LATER, GATOR: (11)Tennessee defeats (20)Florida for the first time since 2016, improves to 4-0
By: John Dunn
Founder, Managing Editor, Host
The All Vol Call in Show
The (11)Tennessee Volunteers played host to the (20)Florida Gators on Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The Gators took 16 of the last 17 matchups, with the last Vols win coming in 2016. This was also the first time both teams came into the annual meeting ranked since 2016.
Florida started with a promising drive that was halted by a critical 4th-and-2 stop by Tennessee with the Gators deep in Vols territory. Tennessee suffered a similar fate, as its first drive was halted by a fumble from Princeton Fant.
On the ensuing drive, Florida again failed to get points on the board; stalling out with a missed field goal from 51-yards out.
Tennessee would not be denied on its second chance with the ball. The Vols struck first on a 25-yard field goal from Chase McGrath to take an early 3-0 lead over the Gators.
However, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson connected on his first touchdown pass of the season on the ensuing Gators' drive.
Not to be outdone, Hendon Hooker drove the Vols down the field for their first score of the game, scampering into the end zone from 6-yards out, giving Tennessee the lead, 10-7, early in the second quarter.
The game started to get more interesting in the second quarter. Florida score another touchdown to regain the lead, 14-10. They held the Vols and regained possession. However, Tennessee held them to a three-and-out. A nice punt by Florida pinned Tennessee at its own 1-yard line.
Needing 99-yards to regain the lead, the Vols got a massive chunk of that on a spectacular lay-out catch by Ramel Keyton. A few plays later Tennessee regained the lead as Hendon Hooker pranced into the end zone, 17-14, which the Vols held at the half.
Tennessee opened the second half on offense. What looked like a touchdown by Hooker was called back on a hold. On the ensuing play, Hooker connected with Jabari Small in the flat, and Small did the rest, scampering across the goal line for six, extending Tennessee's lead to 24-14 with 12:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Florida answered back with a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Richardson with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter, drawing the Gators back to within striking distance, 24-21.
When it seemed that Tennessee would be deflated, Hooker busted out a 44-yard run down the left sideline, setting the Vols up with great field position in the red zone. On the following play, Fant got his redemption from the first drive fumble, catching a pass and taking it to the 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Small appeared to break the plane for the score. Following a lengthy review which included Florida head coach Billy Napier being assessed with an unsportsmanlike conduct pentaly. The play on the field stood, but the penalty gave the Vols a fresh set of downs, mere inches away from the goal line. Small left no question of whether he scored on the next play, extending the Tennessee lead to 31-21 with 3:58 remaining before the final frame.
I'm an attempt to bleed the clock as much as possible, Florida stuck to the ground game. Unfortunately for the Gators, they coughed up the ball on the Tennessee 13-yard line, giving the Vols possession, leading 31-21 with 12:34 remaining in the game.
On the very next play, Hooker connected with Bru McCoy for a big gain, giving the Vols favorable field position early in the drive. Surgically and methodically, Tennessee continued its march down the field, capping the drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Jaylen Wright. Following the XP, Tennessee's lead swelled to 38-21 with only 7:55 remaining in the game.
It was becoming evident that Tennessee was going to defeat Florida for the first time since 2016, and improve to 4-0 for the first time since that same year.
In a desperate attempt to get back into the game before it was too late (even though it already was), the Florida offense got back to work. The Gators worked into the end zone with 4:49 remaining, but failed the following 2-pt conversion, leaving the Vols in favor 38-27.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by McCoy for Tennessee, leaving the Vols with favorable field possession, leading by 11 with 4:47 remaining.
In an attempt to milk the clock all the way down, Tennessee stuck with the running game for the remainder of the contest. Florida reassumed possession of the ball. The Vols' defense went back to work for the last time in the final minute of the game. The Gators were able to add another touchdown in garbage time, bringing the score to 38-33 with :17 seconds remaining.
Florida recovered the onside kick, scaring Neyland Stadium to death. However, Tennessee's defense held, allowing the Vols to claim victory over Florida for the first time since 2016. With the win, the Vols improved to 4-0 for the first time since that same year.
Tennessee will travel to Death Valley following a much needed BYE week to take on the LSU Tigers on Oct. 8.