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Tebow's maturity key to Gators' win over Canes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the cold print of the history book, Florida's 26-3 defeat of Miami on Saturday night will look like a blowout. It will say that junior quarterback Tim Tebow completed 21 of 35 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, and added 55 yards on 13 rushes. Ho-hum.

But ask any of the 90,833 people at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the largest crowd in Gators history, and the honest answer will describe the tension that kept this game taut for more than three quarters.

The fifth-ranked Gators broke open the game with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and added a field goal in the final minute. Tebow went 8-of-11 for 106 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

With Florida (2-0) and Miami (1-1) sharing speed and athleticism as their trademarks, it is easy to forget that football can be an unrelenting physical game. Forget big plays. For the first three quarters, when either team made a first down, it felt as if the ball should have been taken out of the game and bronzed.

Miami shut down Florida by bringing a lot of pressure up the middle. In the fourth quarter, the Gators responded with more offense on the perimeter. Tebow got rid of the ball more quickly, and the Hurricanes had no answer.

"We started a three-step drop, quickening it up and doing shorter routes," Tebow explained.

Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's explanation had little to do with strategy and a lot to do with the increased maturation of the Heisman Trophy winner who runs his offense.

"In a lot of games he would get frustrated and run," Mullen said. "Tim was calm and threw in the fourth quarter. That was huge."

Even so, the Gators had to work. Take the touchdown drive that broke open the game. It began late in the third quarter on the Florida 14. On third-and-1 from the Miami 33, Tebow rolled right and threw downfield to Carl Moore, who made a leaping catch, took a big hit from Miami defensive back Randy Phillips, and came down at the Miami 5. The official ruled that Moore landed out of bounds. Replays showed that Moore's left elbow touched green grass, not white paint.

"It was the play of the day, and it changed the game's momentum," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said.

Still, it took Florida seven snaps, including a third-down pass interference call on Phillips, for the Gators to score. Wide receiver Percy Harvin ran for a 2-yard touchdown on an option play.

Harvin didn't play in the opener because of injury. Sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez didn't play against Hawaii because, as Meyer described at the time, "he wasn't ready.'' That's Meyerspeak for a disciplinary decision. Against Miami, Hernandez led the Gators with five receptions for 56 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown catch and a key block on Harvin's scoring run.

The Miami offense never solved the Florida defense. The Hurricanes' game plan looked as if the Canes had decided to leave the ACC for the Big Ten -- in the 1970s.

Miami pounded backs Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas between the tackles. It may be that, with redshirt freshman Robert Marve and true freshman Jacory Harris alternating at quarterback, the passing game had to be kept simple. But the Hurricanes had a game plan that Woody Hayes would have loved.

The Canes didn't average 3 yards and the Central Florida humidity didn't allow for a cloud of dust, but you get the point. In fact, Miami finished with 61 rushing yards on 37 carries.

Miami's one scoring drive went 42 yards in 16 plays and lasted 8:42. Matt Bosher's 50-yard field goal early in the second quarter would have been good from 55 yards. It closed Miami's deficit to 7-3. On the drive after the field goal, the Canes reached the Gators' 49.

"After the game, we talked about how there are situations offensively that when we cross the 50-yard line, we have to make sure that we capitalize and score out of it," Miami head coach Randy Shannon said.

Perhaps he should have said "if we cross." Miami failed to do so in the second half. When you have a young team, perhaps it is best to keep the game plan simple. The problem is that once the running game stalled, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix had to depend on Marve and Harris. The passing game looked basic. It finished 12-of-22 for 79 yards.

After halftime, Miami rushed for a total of 7 yards and made four first downs.

A team as young as the Canes had other hiccups here and there. Late in the half, left guard Orlando Franklin incurred a dead-ball personal foul after third down that pushed Miami back to its 10. When Gators freshman Jeffrey Demps flew untouched past Miami sophomore JoJo Nicolas and blocked Bosher's punt out of the end zone, Florida took a 9-3 lead into the locker room.

The Miami defense played well enough to win plenty of games. When the offense catches up, the Hurricanes will reassert themselves not only in the ACC but also nationally. The final score notwithstanding, Florida is fortunate to have played Miami in the second week of the season.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.