GAINESVILLE — Ten months ago, immediately after they had won their second national championship in three years, this was the way the Gators envisioned it.
Last summer, during the grueling offseason workouts, this was the way they envisioned it.
And throughout this season, when the offense wasn't quite clicking, the Heisman Trophy winner didn't seem quite himself and the noise from the critics and unhappy fans nearly drove them insane, this was the way the Gators envisioned Saturday night.
Walking off Florida Field after defeating archrival Florida State with their record unblemished and both of their goals there for the taking: an SEC championship and another national championship.
The most successful senior class in SEC history took the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium one last time Saturday and led the Gators to a 37-10 victory. Then they took extra time to revel in their accomplishments with the 90,907 fans and celebrate only the second time the Gators have had a 12-0 record.
"Absolutely, this is the way (we envisioned it)," senior receiver Riley Cooper said. "From the first game, that was our goal, to win every game that we play, make it to the SEC championship and win it.
"It doesn't matter how many points you win by. We kind of struggled at the beginning of the season, not putting up points and having real close games but always finding a way to win. And that's what we're going to keep doing."
There was no offensive struggles Saturday. Florida scored on four of its five possessions in the first half, including three touchdowns, to take a 24-0 lead and cruised.
Quarterback Tim Tebow, who has become an icon among Gator fans, was 17-of-21 for 221 yards and three touchdowns, two to junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (18 and 37 yards) and one to Cooper (39 yards). Tebow rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns and broke former Florida quarterback Chris Leak's SEC record for total yards. He now has 11,389.
"This was one of his best performances," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "He threw the ball extremely well."
When the Gators found themselves facing third and goal on the 1 early in the fourth quarter, fans started chanting Tebow's name.
He responded with a vintage Tebow run to give the Gators a 37-3 lead with 10:18 remaining.
Flashes from digital cameras and camera phones could be seen flickering all over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium early in the final quarter as the reality that the end of an era was upon them began to hit fans.
"It reminded me of watching the Super Bowl on TV," senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. "But I figured something like that would happen with all the accomplishments this senior class has had."
Florida had 545 yards of offense, and sophomore Jeff Demps had 108 yards on seven carries. The Gators held FSU to 2-of-11 on third downs and 83 rushing yards.
When it was all said and done, Tebow took a few extra minutes on his victory lap around the stadium, as fans screamed, and even cried as he left.
"It was special," he said.
"These are memories I'll always have."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3389.