MIAMI – Tim Tebow grabbed Dan Mullen, his offensive coordinator, and made it clear that the second half wouldn't be like the first.
Florida had scored just seven points, was fortunate to be tied with Oklahoma (the Sooners had two red-zone failures) and wasn't controlling momentum or the home-state crowd. Tebow wasn't going to let Thursday night's BCS championship game slip away without a fight.
"Don't be afraid to give 1-5 the ball," he demanded.
Old 1-5 (No. 15) got the ball in the second half, factoring on almost every play. His arm, his legs and his lowered shoulders lifted the Gators to a 24-14 victory and their second national title in three seasons. He finished with 109 yards rushing on 22 carries, 231 yards passing and two touchdowns on 30 throws.
He further cemented his legacy as one of the great winners, if not players, in college football history.
It was vintage Tebow. He wasn't always pretty or perfect (there were two bad interceptions and plenty of poor tosses). Wideout Percy Harvin (171 total yards himself) was more explosive.
Yet in the end Tebow demanded a leadership role and made the plays, especially on third down, that won the game.
"It was not great execution by me," he admitted.
Tebow's heart gets a lot of hype – too much for some. The television announcers are often over the top in their praise and the stories of Tebow's off-field heroics as a devout Christian can be fatiguing.
It's a strange phenomenon of the modern media. Fans can find themselves rooting against a good guy just because they keep being reminded of how good he is. A little fallibility can go a long way.
So at least Tebow earned a taunting penalty in the fourth quarter to prove he's human after all.
"He's running tomorrow at 6 a.m.," coach Urban Meyer laughed. "We're teaching him a lesson."
There's plenty of debate about Tebow the player. He's uniquely skilled – Bobby Bowden called him the quarterback version of Bronko Nagurski. His arm is suspect but his will to win isn't. He believed Thursday that he could impact the game by crashing into defensive players and getting the crowd fired up.
"If trying to run some people over [would get] the crowd into it, get the momentum, then that was what I was going to try to do," he said.
You won't find that in nearly any other quarterback; mainly because few can take the abuse like the 235-pounder. It's why the Gator offense is geared around him.
"They've got players going left, players going right and then he keeps it," OU coach Bob Stoops said, shaking his head at the thought.
Tebow's impact can be doubted until you watch him go. The Gators defense deserves plenty of credit for slowing down the once-vaunted OU passing attack, but this was Tebow's title in so many ways.
He made a victory lap around Dolphin Stadium after the game, slapping hands with Gator fans who begged for one more season. He couldn't promise that. The junior might jump to the NFL, starting one of the great draft debates of all time.
Is he a quarterback? Is he a running back?
"I've heard H-back," he said. "My goal is to play in the NFL; I'll do whatever the team asked me."
He's a quarterback though, he insisted.
"I love to lead the team. I love to be in charge. I feel that is my personality."
The NFL has been historically cruel to quarterbacks who lack a cannon arm. And the idea of running 22 times – let alone seeking contact with tacklers – is a recipe for disaster. Those defensive players are grown men, not college kids.
Yet Tebow is correct, his best attribute is leadership. His teammates follow what he says and what he does. His speech after the Gators' lone loss of the season about being the hardest working player in the country and assuring UF would be the hardest working team will go down as legend in Gainesville.
"That was something we [could] control," he said. "[Working hard] is a conscious decision."
Whether or not Tebow returns for a shot at another championship – UF has won two during his three years on campus – he'll go down as a seminal figure in the sport. This oversized quarterback with the even bigger legend. He's a hero to Christians and an often too-good-to-be-true role model.
He's also a winner for the ages.
Right there at halftime, with a title in the balance, he proved it again. Give me the ball, he told his coaches. They knew better than to doubt him.
- Tim Tebow