Florida: 47 Tennessee: 21
Knoxville, TN – The Florida Gators made a big statement on Saturday night with a win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. The game marked only the second time in the series’ history that both schools were being led by first year head coaches. The win signifies that Florida is further along in rebuilding their program and that the team is beginning to accept the new culture.
This game was a must win for two programs who find themselves in very similar places. Both teams entered the game just one week shy of a year since last defeating a Power 5 opponent. Both are rebounding from 4 win seasons and both were seeking their first SEC win of the season.
After tonight, Tennessee is now 0 for their last 9 against SEC opposition. Florida dropped their first conference game to a Kentucky team that they had beaten 31 consecutive times before. It should be noted that Kentucky may actually be a player in the race for the East this year as they defeated Mississippi State 28-7.
1st Quarter: Florida 14 Tennessee 0
Florida wasted no time in letting the Vols know exactly how things were going to go on Rocky Top. They were relentless on defense and in special teams, consistently putting the offense in favorable conditions on their way to scoring more points than any Gators team ever had in Knoxville.
After receiving the opening kick, the Florida offense went to work. They picked up first downs on consecutive plays before eventually punting it away. Just 6 plays later, Jachai Polite sacked Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble that was recovered by David Reese.
The turnover set up an easy touchdown pass to R.J. Raymond and gave Florida the early momentum. Three plays into Tennessee’s next possession, Guarantano threw an interception giving the Gators the ball on UT’s 7 yard line. Feleipe Franks called his own number and found his way into the endzone putting the Gators up 14-0.
Franks: 9/18, 172 YD 3 TD
K.Trask: 1/1, 14 YD
Guarantano: 7/18, 164 YD 2 INT
Chryst: 3/7, 44 YD
2nd Quarter: Florida 12 Tennessee 3
With the first quarter in the books, Tennessee pressed on against a “bend but don’t break” defense only to settle for a 32 yard Brent Cimaglia field goal. With the fans slightly back in the mix, Florida stalled on the ensuing possession and called on Johnny Townsend to provide their next spark.
A booming punt was downed on the Volunteer’s 1 yard line, pinning them down against an aggressive defensive front. After losing a yard on their first play from scrimmage, CeCe Jefferson would wrap up Tim Jordan in the backfield for a safety.
After receiving the kickoff, Feleipe Franks and the offense went back to work and they worked quickly. Franks found Freddie Swain on the sideline and Swain did the rest. He burned through Tennessee’s defensive backs for a 65 yard touchdown on the first and only play of the drive.
On Tennessee’s following possession, Jeremy Pruitt opted to go for it on fourth and one. Jarrett Guarantano found Austin Pope all alone and streaking down the sideline. C.J. Henderson came across the field in pursuit and laid a touchdown saving hit.
After a 54 yard catch and run, Pope fumbled through the back of the endzone for a touchback. At this moment, you could feel all of the air being let out of the stadium.
Florida finished off the first half with a 25 yard Evan McPherson field goal and took a 26-3 halftime lead.
Swain: 2 REC, 88 YD 1 TD
Cleveland: 2 REC, 43 YD 1 TD
Callaway: 2 REC, 61 YD
Jennings: 4 REC, 60 YD
3rd Quarter: Florida 7 Tennessee 10
The third quarter opened with Tennessee receiving. Shawn Shamburger bobbled the kick in the endzone before scooping it up, returning it 19 yards, and then fumbling it again. The Gators pounced on the opportunity and one play later led the Vols, 33-3 by way of a 19 yard Jordan Scarlett touchdown.
At this point, the first wave of Tennessee fans began towards the exits. This would prove to be a theme throughout the second half and by midway through the fourth, only a faithful few remained amongst the rowdy Gators fans in attendance.
Tennessee did manage to put points on the board but anything they did would be too little, too late. Brent Cimaglia added 3 more on a 41 yard field goal and Madre London finally ended Tennessee’s touchdown drought with a 1 yard run that came on 3rd and goal. A pass interference call gave Tennessee a second set of downs to score from 4 yards out on that possession.
Scarlett: 11 CAR, 77 YD 1 TD
Pierce: 7 CAR, 63 YD 1 TD
Franks: 9 CAR, 11 YD 1 TD
London: 11 CAR, 66 YD 1 TD
Chandler: 19 CAR, 66 YD
Banks: 8 CAR, 25 YD 1 TD
4th Quarter: Florida 14 Tennessee 8
Just because they were up big didn’t mean that Dan Mullen was going to let off of the gas and he showed that by dialing up a beautiful passing play that saw Franks connect with Tyrie Cleveland for a 38 yard touchdown. Cleveland leaped over a defender to haul in the pass and drive the dagger into Smokey’s heart.
With only mop up duty to go, Tennessee hit paydirt once again. This time, on the back of Jeremy Banks from 2 yards out. At this point, it was time for Kyle Trask to come in and finish the game. He only had one passing attempt but it was good for a fourteen yard gain.
The rest of his time was spent feeding Dameon Pierce. Pierce has become a homerun threat everytime he touches the ball. He would electrify Gators fans once again as he ripped off a 47 touchdown run to give the Gators a 47-21 lead and close out the scoring.
With the win, Florida has proven that they can go into enemy territory and get the win. In each of the last two games, the Gators have relied heavily on a much improved defense and the best special teams play that has been seen in Gainesville since the Urban Meyer days.
Dan Mullen has this team on the right track and though they are still far from perfect, they have improved each and every week. They will need to continue that effort this week as they prepare to face Mullen’s previous team in Starkville.
Time of Possession
East Standings Conference-Overall
Georgia 2-0 4-0
Kentucky 2-0 4-0
Florida 1-1 3-1
South Carolina 1-1 2-1
Mizzou 0-1 3-1
Vandy 0-1 2-2
Tennessee 0-1 2-2
Florida takes on Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville at 6:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Be sure to follow the action on the ChompTalk.com Facebook and Twitter accounts too!