How sweet it is for Florida, Tebow
• Photo gallery: Sugar Bowl
By Mark Long
NEW ORLEANS — Tim Tebow and coach Urban Meyer stood together in one corner of the Louisiana Superdome, sang the school fight song and then offered a final gesture.
Tebow took off on a victory lap. Meyer saluted the fans.
It was Tebow's way of saying goodbye to Florida. It may have been Meyer's, too.
Tebow rose above all the distractions caused by Meyer's uncertain future and capped a storied college career with his finest performance. It was the best in BCS history, too.
Tebow threw for a career-high 482 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 51 yards and another score, and fifth-ranked Florida overwhelmed No. 4 Cincinnati, 51-24, last night in the Sugar Bowl.
For Tebow and the Gators (13-1), this certainly was The Big Easy.
"They couldn't stop Superman," Gators guard Carl Johnson. "They needed some kryptonite."
Florida's most anticipated season ever ended in New Orleans instead of Pasadena. It came against Cincinnati (12-1) instead of Texas. It was about redemption instead of perfection.
None of that mattered in the Louisiana Superdome.
Tebow wouldn't let it.
"This has been the best four years of my life," the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner said. "We wanted to end it on a good note."
He completed his first 12 passes, led the Gators to scores on their first five possessions and finished with 533 total yards — more than anyone in Bowl Championship Series history. He topped former Texas star Vince Young's record of 467 yards set against Southern California in the 2005 Rose Bowl.
The Bearcats lost their bid for a perfect season and surely will spend the next year listening to questions about whether they belong in the big games against the biggest boys.
Florida, meanwhile, became the first school in the Football Bowl Subdivision to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.
Tebow and his teammates had hoped to repeat as national champions, but a 32-13 loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game knocked them out of the title picture.
"We tried to show coach where we should have been," Johnson said. "We had to make a statement game, not only for us, but for coach Meyer. We had a bad game at a crucial moment, but we're still Florida, we're still here and we ain't going nowhere."
The Gators spent the past four weeks regrouping from the disheartening loss.
Things got worse when Meyer announced his resignation last Saturday, three weeks after being rushed to the hospital because of chest pain. Meyer changed his mind the following day, and instead said he would take an indefinite leave of absence.
No one knows how long he will be away or whether he will return at all.
"I plan on being the coach of the Gators," Meyer said. "I know I'm anxious to get home. We'll address the future at the appropriate time."
Florida finished with a Sugar Bowl-record 659 yards.
FLORIDA 9 21 14 7—51
CINCINNATI 0 3 7 14—24
Fla—Hernandez 7 pass from Tebow (kick failed), 6:13.
Fla—FG Sturgis 40, 1:20.
Fla—Thompson 7 pass from Tebow (Sturgis kick), 9:07.
Fla—Moody 6 run (Sturgis kick), 7:05.
Cin—FG Rogers 47, 3:11.
Fla—Cooper 80 pass from Tebow (Sturgis kick), 3:02.
Fla—Moody 2 run (Sturgis kick), 11:13.
Cin—Waugh 2 pass from T.Pike (Rogers kick), 4:46.
Fla—Tebow 4 run (Sturgis kick), 2:06.
Cin—Binns 3 pass from T.Pike (Rogers kick), 10:07.
Fla—Rainey 6 run (Sturgis kick), 7:06.
Cin—Alli 6 pass from T.Pike (Rogers kick), 3:43.
First downs 28 19
Rushes-yards 34-177 23-76
Passing 482 170
Comp-Att-Int 31-36-0 27-45-0
Return Yards 10 0
Punts-Avg. 1-44.0 6-42.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 12-90 3-40
Time of Possession 32:20 27:40
RUSHING—Florida, Gillislee 5-78, Tebow 14-51, Rainey 4-27, Moody 8-14, Demps 3-7. Cincinnati, Pead 7-48, T.Kelce 1-19, Ramsey 6-18, Goebel 1-8, D.Williams 1-(minus 5), T.Pike 7-(minus 12).
PASSING—Florida, Tebow 31-35-0-482, Team 0-1-0-0. Cincinnati, T.Pike 27-45-0-170.
RECEIVING—Florida, Hernandez 9-111, Cooper 7-181, Thompson 5-63, Rainey 4-71, Moody 4-19, Nelson 2-37. Cincinnati, Gilyard 7-41, Binns 5-29, Guidugli 5-22, Woods 4-46, Ramsey 2-16, Pead 1-7, Alli 1-6, Waugh 1-2, Goebel 1-1.