By: Zack Troutt
Junior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
This Saturday’s matchup will mark the 52nd time that the Tennessee Volunteers have shared the field with the Florida Gators. In recent history, Tennessee hasn’t had a lot of success against their Eastern division rival losing 15 out of the last 16 meetings with their last win coming in 2016. With that being said, the 11th-ranked Vols are poised to break the five- year losing streak and start one of their own. There have been a lot of memorable games between these two teams since their first matchup in 1916 and every win over Florida is a big deal to Tennessee fans. So here are my top five Tennessee victories over Florida.
5. 1990: The Beat Down
There are two reasons why this is one of my favorite wins over Florida: this was the year I was born, and it is the largest margin of victory in the series. This was also the year that Steve Spurrier returned to his alma mater to become the head coach of the Gators. Another important note from this game is this was the first time the teams played each other while both being ranked in the AP top-10. The 5th-ranked Vols held a slim 7-3 lead over 9th-ranked Gators going into the third quarter but exploded in the second half to win 45-3.
4. 2003: Drain the Swamp
This year marked the last time Tennessee beat Florida in Gainesville. Casey Clausen had a subpar day only completing 52.2% of his passes, but he did just enough to set up two second half Jabari Davis rushing touchdowns. Florida’s head coach, Ron Zook, took a page out of Tennessee’s play book and tried to beat the Vols on the ground, but he did not prevail. The turning point in this game was late in the second quarter when Florida held a 3-0 lead. Zook decided he was good at taking the game into halftime, so he settled on running the clock out. Tennessee called a timeout with 40-seconds left in the half and forced Florida to punt. On the first play after the punt, Clausen threw a deep pass that was knocked around by a couple of Gators and eventually fell into the hands of Vols QB/WR James Banks who then ran it in for the score. Tennessee would then go on to win 24-10.
3. 2004: The Kick
A year after the Vols beat the Gators on their own turf, Florida was looking to return the favor. I hold this game near to my heart. This was the first game I attended and man what a first it was. This was a roller coaster of a game with twists, turns, ups and downs with the biggest coming late in the game. With 3:25 left in the 4th quarter, Tennessee’s Erik Ainge completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jayson Swain to put the game within 1. They just needed the extra point to tie the game. James Wilhoit lined up the kick but pushed it right and Florida remained in the lead 28-27. On the ensuing drive, Tennessee’s defense stepped up and forced the Gators to punt. The Vols marched down the field to set up a 50-yard field goal attempt. Wilhoit gathers himself and nails the game winning kick right down the middle with the final score being Tennessee 30 Florida 28.
2. 2016: Ducks Pulling Trucks
If you look back at the 2015 season, you’ll notice a trend. It seemed like every big game Tennessee played they would build a lead in the first half only to give it right back in the second. It was just the opposite in 2016. The Vols seemed to trail every team in the first quarter or half but would eventually mount a comeback. Tennessee was down 21-3 at the half to Florida and their top-ranked defense and it seemed like the losing streak would continue. Insert Josh Dobbs. The Vols QB put on a show in the second half including a 67-yard touchdown to Jauan Jennings that took the lead 24-21. Tennessee would go on to beat the Gators 38-28 behind Dobbs who accounted for five touchdowns in the second half.
1998: Pandemonium Reigns
My favorite Tennessee victory over Florida goes to the 1998 season. This is the game that really piqued my football interest at a young age. I remember vividly sitting at home watching this game with my mom whilst my dad, who cared nothing about football and is one of the only people that’s fallen asleep at Neyland during a game, wears a Gators tee-shirt just to get under her skin. Fulmer had yet to beat Florida as the head coach of Tennessee and his team was supposedly in a rebuilding year. I could see how much this game meant to my mom. She looked so intense and focused on every snap. We watched the Vols defense recover four fumbles and stop Florida’s run game which netted -13 yards. The game goes into overtime with the teams tied 17-17. Tennessee’s offense stalled and they settled for a field goal. Now, it’s Florida’s turn. The defense stood tall and forced the Gators to a field goal try of their own. My mom is standing on the couch, hoping for a miracle. “The kick is in the air and the kick this time is……NO SIREE…NO SIREE…FINAL SCORE. TENNESSEE 20, FLORIDA 17! PANDEMONIUM REIGNS!!!”