Gainesville, Fla. — Tim Tebow accounted for 338 yards of total offense and four touchdowns Saturday in his first career start to lead third-ranked Florida to a 49-3 football victory over Western Kentucky University in the season opener for both teams at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The game was terminated with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter after a more than hour-long weather delay.
Tebow completed 13-of-17 passes for 300 yards, throwing for three scores, while adding 38 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His 1-yard run with just under nine minutes left in the first period opened the scoring, and he found Riley Cooper and Percy Harvin for scoring passes of 59 and 19 yards, respectively, as the Gators built a 21-0 advantage with 13-and-a-half minutes to go before the break.
The first of two Kestahn Moore touchdown runs, this one from three yards out with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, extended the advantage to 28-0.
WKU, which marched 62 yards on nine plays on its first possession before Tyrell Hayden was stopped by Dustin Doe on 4th-and-1 from the UF 10-yard line, then put together its only scoring drive of the day. K.J. Black completed three passes on the march, picking up first downs by hitting Quinterrance Cooper for 15 yards and Jake Gaebler for 19 more, and he also kept the drive alive with a 10-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the UF-38. The end result was a 26-yard field goal from Chris James as time expired.
The Gators held a 301-146 advantage in total offense over the first 30 minutes, limiting the Toppers to just 37 yards on their four possession between the opening drive and the march that ended the half. UF would gain 501 yards overall, picking up 325 through the air and 185 on the ground while recording 21 first downs.
The Hilltoppers added 41 yards on their first drive of the second half, taking almost six minutes off the clock, but that would be the last time they would cross midfield.
Tebow hit Cooper again for a 42-yard touchdown pass with 4:08 to go in the third quarter for the only points of the period. Moore scored on a one-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Cameron Newton added a four-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring.
Even though the Gators had two scoring drives cover 90 yards or more, no possession that resulted in points lasted longer than three minutes and 13 seconds.
Cooper had four catches for 122 yards to lead all players in both categories, and Andre Caldwell also finished with better than 100 yards in receptions after catching three passes for 103 yards. Moore rounded out the Gator offensive attack with 91 yards on 16 carries.
"It was frustrating. The film will tell us exactly what happened," said WKU head coach David Elson. "It was a technique issue that led to them getting behind us, and that's just not supposed to happen. I thought that, and Tebow's ability to scramble, were big differences in the game."
Brandon Spikes recorded a game-best 11 tackles for UF, with Doe adding seven stops. Derrick Harvey collected two sacks as eight Gators accounted for the team's nine tackles for loss.
Black was 10-of-13 passing to pace the Hilltoppers. David Wolke, who led the opening drive but had to depart after suffering a concussion, completed 3-of-4 passes for 43 yards and rushed two times for 11 more yards. He hit Jessie Quinn for 29 yards on the first play of the game, later finding Gaebler and Cooper for two more first down passes. Quinn's 48 receiving yards led WKU, while Gaebler finished with a team-high four receptions for 43 yards and Cooper caught three passes for 29 yards in his collegiate debut.
Hayden had 32 yards on 12 carries, but UF was able to hold the Toppers to 48 yards on 32 attempts as a team.
"I don't think you can underestimate how that [Wolke's injury] affected us," Elson said. "We are always of the mind set that when a guy goes down that the next guy has to go and you don't blink an eye. We have a ton of confidence in K.J., that's why we were going to play him, but there also is a reason why David was named the starter. He's the guy that we felt was going to give us the best chance, and look at what he did on that first drive.
"The way we ran this offense for the first time I think we have to be encouraged. Three points is three points, though, so we have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone."
Marion Rumph paced the defense with seven stops and Blake Boyd chipped in with six, while Rashad Etheridge broke up a pair of passes. Jeremy Moore averaged 44.1 yards on eight punts to highlight WKU's special teams play.
The Hilltoppers play the first of five home games Saturday against West Virginia Tech. Kickoff at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m. (CDT).