First half fervor not enough as Florida pulls away in third, thumps Tennessee
By: John Dunn (Founder/Host/Managing Editor)
All Vol Call in Show
The Tennessee Volunteers took to the Swamp on Saturday, seeking their first win in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 2003. 11th-ranked Florida was coming off of a 31-29 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama, while the Volunteers were coming off of a 56-0 drubbing of Tennessee Tech in Knoxville.
Florida struck first on a 10-play, 66 yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead. Tennessee answered back with a 47-yard screen pass from Hendon Hooker to Tiyon Evans, tying the game at 7-7. On their ensuing possession, the Gators drove 45-yards in 10 plays, settling for a field goal, taking a 10-7 lead.
Following a punt by each team, the Volunteers regained possession. Hooker connected with Javonta Payton as he streaked down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown, giving Tennessee a 14-10 lead. Florida answered with a touchdown two possessions later, taking a 17-14 lead. After a trio of penalties for 30 yards, the Gators were left with good field position, and an opportunity to build on their lead prior to receiving the ball to start the third quarter. However, Alontae Taylor and Aaron Beasley wrangled the ball away from Florida's Jacob Copeland, and recovered a fumble to keep the Gators from capitalizing on quality field position.
What looked like an 11-point swing for the Gators turned into a chance for Tennessee to tie the game at the half. Chase McGrath missed the game-tying field goal as time expired in the first half to leave the score in Florida's favor 17-14 at the half.
Florida came out hot in the third quarter, striking quickly six-play, 78-yard scoring drive that took only 2:39 of game time, taking a 24-14 lead early in the third stanza. Behind the legs of Evans, Small, and Hooker, the Volunteers marched down field, converting on a critical first down on a pass from Hooker to Payton.
Unable to convert another third down, Tennessee was faced with their second 4th-and-5 to go of the drive. Hooker's pass to Calloway was dropped, giving possession back to the Gators. Florida capitalized after holding the Volunteers to nothing, scoring in eight plays, going 70 yards for a touchdown, taking a 31-14 lead with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Tennessee started the fourth quarter faced with a 3rd-and-8 to go, and failed to convert the first down, forcing another punt from the Volunteers. Paxton Brooks pinned the Gators down on their own 10-yard line for their first possession of the fourth quarter, leading 31-14. On their second play of the fourth quarter, Emory Jones darted up field for 49-yards, giving Florida a more comfortable field to work from, no longer pinned against their own end zone. The Volunteers held the Gators out of the end zone, and regained possession.
Later in the fourth quarter, Hooker went out with an injury, allowing Joe Milton III to make his first appearance on the field since the first half of the Pittsburgh game. Tennessee was unable to hit paydirt, giving Florida another opportunity to build on their 17-point lead.
With time dwindling in the game, Florida kept the ball on the ground in an effort to drain the remaining time on the clock. With the victory in hand, the Gators went on to add another rushing touchdown with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game, taking their fifth straight win in the series, 38-14.
Tennessee finished the game with 10 penalties for 85 yards, again setting themselves back at avoidable junctures. Florida finished with 505 yards of total offense, to the Volunteers' 406.