Welcome Home, Part V: Six Plays That Defined 2008 Gators - Florida Gators (2024)

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The road to a national title nearly came without a single pothole. The 2008 Gators stormed through their schedule, tossing aside opponents like those cloned dinosaurs flinging tourists at Jurassic World.

Florida won 13 games by an average of 33.2 points.

"This is one of the best teams in college football history,'' Coach Urban Meyer said moments after defeating Oklahoma for the national title. "I love these guys."

The Gators, ranked No. 5 at the start of the season, crushed Hawaii by 46 points in the season opener. They followed that victory by defeating traditional rivals Miami and Tennessee each by more than 20 points.

The only blemish for the Gators came when they lost at home to Ole Miss, 31-30, in the fourth game of the season. It was a crushing defeat and the Gators tumbled from fourth in the AP Top 25 to 12th.

2008 Season Review:

🐊 Playmakers
🐊 Touchdowns
🐊 Interceptions
🐊 Blocked Kicks
🐊 Fun

2008 Recap: https://t.co/OyQwDwYaEf #GatorsAlways pic.twitter.com/foT4C6V0Gg

— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) October 4, 2018

And then they climbed to the top, starting with a 31-point win at Arkansas the following week. Over the next seven games, the Gators won by 30, 58, 39, 28, 50, 51 and 30 points to set up a showdown with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The Gators beat the Crimson Tide, 31-20, to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against the Sooners. The defense starred that night at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, as Florida won 24-14 to claim the program's third national title in 13 seasons.

Meyer was right. The 2008 Gators are considered one of the top teams in college football history.

As we conclude our look back at the 2008 Gators upon their return to campus on Saturday to be honored on the 10-year anniversary of UF's third national title, we review six plays from that season that defined the Gators on their way to a title:

PROMISE KEEPER

The Gators face fourth-and-1 at Ole Miss' 32-yard line with 41 seconds left, trailing by a point. All they need is for quarterback Tim Tebow to pick up a first down, run another play and set up a game-winning field goal.

Denied.

Instead, the Rebels stopped Tebow short of the first down to hand the Gators their only loss of the season. Silence at Florida Field. Tebow in tears. Shock on Meyer's face.

In the postgame press conference, Tebow makes a passionate promise to Gator Nation:

I just want to say one thing.

To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I'm sorry, extremely sorry.

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 than we will the rest of the season.

God bless.

You know what happened next. A legend was born. The Gators won 10 a row and celebrated in Miami.

JUMPMAN TOUCHDOWN

In the national championship against Oklahoma, the Gators led 17-14 late in the fourth quarter when they drove deep into Sooners' territory.

With the way their defense was playing against Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Oklahoma's prolific offense, a touchdown could put the game away.

Ballgame.

On second-and-goal from Oklahoma's 4-yard line, Tebow tossed one of his trademark jump-passes to receiver David Nelson for the final blow. The Gators had a 10-point lead with 3:07 remaining and the Sooners were done.

#TBT || Jump Pass @TimTebow 🐊 @DavidNelson86 pic.twitter.com/THAGX9DqaV

— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) October 5, 2018

TIPPING POINT

Two weeks after the heartbreaking home loss to Ole Miss, the Gators returned to the Swamp for a Saturday night, nationally televised tilt with No. 4-ranked LSU.

Three plays into the game between the last two BCS national champions, Tebow dropped back to pass on third-and-12. His throw to a wide-open Percy Harvin was slightly underthrown, allowing Tigers safety Danny McCray to close and tip the ball.

#TBT || '08 #Gators vs. #Tigers @TimTebow Stats:
🐊 14-for-21 Passing
🐊 210 Passing Yards
🐊 2 Passing Touchdowns
🐊 1 Rushing Touchdown

Final Score: UF 51, LSU 21#GoGators 🐊 #LSUvsUF pic.twitter.com/k8LpbLCvNJ

— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) October 4, 2018

A brief moment of uncertainty hung over the stadium.

However, the ball landed in Harvin's hands and he did the rest with his feet. The 70-yard touchdown pass sent the Swamp into a frenzy and the Gators on their way to a 51-21 win.

FINAL WORD

In a loss to Georgia the season before, a full-squad celebration in the end zone by the Bulldogs after scoring their first touchdown in a 42-30 win did not go over well with the Gators, and specifically linebacker Brandon Spikes.

"No class,'' Spikes said afterward.

A year later, Spikes got the final word with a crushing hit on Bulldogs running back Knowshon Moreno. On the game's second play, Spikes leveled Moreno to say the Gators were ready to play.

Final score: Florida 49, Georgia 10.

"Last year, we didn't make the big play when we had a chance,'' Spikes said. "This year, we did."

Moreno, who racked up 188 yards in the '07 win, mustered only 65 as the Gators got their revenge.

SPEED TEST

Whenever the Gators and Miami face off, it's a big deal since the schools' annual rivalry discontinued after the 1987 season.

The Hurricanes proved no match for Florida in the second game of the season. In a matchup billed as one around speed, the Gators broke first and never let up.

Nursing a 7-3 lead late in the second quarter, Florida forced Miami to punt. Freshman rocket Jeff Demps blew up the middle to block Matt Bosher's punt.

The ball squirted out of the end zone for a safety, and while the game remained close until the Gators scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, Demps' play was crucial for UF entering the half.

PERFECT TIMING

The No. 2-ranked Gators trailed No. 1 Alabama 20-17 entering the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game. The fact Tebow was 0-5 in his career when trailing in the fourth quarter loomed large over the final 15 minutes.

Florida took the lead on Demps' 1-yard run with 9:21 remaining.

Tebow then huddled with the defense.

"I was saying 'just finish,' " Tebow said afterward. "Finish, make a play and let's finish this thing."

The defense responded with a three-and-out. Tebow then responded, tossing a game-clinching 5-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper on third-and-goal with 2:50 left in the game.

The Gators were headed to Miami to meet the Sooners.

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Welcome Home, Part V: Six Plays That Defined 2008 Gators - Florida Gators (2024)

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