Tebow, Florida bounce back to stop Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Tim Tebow plowed forward on fourth-and-1, easily earning his team a new set of downs. His run was a week too late, but Florida was happy to take it.

Tebow and the 12th-ranked Gators rebounded from their surprising loss to Mississippi, methodically holding off Arkansas for three quarters Saturday before pulling away for a 38-7 win. Tebow threw for two touchdowns, and his early conversion helped Florida move ahead to stay.

Last weekend, Tebow was stopped on fourth down at the end of a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss. On their first drive against Arkansas, the Gators went for it when they could have kicked a field goal. Tebow plunged for 2 yards, setting up first down at the 4.

"We're confident in fourth-and-1 and our ability to get those," Tebow said.

He finished that drive by flipping a shovel pass to Brandon James for a 2-yard touchdown.

The Gators were sluggish for a while after that, and it was only 17-7 late in the third quarter when Jerry Franklin picked off Tebow, snapping the Heisman Trophy winner's streak at 203 passes without an interception.

The Florida defense held, and Tebow came back to lead his team on an 83-yard drive that ended with his 21-yard pass to Percy Harvin. Chris Rainey then scored on a 75-yard run, spinning past a tackler and outrunning everyone to the end zone to make it 31-7.

Jeffrey Demps completed the scoring with a 48-yard run with 1:04 remaining in the game.

"You're dealing with 18-to-22 year-olds," said Tebow, who threw for 217 yards. "Everything's based on momentum, confidence and that swagger that people talk about."

The Gators (4-1, 2-1) host LSU next weekend in a huge Southeastern Conference matchup.

Arkansas made a game of it for a while, even after embarrassing losses to Alabama (49-14) and Texas (52-10) the past two weeks.

"Cutting back the playbook really helped us to execute and move fast," said coach Bobby Petrino, who has lost three straight for the first time as a college coach. "It's a tough loss because our players did a good job to get their emotions back after the Texas loss."

Michael Smith ran for 133 yards and a touchdown for Arkansas (2-3, 0-2).

Early in the second quarter, Florida was pinned back at its own 1-yard line. The Gators turned that awful field position into a touchdown -- eventually. At one point, Florida faced first-and-35 at its own 14 after being called for three straight penalties. The Gators had to punt, but Smith muffed it, giving Florida the ball at the Arkansas 16.

Moments later, it was first-and-30 from the 36 after two more Florida penalties. Demps then ran to the left and scooted untouched through the secondary for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The teams combined for 21 penalties, including 13 in the second quarter. After the game, Florida coach Urban Meyer was asked why his team's offense looks so mundane at times.

"That's a good word," Meyer said. "I'd use the word awful."

Florida had time to figure things out, though. Arkansas has gone eight games without scoring in the first quarter. The Razorbacks moved into Florida territory the first three times they had the ball but stalled each time. Arkansas went for it on fourth down twice in the first quarter near the Florida 30, and the Gators held each time.

"With the way the wind was blowing, I really felt like that if we were going to go for the field goal that we really had to be within the 25-yard line," Petrino said.

The Razorbacks also drove well into Florida territory late in the second quarter, but Joe Haden intercepted Casey Dick at the goal line.

James returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, but it was wiped out by a penalty. Florida settled for a field goal, and Arkansas scored to cut the margin to 10. That was as close as it got in the Gators' seventh straight win over the Razorbacks.