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Nov. 10, 2007

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Tim Tebow is keeping Florida in the hunt for a SOUTHeastern Conference title and making quite a case to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

Tebow accounted for seven touchdowns, five rushing, and 424 total yards as the No. 17 Gators defeated South Carolina 51-31 on Saturday night.

“That’s an honor any time your named with that award,” Tebow said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “But I’m not going to worry about that.

He’s too busy carrying the defending national champions.

With Florida’s dual-threat receiver Percy Harvin out with sinus problems, Tebow took over, running things so efficiently the Gators didn’t have a play lose yards until things were well in hand midway through the third quarter.

Tebow was 22-for-32 for a career-best 304 yards and ran for 120 yards on 26 carries, accounting for more than three-quarters of the offense for Florida (7-3, 5-3).

Coach Urban Meyer called it “a Heisman performance,” then scanned the box score. “Seven touchdowns. Wow. That’s pretty good.”

Andre Caldwell was Tebow’s favorite target with 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s done everything you expect a Florida quarterback to do,” Caldwell said.

Meyer planned to give the ball to Harvin about half the time until he started getting sick early in the week. Once Tebow said his injured shoulder right shoulder was feeling better, the coach switched plans to depend on his quarterback.

“We kind of made that decision to ride that horse with Tim, and he was phenomenal,” Meyer said.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier drops to 1-2 against Florida, the team he won a Heisman Trophy and coached to a national championship. It also is the first time a team has scored more than 50 on a Spurrier team since Florida’s 62-24 loss to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Spurrier has lost four in a row for only the second time in his college coaching career and finishes with a losing SEC record for a second straight season – two things that never happened with the Gators.

Spurrier, who knows a good quarterback when he sees one, admired Tebow’s work.

“It’s fun when you can stand back there and throw the ball and no one is near you,” Spurrier said.

Florida needs a lot of help to win the SEC East and get back to the league title game. The Gators league schedule is done, making them big fans of Kentucky and Vanderbilt. They need the Wildcats to beat Georgia and they need Tennessee to lose to either the Wildcats or the Commodores to have a shot at playing LSU for the conference title Dec. 1.

“Now we’re stuck praying and hoping and rooting for Kentucky,” said Tebow, who added he would prefer Wildcats quarterback Andre Woodson to have two great games against Georgia and Tennessee and get himself back in the Heisman race.

The tone was set on the first play from scrimmage, when South Carolina lost the ball on a bad snap and the Gators scored on 5-yard run by Tebow moments later. The Gamecocks did take a 14-13 lead late in the first quarter after stopping Florida for no gain on a fourth-and-one and recovering a fumble.

Then Tebow took over either running or throwing the ball on 14 of Florida’s next 16 plays, including scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards, to put the Gators back up 27-14.

Tebow also added touchdown runs of 2 and 5 yards in the second half, and threw a 22-yard score to Jarred Fayson in the second quarter.

The records keep piling up for Tebow. He now has 19 rushing touchdowns for the season, tying four others for the SEC record. He also has shattered the school-record of 14 running TDs held by Emmitt Smith in 1989 and Buford Long in 1952.

The sophomore has 42 total TDs running and passing, breaking fellow Florida QB Danny Wuerffel’s SEC record of 41 set in 1996.

Brandon James ran for 49 yards for the Gators, while John Curtis blocked a punt that led to Florida’s second touchdown.

Blake Mitchell was 26-of-42 for 316 yards. He has thrown for at least 290 yards in South Carolina’s last three games, all losses.

With six wins, South Carolina is no lock for a bowl. The SEC has 10 teams bowl eligible and Vanderbilt just a win away with only eight bowl spots guaranteed. The Gamecocks end the season in two weeks against archrival No. 20 Clemson. Spurrier hasn’t missed a bowl since his first Florida team was on probation in 1990 and hasn’t had a non-winning season in college since going 5-6 his first year at Duke in 1987.

“It is what it is,” Spurrier said. “We’re just not a really good team right now.”