ARI SHAPIRO, host:
For the second time in three years, the University of Florida has won the college football national championship. Last night in Miami, the Gators beat the Oklahoma Sooners 24 to 14. The title game matches the top two nationally ranked teams, but as NPR's Tom Goldman reports, the marquee matchup didn't quite live up to expectations.
TOM GOLDMAN: Nothing like a fight song to get you going.
(Soundbite of football game broadcast)
(Soundbite of University of Florida Gators fight song)
GOLDMAN: Not that anyone in packed Dolphin stadium last night needed extra motivation. This game was a guaranteed doozy. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks on each team - Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won it this season; Florida's Tim Tebow was the 2007 winner - a Sooners offense that scored more points than any team in history, including at least 60 points in each of Oklahoma's last five games. So, deep breath with the opening kickoff and...
(Soundbite of raspberry)
GOLDMAN: A bit of a clunker. Low-scoring interceptions, penalties; the game's rhythm was choppy. Tebow, his voice strained from screaming over the stadium din, admitted it wasn't a thing of art.
Mr. TIM TEBOW (Quarterback, University of Florida Gators): You know, you see in that game, it was not great execution; it was not great by me, as far as execution, but our team played with a lot of heart. And they played for four quarters, really, really hard, and that's why we won.
(Soundbite of crowd cheering)
GOLDMAN: The Gators also won because they had Tebow. His clinching touchdown pass with a few minutes left in the game looked more like a jump shot in basketball. It was vintage Tebow, who is probably the most resourceful quarterback in college football. He jump-passes, shovel-passes, just gets the ball in someone's hands anyway he can. He also runs with the ball like a bull. He was named the game's most outstanding player, and - here's a first - Tebow, the son of missionary parents and a devoutly religious young man who takes the message of God to the poor, was penalized at the end of the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Mr. TEBOW: You know, I'm not a trash-talker. I didn't say anything, but yeah, I did the Gator chomp. I was pretty excited. And you know, we had hurt a lot all game. Just gave it a little Gator chomp. It was also for the fans. I think they kind of enjoyed it, too.
GOLDMAN: No doubt the thousands of orange-and-blue clad Florida fans loved Tebow's Gator chomp, with both arms moving like an alligator's jaws. Earlier this week, an Oklahoma defensive back trashed Tebow and said he'd be only the fourth best quarterback in Oklahoma's big 12th conference. Florida star linebacker, Brandon Spikes, who did some pre-game trash-talking himself, said the Sooner's abuse continued last night.
Mr. BRANDON SPIKES (Linebacker, University of Florida Gators): Just doing all kind of dirty stuff, you know, just poking your eyes, just pushing your head down. You know, it's something - it wasn't nothing we weren't used to, but we just felt like, hey, the referee should've seen this (unintelligible). I felt like they weren't calling some of the stuff they needed to, but hey, we came out; you know, the best team won.
GOLDMAN: But does that mean Florida really is the best of all? Polls and BCS rankings may say so, but a big chunk of football fans in this country still say, don't even bug me about national champions until there's a playoff. Too many good teams, they say, like USC, Utah, Texas were left out of the championship equation. So, what does number one really mean? Today, at least in South Florida, it means one big Gator chomp. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Miami.
(Soundbite of music)
SHAPIRO: This is NPR News.
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