MIAMI — Percy Harvin hadn't played in a football game in 40 days, not since the Florida receiver injured his right ankle during the Gators' season-ending victory against Florida State back in November.
During the weeks after that triumph against the Seminoles, Harvin watched in tears as his teammates won the Southeastern Conference championship against Alabama, and he watched from the sidelines during his team's practices.
Then, on Thursday night during Florida's 24-14 victory against Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game, Harvin returned and performed as if his ankle had never been damaged in the first place.
Some had wondered how effective he might be, given the long lay off.
They wondered whether Harvin would be rusty — if he'd possess the same breakaway speed that perhaps makes him the most dangerous player in college football. Harvin didn't start, but he answered any doubts about his health on Florida's third offensive play, when he turned a short pass from quarterback Tim Tebow into a 19-yard gain up the right sideline.
Earlier in the week, Tebow had described the importance of simply having Harvin back at practice.
"He's probably the most dynamic player in college football, and just having him back on the practice field I think gives a lot more people more confidence," Tebow had said earlier in the week. "I think it just makes everybody even more excited to know Percy is back, and I think he'll do a lot for our team on Thursday night."
Tebow was right.
Harvin finished the first half both his team's leading rusher (49 yards on three carries) and receiver (45 yards on four catches). Then, in the third quarter, with the game tied at 7, the Gators needed a touchdown.
They had driven to the Oklahoma 2-yard line, where Florida faced a 3rd-and-goal. Tebow handed to Harvin, who moved to his right and crossed through the goal line, putting his team ahead.
The play was an example of Harvin's versatility. He ran for important short gains and broke long runs, too. In the fourth quarter, he broke away for a 52-yard gain that set up Florida's go-ahead field goal — a 28-yarder from Jonathan Phillips with 11 minutes to play.
In the end, after a 40-day absence from competitive football, after hoping for the opportunity to play in this game, Harvin finished with 121 yards rushing on nine carries. Gators Coach Urban Meyer was asked earlier in the week whether it felt like he was getting his weapon back given Harvin's return.
"That's a good way to put it," Meyer had said then.
On Thursday night against Oklahoma, Florida's weapon was back.
Andrew Carter's Chopping Block blog can be read at OrlandoSentinel.com/choppingblock and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times