Gators rout FIU 62-3, extend winning streak to 21
|Florida's linebacker Brandon Spikes (51) runs the ball for a touchdown after intercepting a Florda International pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009.|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Top-ranked Florida moved another step closer to perfection with a 62-3 rout of Florida International.
Tim Tebow accounted for three touchdowns and Brandon Spikes returned an interception for a score to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 21 games Saturday.
Florida improved to 11-0 for just the second time in school history and needs two more wins - against Florida State and Alabama - to earn a shot at repeating as national champion.
After surviving some struggles during Southeastern Conference play, the Gators probably needed an easy week. The Golden Panthers (3-8) played the part to perfection.
Florida scored touchdowns on eight of 10 offensive possessions. The only scoreless drives came when Caleb Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and when Florida ran out the clock in the final seconds.
Spikes started the onslaught when he intercepted Paul McCall's pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown, his fourth INT return for a score in the last two years. It came one play after Florida was called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Carlos Munera, who injured his left ankle.
The defense didn't let up, sacking McCall twice and holding the Golden Panthers to 189 yards and 11 first downs.
Tebow, hoping to solidify a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist, had one of his best games of the season. It came against a defense that had allowed nearly 500 yards a game.
Tebow completed 17 of 25 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns and ran seven times for 102 yards and a score. His rushing touchdown - a 55-yard scramble on a third-and-2 play - was the longest run of his career. It also was his 54th career touchdown, breaking the previous SEC record held by former LSU star Kevin Faulk.
Tebow had a 27-yard TD pass to Chris Rainey early in the second quarter that made it 21-0, then added an 18-yarder to roommate Riley Cooper on the opening drive of the third.
Rainey and Jeff Demps had rushing scores. Backup John Brantley had three TD passes, including a perfectly throw 31-yarder to Frankie Hammond Jr. on a fourth-and-11 play with 2:28 remaining.
The Swamp started to empty early in the fourth, with Tebow standing on the sideline wearing a headset and many other starters done for the day.
Florida played without defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (shoulder), defensive tackle Terron Sanders (ribs) and running back Emmanuel Moody (ankle). They were hardly missed.
The Golden Panthers - 45-point underdogs paid $425,000 to play in Gainesville - missed a field goal try in the second quarter and turned the ball over on downs twice in the second half.
McCall completed 9 of 21 passes for 134 yards. Kendall Berry ran 13 times for 26 yards.
Things could get tougher in Florida's home finale against rival Florida State, which eked out a 29-26 win over Maryland on Saturday to become bowl eligible for the 28th consecutive year. Then again, the Seminoles have posed little threat to the Gators the last five years.