, Dan, will transition Friday from Florida offensive coordinator to Mississippi State head coach. Thursday, Megan Mullen stood on a confetti-strewn field and thought back to Thanksgiving, when she and her husband sat in their pajamas watching the film 300 with their very own Spartan sitting next to them on the couch. Dan, who has spent more time with Tebow these past three years than he has with Megan, explained the battle of Thermopylae, when a tiny band of Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas faced down the Persian army.
In many ways, Tebow is Florida's Leonidas. He always volunteers for the toughest task. He inspires unflagging loyalty in his men. And it seems that the only way to stop him is with an army of thousands. Oklahoma and its best 11 defenders certainly couldn't do it Thursday; Tebow threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 109 yards as the Gators beat the Sooners, 24-14, to claim the BCS title.
Thursday, Tebow cemented his legacy as one of college football's all-time greats. As a freshman, he played a crucial supporting role on a national-championship team. The following year, he put together maybe the single greatest statistical season any player ever has (32 passing touchdowns, 23 rushing ) and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. As a junior, he faltered once and promised he'd never let the Gators fall again.
"I just want to say one thing. To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I'm sorry. Extremely sorry," Tebow said after a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 27. "I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder that we will the rest of the season. God bless."
Tebow made every word of it come true. Playing without receiver Percy Harvin -- college football's most dynamic offensive threat -- against then No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game last month, Tebow put the Gators on his back. Against Oklahoma, with Harvin scorching the Sooners for 122 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards, Tebow shook off a pair of first-half interceptions and took over when the Gators needed him.
"He came in at halftime and said, 'Just don't be afraid to give me the ball.' He wills so many things to happen," Dan Mullen said. "He willed us to a victory again here tonight."
With the score tied at seven in the third quarter, Tebow carried six times for 48 yards to help the Gators reach the Oklahoma two-yard-line. Then he split out wide, allowing Harvin to take a direct snap and give Florida a lead it never would relinquish. Before that drive, Harvin knew he and Tebow would take command. "We both hate to lose," Harvin said. "When the game gets tight, we kind of get that look in our eye and look at each other. We know, once that happens, it's time for us to take over."
Tebow had plenty of motivation Thursday. Here's an abbreviated list of the slights he has endured since the Gators won the SEC title:
During a live ESPN radio segment with draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., Kiper suggested Tebow should consider playing H-back in the NFL. Tebow, Kiper suggested, should aspire to be the next Frank Wycheck.
In Heisman Trophy balloting, Tebow received the most first-place votes, but 154 voters left him off their ballot. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford took home the trophy. Bradford was last spotted Thursday being asked to contemplate what might have happened had the Sooners -- who averaged 54 points a game this season -- managed to come away with any points on either of their two trips inside the Florida six-yard line in Thursday's first half.
Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks said Tebow would have been the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12.
Oklahoma safety Nic Harris suggested that Tebow would have been the seventh-best quarterback in the Big 12.