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Florida's Tebow calls Georgia loss 'a tough one'

GAINESVILLE

Nothing will erase the bitter memory, but a victory this week might help ease Tim Tebow's pain just a bit.

For the guy who grew up in Jacksonville and attended Florida-Georgia games, making his first start in the big rivalry as the Gators' quarterback last season was supposed to be the fulfillment of a little kid's dream.

"I knew what to expect and the whole atmosphere there," Tebow said. "It was just like I had watched my whole life."

The reality wasn't quite as he had envisioned.

Battling a shoulder injury and playing one of his worst games of the year, Tebow lost to the Bulldogs 42-30 in his hometown debut. And not just the game but a chance at an SEC championship, too.

To this day, he can't say whether it's the worst loss he has suffered but says it's right up there.

"I don't know, that's a tough question to answer," he said when asked where it ranks. "It was a tough one, though. It was tough. It's still, even today you still have hurt feelings about it. But as a football player, you have to learn to bounce back, learn from your losses and get over them. Especially when you're extremely passionate about it, because you're going to have losses. You're going to have to learn from them and you move on."

Tebow, who on Monday was named one of 13 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, gets another shot at being the hometown hero when No. 5 Florida and No. 8 Georgia play Saturday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. It's the 85th meeting of the two rivals but only the fifth time that both have been nationally ranked among the Top 10.

With a shot at sole possession of first in the SEC East, Tebow hopes this homecoming is happy.

"It means a lot," he said. "Growing up as a kid, this was one of the three biggest rivals, along with Tennessee and Florida State. It's always a huge game. Being from Jacksonville, getting the opportunity to go to a lot of the games … to play in this rivalry is special."

Especially if you win.

JENKINS TO PLAY: Freshman CB Janoris Jenkins, who has a bruised shin, is expected to play. "He's better," coach Urban Meyer said. "It's just a matter of pain tolerance and he's a tough guy."

DL Torrey Davis of Armwood, who was suspended the first part of the season then worked his way back in, is now uncertain again. He did not play last week due to "not meeting expectations." Meyer said Monday that Davis is day to day.

NEWTON OR BRANTLEY? Redshirt freshman backup QB John Brantley played in Saturday's blowout of Kentucky, but offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said there is no set No. 2. Sophomore Cameron Newton, recovering from a high ankle sprain, remains in the rotation.

"You don't need to force a guy that's dinged up into a game where you're up big in the fourth quarter," Mullen said. "It would have to be a situation where we needed to put him into the game for him to get in there right now with his injury."

ONE LAST TIME: Though he vowed not to talk anymore about last year's incident when the Georgia team celebrated in the end zone after its first touchdown, Meyer was asked about it on Monday. Here's why, he says, there's no reason to discuss it: It's not why the Gators lost.

"The reason we lost the game a year ago is because we were very, very poor on defense," he said. "We didn't tackle well, we were out of coverage a couple of times and we didn't protect the quarterback. It's not because the sun was a certain way, the color of shoes we wore. It was those three reasons, and if we don't fix that, we won't be successful again this year. … We were a very soft, really selfish outfit a year ago."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida's Tebow calls Georgia loss 'a tough one' 10/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:08am]

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