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Gator chomp
Florida likely headed to title game

ATLANTA - Tim Tebow took it upon himself to give Florida a shot at another national championship.

With one of his best weapons watching from the sidelines, if the Gators needed a big run, Tebow tucked it under his arm and ran. If they needed to complete a pass, he threw it right where it needed to be.

Tebow threw three touchdown passes - including the clinching score with just under 3 minutes remaining - to lead the No. 2 Gators to a 31-20 victory over No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.

The win should be enough to give Florida (12-1) a spot in the BCS title game for the second time in three years, and Tebow's performance will surely bolster his chances of becoming just the second player to win the Heisman Trophy two years in a row.

'We don't want to be denied in anything we do,' said Tebow, who carried his team with Percy Harvin watching from the sidelines.

Showing it could win a close game in a season of routs, Florida (12-1) went into the fourth quarter trailing 20-17. But Jeff Demps, among those filling in for the injured Harvin, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 9:21 remaining. Tebow finished the scoring with a pass that couldn't have been thrown any better, hitting Riley Cooper for a 5-yard TD with 2:50 left.

'I've had some great players, and I've got some great players on this team,' Florida coach Urban Meyer said. 'But I've never had one like this. Tim's got something special inside him. I'm not talking about throwing. I'm not talking about running. I'm talking about making everyone around him better. That fourth quarter was vintage Tim Tebow.'

Alabama (12-1) couldn't have picked a worse time to lose. The Crimson Tide will likely settle for a spot in the Sugar Bowl, ruining any chance of adding another national championship to its glorious history.

Instead, mark down a spot in the title game for Florida, which won it just two years ago with a rout of Ohio State. The Gators came into the game ranked fourth in the BCS standings, but the impressive win over unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama will surely be enough to move them into one of the top spots.

Their opponent? Oklahoma had the inside track heading into Saturday night's Big 12 championship game against Missouri. Texas was waiting in the wings if the Sooners were upset.

Whoever it is will have to stop Tebow, who was 14-of-22 passing 216 yards and led the team in rushing with 57 yards. He tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Carl Moore to finish off Florida's opening possession, went 5 yards to David Nelson to give the Gators a 17-10 halftime lead, and came through one more time to clinch the

victory.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who needed only two years to restore the Tide to Bear Bryant-like prominence, knew who was mainly responsible for his team's first loss.

Tebow.

'He's a great competitor. He takes his teammates on his shoulders a lot,' Saban said. 'They have a lot of confidence he's going to make plays, and they play that way. They scored two touchdowns where we had them covered about as well as we could cover them.'

With Florida facing third-and-goal at the 5 after a rare sideline interference penalty, Tebow found Cooper breaking toward the middle in front of Marquis Johnson. The perfectly thrown pass - low enough to give no chance of an interception but high enough to catch - was cradled by a diving Cooper to make it a two-score game.

Joe Haden's interception ended any hope of a comeback. Tebow was named the game's MVP.

'One more year! One more year!' the Florida fans chanted afterward, hoping their junior quarterback will return for his senior season.

Alabama trailed at halftime for first time this year, but just the fact that it was close put the Gators in an unusual position.

Florida came in as the nation's third-highest scoring team (46.3 points a game) and its average margin of victory was a staggering 37 points. Then again, the Gators did lose their only close game, a shocking 31-30 defeat to Mississippi at the Swamp on the final weekend in September.