*Tebow's crazy display of emotion early in the 2nd half: After that very iffy first half, Tebow looked...timid?
Tied 7-7, the 3rd quarter started with a 3-and-out for Florida, but the Gators D held (even after that awful roughing-the-punter penalty).
They got the ball back, and thus began Tebow Time. It was on a key Tebow scramble for a first down that he got up -- and got fired up. It was the "old" Tebow, back and ready to go.
For me, that was the game's biggest turning point. This picture says it all.
*Tebow's unlikely unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty as the game was winding down, doing the Gator Chomp in the face of an Oklahoma defensive player. Though I'll call it part of Tebow's "enthusiasm," it was a display of taunting that I have never seen from him in 3 years. For those of you still hunting for even a sliver of "bad boy" in Tebow: There it was.
*Ahmad Black's give-me-that-ball interception. Down 3 with tons of time to go (10 min), Oklahoma was three plays into a drive that looked for all the world like an inevitable (and go-ahead) TD.
Then Black literally YANKED the championship from Bradford and Co.
It was the ultimate symbol of the performance by the Gators' D, one of the greatest single-game performances in college football history (if you consider the prolific offense they were playing).
*Fox's broadcast was horrible and nearly unwatchable. The defining moment was that "4th down!" gaffe in the 2nd quarter. (No, you morons: It was 3rd down.) They were horrible. I cannot wait for ESPN to take over these broadcasts next year; the difference isn't even worth comparing.
(The only thing I'd compliment Fox on was that "count-up" clock to track the speed of Oklahoma's offense. Like most Fox broadcasts, they probably went to it a little too much, but once I became insanely afraid of their hurry-up capabilities, the clock was like an on-screen enabler of my neuroses. Every time OU went super-hurry-up, they produced a good play -- except for that hurry-up run on 4th and Goal early on -- not sure why they slowed down even a little...unless Florida's defensive game-plan was foiling their first take at play-calling.)
*Tim Tebow's eye-black message. Some don't like the in-your-face evangelism. Surprising even myself, I don't mind it, because -- generally -- he's so much less in-your-face than others.
Just got this message on my Facebook Wall from an old college buddy:
This just in: Shanoff Converts to Christianity - "Christ makes me feel closer to Tim."Want to hear the most ridiculous part? When Tebow originally came out onto the field, I was like, "Hey, what happened to Phil 4:13? John 3:16 is so cliche."
*Either one of Percy Harvin's long runs, plus Percy Harvin's direct-snap TD. I appreciate Tebow's takeover in the 2nd half. But it wouldn't have been possible without Harvin carrying the team in the first half -- and his long run on the first play of Florida's first drive of the 4th quarter, setting up the go-ahead FG in the 2nd half. Harvin deserved co-MVP.
*Nic Harris's unflagged and totally inappropriate cheap shot on Harvin, twisting his ankle following a tackle. The only question in my mind is: Was Harris -- a notorious cheap-shot artist -- acting independently? Or did either Brent Venables or Bob Stoops instruct Harris -- either implicitly or expliclity -- to try to take Harvin out of the game? The latter wouldn't surprise me.
(And thank you, Orson: For confirming that Venables did, in fact, scream "We're f--ked!" on camera just before the end came for him. I saw it, re-wound the DVR to confirm, and figured I would wait for bloggers to further confirm for me -- don't expect to see it in mainstream media.)
*The jump-pass TD to seal the win: Not only did it capitalize on Black's INT, but the drive that produced it took nearly 7 minutes off the clock. And the call of the jump-pass -- which put Tebow on the national map as a freshman against LSU -- was a sentimental book-end for his career, if in fact last night's game was his last as a Gator.
(Even with just 3 minutes to go and down 10, I thought for sure that Oklahoma would score in, like, 30 seconds, then recover the onside kick and score again. All that confidence I had going into the game was eroded within, oh, the first 2 minutes of the game.)
*The fact that every time my wife had to briefly leave the room, something amazing happened: The stop on 4th and Goal; the blocked FG. It got to the point where we seriously considered watching the rest of the game with each of us in separate rooms.
*And, as much as anything else, the game will be defined for me by this ongoing feeling of dread I felt throughout. Oklahoma's defense was better than I could have ever imagined; Florida's offense was stalling -- some of the play calls were maddening. Oklahoma's offense seemed to be able to move enough; every play, I was sure, would be the "Big One." Brown was killing things.
As I mentioned last night, I was so sure that Florida would win -- not just this week, not just the last month, but even going all the way back to my preseason expectation that they would win the national title -- that the taut, low-scoring game totally threw me for a loop. It was totally unexpected; normally, I love to be surprised -- live sports are one of the only things left that have the power to truly surprise you. In this case? Not so much.
I found it hard to be TOO jubilant last night, just after the game ended. I was still too keyed up, the lingering feeling that they just might lose -- at least the first 55 of the game's 60 minutes -- was still too residual in my frame of mind.
(As you'd expect, I got a bunch of text messages and emails as the game was winding down and victory seemed secure, and I found it too hard to digest them in the immediate moments after the game. I appreciated them a lot more this morning.)
It was only after thinking about it overnight that I was able to start fully appreciating how hard-fought this win was -- it was so different from the feeling I got watching the shocking shellacking that Florida put on Ohio State two years ago.
Only now, in a bit of delayed gratification, does the game begin to feel fully satisfying. Perhaps the thing -- not a moment, per se -- that will linger with me is "14." Oklahoma's offense was among the most prolific ever, and Florida's D shut them down (mostly...certainly, as well as you could ever expect). It's hard to watch a slugfest -- it's not as sexy as a shootout. It's gritty.
But in the end, though it has taken 12 hours (and will likely take even more to fully marinate), I feel the sensation of awesome that any fan whose team wins a championship should feel. Once I got over the disconcerting disconnect between my expectations and reality, gritty finally felt so good.