Florida quarterback Tim Tebow finished with 533 total yards — more than anyone in Bowl Championship Series history.
NEW ORLEANS — Tim Tebow rose above all the distractions caused by coach Urban Meyer’s uncertain future and capped a storied college career with his finest performance.
It was the best in BCS history, too.
Tebow threw for a career-high 482 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 51 yards and another score, and fifth-ranked Florida overwhelmed No. 4 Cincinnati 51-24 Friday night in the Sugar Bowl.
For Tebow and the Gators (13-1), this certainly was The Big Easy.
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Florida’s most anticipated season ever ended in New Orleans instead of Pasadena. It came against Cincinnati (12-1) instead of Texas. It was about redemption instead of perfection.
None of that mattered in the Louisiana Superdome.
Tebow wouldn’t let it. He completed his first 12 passes, led the Gators to scores on their first five possessions and finished with 533 yards — more than anyone in Bowl Championship Series history. He passed former Texas star Vince Young’s record of 467 yards set against USC in the 2005 Rose Bowl.
“This has been the best four years of (my) life,” Tebow said.
“We wanted to ended it on a good note.”
The Bearcats lost their bid for a perfect season and surely will spend the next year listening to questions about whether they belong in the big games against the biggest boys.
Florida, meanwhile, became the first school in the Football Bowl Subdivision to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.
Things got stressful when Meyer announced his resignation last Saturday, three weeks after being rushed to the hospital because of chest pain. Meyer changed his mind the following day, and instead said he would take an indefinite leave of absence.
“I plan on being the coach of the Gators,” Meyer said after Friday’s win.
For Cincinnati, coach Brian Kelly put his team in lame duck mode. Kelly left for Notre Dame after fourth-ranked Cincinnati finished its regular season 12-0. Offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn became the interim coach.
The Bearcats will never know if Kelly calling the plays would have made a difference Friday night. All they know is they didn’t get in the end zone until 4:46 remained in the third quarter, which was far too late.
• Florida cornerback Joe Haden has made a decision about his senior season and the NFL draft, but he wouldn’t reveal it before Friday’s Sugar Bowl. Haden is widely considered college football’s top cornerback and played all season with the most disability insurance he could get from the NCAA. Haden could be part of a mass exodus at Florida that would leave the program’s depth chart as unsettled as its coaching staff.
“That’s all part of a great program,” said offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who will fill in for coach Meyer during his indefinite leave of absence. “With a great program, there’s going to be some change.”
• Cincinnati wore white helmets for the first time since 1966. The helmets were a bowl gift to the players.