76th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl ~ January 1, 2010
#5 Florida (Final: 13-1, #3)
#3 Cincinnati (Final: 12-1, #8)
How Florida and Cincinnati Met in the Allstate Sugar Bowl
“Wow.” That was the verbal reaction of football fans in the Superdome – and across the sporting world. But the actual words were uttered by the man of the hour, Tim Tebow, after taking his customary victory jog to salute the Florida fans.
“I wanted my final night as a Florida Gator to be very special, and it was,” he said in a bit of an understatement.
The game itself was really over by the half – 30 minutes in which Tebow had already rung up the best statistical outing of his four-year college career. He started the Sugar Bowl by completing the first seven of his passes for 61 yards, culminating with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez. Tebow finished the first quarter 10-of-10 for 124 yards. He went 12-of-12 before missing a receiver. Throwing another TD pass and guiding the Gators to two more in the second quarter, Tebow ended the first half 20-of-23 for a season-high 320 yards.
When Tebow launched an 80-yard strike to receiver Riley Cooper to make the score 30-3 at intermission, the game was, of course, over for all practical purposes.
“They couldn’t stop Superman,” Gators guard Carl Johnson said. “They needed some kryptonite.”
Cincinnati, who came within a hair of playing for the national championship, had no kryptonite – and no answers. And it wasn’t as if Florida was doing anything gaudy offensively against the Bearcat defense. Most of Tebow’s passes were short-distance plays, or screens, to receivers who drew single and loose coverage, giving them plenty of room to maneuver after the catch.
Even the 80-yard touchdown pass was a short sideline toss that Cooper broke and galloped off to the races.
Six Gator receivers had three or more receptions.
“Tim was on, we were all on tonight,” Hernandez said. “We had good matchups against their secondary. It was a night where everything was clicking.”
And the Florida defense was just as dominant. The Bearcats picked up a first down on their second play of the night, then couldn’t get another until 6:37 of the second quarter, at which time Florida was on cruise-control with a 23-0 lead. Pike, who did throw three touchdown passes to make the score a bit closer than it seemed, said, “They are the best defense that I’ve ever seen. Both on film and on the field. (They) showed a lot of speed and just athletes everywhere.”
All the Florida scoring did help Mardy Gilyard set a Sugar Bowl record. He returned eight kickoffs for 207 yards.
By the end of the night, though, nothing eclipsed Tebow’s 482 yards passing and 51 yards rushing – the best overall performance not only the Sugar Bowl, but also in the 13-year annals of the BCS. To put his game in perspective, consider that Florida gained a total of 659 yards, and Tebow was responsible for all but 126 yards of that.
“It was incredible,” Tebow said effusively afterward. “Just a great game. It was exactly how you want to go out with these seniors and these coaches in your last game and last time together. It really doesn’t get any better than this.”
It was a heckuva way to say goodbye.
Recap by Sugar Bowl historian Marty Mulé, an award-winning sportswriter who covered college football and the Sugar Bowl for the New Orleans Times-Picayune for 33 years.