Tim Tebow threw for a career-high four touchdowns and No. 14 Florida rebounded from back-to-back losses with a 45-37 victory over No. 8 Kentucky on Saturday. It was the Gators' 21st straight win against the Wildcats.
The victory puts the defending national champions back in the Southeastern Conference title hunt despite their recent losses to Auburn and LSU. The Gators (5-2, 3-2) are now tied with South Carolina and Georgia for first in the SEC East.
Kentucky (6-2, 2-2), which knocked off then-No. 1 LSU in triple overtime a week earlier, came into the game concerned Tebow's Gators presented a bigger threat because of his running. The Wildcats held him to 78 rushing yards, but the junior's left arm proved far more problematic.
Tebow connected on 18 of 26 passes for 256 yards. He nearly had a fifth TD pass, but Cornelius Ingram allowed the ball to slip through his fingers. Tebow's previous career-high of three TDs came earlier this year in games against Troy and Western Kentucky.
Although the Heisman candidate has long been heralded for his versatility because of his running ability, he showed Saturday he is also a versatile passer, able to connect both on long bombs and short lobs.
At the end of the first quarter, Tebow dissected Kentucky's double-coverage of Louis Murphy, hitting him stride as he ran through the defenders and completed a 66-yard scoring play.
Just before halftime, Tebow showed finesse. He started toward the line, stopped, and threw a jump pass to Aaron Hernandez for a 1-yard TD.
Florida led 21-10 at halftime, but the Wildcats made a comeback attempt behind their own Heisman candidate, Andre Woodson, who had his best game of the season with 415 yards and five TDs.
Dazzling scoring plays from two receivers kept the Wildcats in the game.
First, Jacob Tamme caught a pass 10 yards short of the end zone, spun to avoid running out of bounds and ran it in.
Then, Dicky Lyons Jr. caught a short pass and turned it into a 50-yarder, weaving through defenders in his path.
Florida answered with its longest run of the game, a 24-yard end-around that receiver Percy Harvin took in for a touchdown to put the Gators back up 38-24.
Another Kentucky drive cut the lead to one TD with under four minutes left as Woodson found Lyons again on a 7-yard slant.
However, Tebow iced the game, using a 40-yard pass to give the Gators the ball on the 2, then running it in himself. It was the eighth straight game Tebow has scored a rushing TD.
A week after Kentucky's offensive line allowed no sacks against Glenn Dorsey and LSU's physical defensive front, the Gators got to Woodson six times, including back-to-back plays in the first half.
Those sacks translated into the first of several missed opportunities for Kentucky, as Lones Seiber was wide left on a 48-yard field goal attempt.
Kentucky had similar field position twice more in the first half, but coach Rich Brooks decided to go for it both times on fourth-and-long. The Wildcats converted on one and Seiber connected from 27 yards.
There were no turnovers in the game, attended by a Commonwealth Stadium record 71,024, and no penalties until Kentucky was whistled for a false start at the beginning of the second half.
Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1986, the third-longest current streak in the nation between major opponents who have played every year without an interruption.