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Mississippi shocks No. 4 Florida 31-30

GAINESVILLE — Fifty-five seconds, one point and 1 yard.

Trailing unranked Mississippi by one point and facing fourth and 1 at the Ole Miss 32, everyone at Florida Field knew quarterback Tim Tebow was about to get the ball.

The only ones who didn't believe he would get that 1 yard were the Mississippi players and their several hundred fans. Because Tebow rarely fails on short yardage with the game on the line.

Until Saturday.

With a wall of defenders stacked against him, Tebow fell short of the first down, ending Florida's hopes of an undefeated season.

Mississippi rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to earn a 31-30 victory over No. 4 Florida in front of a stunned crowd of 90,106.

"We were in a zone play to the right. We had already run it two times in the game," Tebow said. "I got a lot of penetration. I just came up short."

Just short was the story of the game for the Gators. Florida was just short of completing long passes that rolled off the fingertips of receivers late, just short of breaking big special teams returns and just short of stopping a long Ole Miss touchdown.

It was the first loss of the season for the Gators (3-1, 1-1 SEC) and only the second at home under Meyer in four seasons. And it came in a most unusual fashion: mistakes in every facet of the game. Florida trailed for the first time this season in the first quarter then took a 10-point lead into halftime.

But in the second half, everything went wrong.

"I thought we had everything under control aside from field position and four big plays," Meyer said.

And with those "four big plays," it was over.

• Leading 17-7, Florida was two plays into its opening possession of the third quarter when junior receiver Percy Harvin fumbled, leading to a 33-yard field goal for the Rebels that pulled them to 17-10.

• On Florida's ensuing possession, Tebow fumbled during a handoff to Brandon James at its 18. Three plays later, Ole Miss' Jevan Snead completed an 18-yard touchdown to Cordera Eason to tie the score just 4:30 into the quarter.

• With the score tied at 24, Florida gave up an 86-yard touchdown pass from Snead to Shay Hodge (who ran past safety Major Wright) with 5:26 remaining in the game. The Gators were in a Cover 2 defense, cornerback Joe Haden said.

"He was talking all day, but I didn't hear him at the end," Hodge said of Wright. "He pretty much just shut his mouth.

"They always say Florida has the fastest players. I didn't see it there."

• After a 15-yard touchdown run by Harvin with 3:28 remaining, Jonathan Phillips' extra point was blocked, leaving the Gators one point short of overtime.

Florida had 443 total yards to Mississippi's 325. And Florida ran 73 offensive plays to Mississippi's 59.

"We outgained them in every category that counts but points," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said.

With its undefeated hopes dashed, the Gators now must find a way to quickly regroup, facing another supposedly overmatched team in Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday.

"It's hard," Meyer said. "It's awful. Go in that locker room and ask those guys. It's awful. It's bad, bad stuff. We'll find out what kind of team we're made of.

"I make this comment all the time: Any clown can walk up there and pick up a crystal ball and put on a hat and all that fun stuff. How many guys can rally back after an Auburn loss? Or after and Ole Miss loss?"

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3389.

Ole Miss 31

No. 4 UF 30

Mississippi shocks No. 4 Florida 31-30 09/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:41pm]

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