GAINESVILLE — Turns out there was a good reason Florida coach Urban Meyer put a gag order on some of his players last week to keep them from talking smack about their upcoming game with Miami.
Talking trash isn't good if you have to struggle to back it up.
For three quarters, the Gators were unable to score more than a touchdown against a Miami team in rebuilding mode, and the blowout many analysts predicted turned out to be a nail-biter for most of the game.
But the No. 5 Gators rebounded with 17 fourth-quarter points for a 26-3 victory over part-time arch-rival Miami in front of 90,833, a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium record, on Saturday night.
It was Florida's first victory over the Hurricanes in 23 years, although the teams haven't played annually since 1987.
"I'm very proud of the way our team played," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "We're going to enjoy this win. In the first half, I was like everybody else: 'What in the world is going on?' We were just out of synch offensively."
Florida (2-0) led by no more than seven points for three quarters before finally taking command of the game. Just 1:41 into the fourth, junior running back/receiver Percy Harvin scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive that gave the Gators a 16-3 lead.
It was the first touchdown of the season for Harvin, who started the game after missing most of the preseason practices and last week's season opener with a heel injury.
The Gators got help during the drive from instant replay. After Tebow's 28-yard pass to junior Carl Moore was ruled incomplete, the call was overturned, giving the Gators first and goal at the 5.
After the game, Tebow said the Gators were proud of the way they played and, yes, the victory felt like a big win.
"I think it feels like that to us because we knew we were going to have an opportunity to get a win handily (in the final quarter)," he said.
"In the fourth quarter, we just needed to man up and go get the touchdown. We were focused. … Our defense was doing a great job. 'Let's just go get the big touchdown and take control of the game.' "
And so they did.
On the Gators' ensuing possession, St. Petersburg native Louis Murphy, who declared before the game that Florida, not Miami, was "The U" (alluding to the Hurricanes' nickname), made it 23-3 with a 19-yard touchdown catch with 8:59 remaining. The score was set up by Murphy's 32-yard reception.
The senior had four catches for 77 yards and another long touchdown that was negated by a penalty.
"It was a great catch," Tebow said of the touchdown.
For the first three quarters, Florida seemed out of synch offensively. The offensive line struggled to keep Miami from pressuring Tebow. Often on the run, Tebow had multiple passes dropped. He finished 21-of-35 for 256 yards.
Miami's front rendered the Gators' running game stagnant. Florida had 61 first-half yards, eventually gaining 89 for the game led by Tebow's 55. Starting running back Kestahn Moore had three carries for minus-5 yards, and backup Emmanuel Moody remained on the bench throughout the game.
"We wanted to get the running game going. That's one of our strengths," Meyer said, adding the position will be re-evaluated during the upcoming bye week.
Florida's only first-half touchdown came after Miami's Matt Bosher shanked a 14-yard punt and the Gators put together a five-play drive that ended with a 14-yard pass from Tebow to tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The Gators took a 9-3 lead when freshman Jeff Demps blocked Bosher's punt with 47 seconds remaining in the first half and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
"We'll enjoy this win," Meyer said. "We'll come in Monday, work, and we'll be ready for Tennessee."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]