No. 3 Florida swamps Citadel 70-19

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tim Tebow circled Florida Field, high-fiving fans, posing for photographs and listening to chants of “one more year.”

He took backup quarterback John Brantley along for the lap, a possible gesture that it was the Heisman Trophy winner’s last game at The Swamp.

“I don’t want to think about it like that at all,” Tebow said.

If it was his home finale, Tebow put on a show — albeit a brief one.

Tebow threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, Chris Rainey ran for 142 yards and a score, and the third-ranked Gators overwhelmed The Citadel 70-19 on Saturday.

Florida (10-1) scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions, racked up 512 yards in the first half alone and became the first Southeastern Conference team to score at least 42 points in six consecutive games.

The Gators finished with 705 yards and did little wrong against an overmatched opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. Even when they tried to run out the clock to end the opening half, Rainey broke up the middle for a 46-yard gain.

Another telling sign of the mismatch came early in the third quarter, when Gators coach Urban Meyer gave defensive tackle Javier Estopinan, a fifth-year senior who has undergone three knee operations and isn’t even listed on the depth chart, a carry near the goal line. Estopinan scored untouched from a yard out, the first touchdown of his career, to make it 56-6.

“It was awesome,” Estopinan said. “There’s no better feeling. (Coach is) stingy with his touchdowns. There’s so many playmakers on offense you would never think you’re going to get a touchdown.”

Estopinan was one of 21 seniors honored before the game, and Meyer got many of them involved after the opening kickoff. Kestahn Moore ran six times for 50 yards and scored twice. Louis Murphy caught a touchdown pass.

“Nowadays, to sustain four years of college football, man, that’s hard,” Meyer said. “Guys don’t make it for one reason or another.”

Meyer would like to see three juniors return. But Tebow, receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes could jump to the NFL.

Tebow seems like the most likely to return. He finished 9-of-11 passing and ran for 34 yards. He was in for five plays in the second quarter, then turned things over to Brantley. When it was over, Tebow grabbed Brantley, circled the field and heard all kinds of pleas for him to return.

“I think it’s cool,” said Tebow, adding that he’s trying to make the victory lap a tradition. “It’s not like a burden or anything. It just lets you know they want you.”

The Gators extended their winning streak to seven games, continued their first-quarter success and looked every bit ready for next week’s game against rival Florida State. Florida has outscored its last seven opponents 122-0 in the first quarter.

The first-team defense has been nearly as dominant, having not allowed a touchdown in five straight games.

The Citadel (4-8) punted four times, threw two interceptions on its first six drives and trailed 42-0. The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard with a little trickery on a fourth-down play. Needing a couple yards at the Florida 29, and playing against mostly backups, receiver Scott Flanagan pulled up on a reverse and threw a TD pass to quarterback Cam Turner.

Turner was 15-of-30 for 169 yards. He threw a TD pass in the final minute, but also had was picked off twice and sacked four times.

“We didn’t execute like we would have liked,” said Citadel coach Kevin Higgins, whose program received $450,000 for its worst loss of the season. “Obviously, it was a great football team that we were playing against.”

Even Florida’s backups looked good Saturday.

Emmanuel Moody ran 13 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. Brantley finished 8-of-11 for 110 yards and score. Rainey and Riley Cooper had two of the best plays in a game filled with Florida highlights.

Rainey started left, got spun completely around by linebacker Jordon Gilmore, took a few steps in the wrong direction, cut across the field and ended up with a 73-yard gain. Cooper made a one-handed catch on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Tebow.

“He’s my roommate. He was mad at me last week because I overthrew him,” Tebow said. “I missed a touchdown there, so I was trying to get him one this week. He was happy about it. That was a pretty good one.”

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