JACKSONVILLE — Forgive Tim Tebow if his victory lap took a little bit longer Saturday.
He had a lot of people to thank.
By the time the clock hit zeros, most of the Georgia fans clad in red and black had departed and Florida's fans had spread out among the stadium to slap the reigning Heisman Trophy winner's hand.
"I just want to … enjoy it with them, too," he said. "They're out there and you see red and black every now and then, every 20 yards, and then you look and see orange and blue covering the stadium. I think it's the best. I just wanted to have fun and experience it with them."
It was yet another chance for Tebow to deliver on the promise he made to fans after Florida lost to unranked Ole Miss on Sept. 27. The junior vowed to play harder and push his teammates more than had been seen before.
While he threw only 13 passes Saturday, he completed 10 of them for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He added 45 yards and three scores on the ground. And he did some of it with a sprained left ankle suffered during the third quarter, although, as always, he says he's fine.
Meanwhile, Tebow passed Emmitt Smith as Florida's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, totaling 39 after Saturday.
"That is pretty cool to look at because Emmitt Smith was my favorite player in the pros growing up," he said. "Just to be in the same sentence as Emmitt Smith is a huge honor."
For Tebow, the Florida-Georgia neutral-site rivalry has always had a little more importance. He grew up in the area and led local Nease High to its first state football championship as a senior in 2005.
But last year's homecoming of sorts didn't go so well for Tebow, who was in his first year as a starter. While he completed 14 of 22 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown and added 25 yards and two scores on the ground, the then-sophomore was limited by an injured right (nonthrowing) shoulder and the Gators fell 42-30.
He said Saturday that rarely a day went by without his mind drifting to that disappointing loss.
"For me coming home, playing in Jacksonville, playing in a game that was one of my favorite growing up … it was just a bad feeling," he said.
Offensive lineman Jason Watkins smiled when asked about Tebow's reaction to this year's redeeming victory.
"You could tell in his eyes," Watkins said, "that he wanted to do anything just to win."