GAINESVILLE, Fla. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was good early and even better late, enough to help No. 5 Florida snap a six-game losing streak against rival Miami.
Tebow threw two touchdown passes, speedster Percy Harvin ran for a score and the Gators used a swarming defensive effort to beat the Hurricanes 26-3 Saturday night at The Swamp.
It was Florida's first victory since 1985 in the on-again, off-again series that used to be one of the best and most heated in the nation.
The rebuilding Hurricanes (1-1), three-touchdown underdogs, hung close for three quarters with the Gators (2-0), who had averaged more than 40 points at Florida Field with Tebow as the starting quarterback.
Florida struggled against Miami's defense most of the night. The Hurricanes pressured Tebow after every snap, forcing him to scramble and make early, sometimes off-balance throws.
Florida, whose two scores in the first half came off Miami miscues on special teams, led 9-3 to start the fourth quarter. But Tebow, Harvin & Co. finally found their rhythm, putting together consecutive drives of 86 and 95 yards to put the game away.
The Gators took advantage of two favorable calls to score the first of the two late touchdowns. Tebow hooked up with Carl Moore for a 28-yard gain on third-and-9, putting the Gators at the 5-yard line.
Three plays later, on another third down, Miami's Randy Phillips was flagged for pass interference against Harvin. It gave the Gators a first-and-goal at the 2. Harvin took a pitch from Tebow on third down and outran several defenders for the score.
Florida's next drive was the most impressive of the night, a five-play, 95-yarder that sealed the victory. Tebow found Louis Murphy yes, the guy who spouted off about Florida being better suited than Miami to be referred to as "The U" in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard strike.
Jonathan Phillips added a 29-yard field goal with 25 seconds to play for the final score.
The teams likely won't play again until 2013 in Miami.
They used to play every year, but the Gators dropped Miami in 1988 because they wanted to play a "more national schedule." They promptly replaced the Hurricanes with Montana State. Miami fans accused the Gators of pulling out because the Hurricanes were dominating them on field and on the national scene.
Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier wanted to add Miami back to the schedule in 1990, hoping to bolster recruiting efforts in talent-rich Dade County. But with the Southeastern Conference expanding, there was no room.
After a 13-year hiatus, Florida and Miami renewed the rivalry in the 2001 Sugar Bowl and have played a few times since.
But the Gators kept ending up on the losing end.
Florida might not have even scored in the first half had the Hurricanes not made two errors on special teams.
Matt Bosher shanked a punt on the team's opening drive, a 14-yard kick that gave the Gators great field possession. Tebow made easy work of the short field, directing a 35-yard drive on five plays and giving Florida a 7-0 lead with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez.
Miami then sucked the energy out of Florida Field most of the record 90,833 in attendance were clad in orange and blue with a 16-play drive that took 8:42 off the clock and kept Tebow & Co. on the sideline. It ended with a field goal, but gave the Hurricanes plenty of confidence they could play with the Mighty Gators.
Nonetheless, the Gators added to their lead with another special teams blunder. Miami left Jeff Demps, one of the fastest players on the field, to rush unblocked at Bosher on fourth-and-24 at the 10. Demps blocked the punt, and Murphy nearly recovered for a touchdown, but couldn't hang and the ball trickled out of bounds for a safety and a 9-3 advantage.