Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tebow vs. LSU: 2006 (The Jump Pass)

The Jump Pass.

That sort of says it all, doesn't it?

For Tim Tebow, the 2006 LSU game was a coming-out party. Prior to that, he had a few moments -- notably the win-influencing (if not precisely game-winning) 4th-down conversion against Tennessee -- but nothing mythological.

Tebow had only 11 plays, but -- oh -- what plays: He was 2/2 passing... with 2 TDs. And he had 9 carries for 35 yards (a respectable 3.9 ypc given that LSU's defense was very good and they knew Tebow would be running) and a rushing TD that tied the score 7-7 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The jump pass came with just seconds to play in the 2nd quarter. The score was still 7-7. Behind Chris Leak, Florida had driven 7 plays, from their own 28 to LSU's 14 (after a UF false-start penalty). Two LSU penalties later, the Gators were on LSU's 4...

Tebow Time.

Tebow plunged through the pile 3 yards, setting up 2nd and goal from LSU's 1, with 28 seconds to play. Then, with the half about to end, Tebow lined up again, with the assumption by everyone -- most of all, by LSU, that Urban would bet on a Tebow plunge.

Instead, Tebow hesitated, faked and went up the air. He double-clutched -- like a basketball shot, I remember Verne Lundquist saying immediately -- and the ball found Tate Casey, who fell backwards like a toddler, gripping the ball like it was the first catch of his life.

The legend of the "Jump Pass" was created. Here's the video (it's blurry, but homemade, which makes it a lot more exciting than the standard TV clip):



The Gators would use the win as a springboard. Despite losing at Auburn one week later -- how deflating! -- Florida would sprint through the SEC title game and into their first national title of the Tebow Era.

Kirk Herbstreit had one of the best Tebow-related quotes ever, which he relayed in the preseason when he was doing his GameDay media tour. He discussed his first trip in person to see Tebow, at The Swamp for the LSU game. And he recounted that Tebow got more crowd support than anyone -- and it was loud:

"I said to (Chris) Fowler it’s like he's Roy Hobbs from the movie 'The Natural.'"

Agreed.

If my infatuation with Tim Tebow didn't come on his very first play as a Gator -- and I would argue its genesis was his first carry in the first game (a TD against Southern Miss in the season-opener) -- the Jump Pass was the moment when I and everyone else were overwhelmed by Tebow Mania. It was his 5th game ever.

To Herbie's point, Malamud's fictional "The Natural" is probably the closest thing to the real-life Tebow myth. (Roy Hobbs and Tim Tebow aren't precise analogies, but they remain appropriate: Both are idealized "naturals" in their given sports.

The only difference: Tebow is real. LSU's senior class -- the ones on the field and the sidelines at The Swamp in 2006 -- would know that better than anyone.

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