Sept. 18, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- There was a different quarterback taking snaps for Florida and a new coach on Tennessee's sideline. The result was still the same. The 10th-ranked Gators beat the Volunteers 31-17 on Saturday for their sixth consecutive win in the 40-game series between bitter Southeastern Conference rivals. It's the first time they've won three straight in Knoxville after having chances to do so in 1990, 1998 and 2004.
"I'm very proud of our guys to come on the road and win in the SEC," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "That's something we'll never take for granted." There was no Tim Tebow leading the Gators (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), and they still seem to be missing him. They played sluggishly early as they've done all season and had only 94 yards of offense at halftime.
Tennessee (1-2, 0-1) tied the game at 10 with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Matt Simms to Denarius Moore with 8:59 in the third quarter. Simms completed 19 of 31 for two touchdowns and a pair of turnovers.
Florida appeared beat on the next drive until Meyer called for a fake punt on fourth-and-6. Omarius Hines ran 36 yards to keep the drive alive, and John Brantley eventually connected with Frankie Hammond on a 7-yard touchdown pass.
"It really shifted the momentum," Hines said. "We really needed it. It's all going to come together soon. We're going to get better on our first-half game." Brantley, who was making his first road start, stayed on his feet the entire game and completed 14 of 23 for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Jeremy Brown picked off a pass by Simms on third-and-6 at the Tennessee 40, which set up Gillislee's second touchdown that gave the Gators a 24-10 lead just before the end of the third quarter.
The Vols, who were hosting a second AP top 10 team in as many weeks, had found themselves in a similar situation a week earlier against Oregon and unraveled. They seemed on the verge of a meltdown again when Simms appeared to be sacked in the end zone for a safety, but an official review ruled him down on the 1. Tennessee punted but got the ball back when coach Derek Dooley challenged a run by Jeff Demps, insisting the Florida track star had fumbled. The officials agreed, and the Vols answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Simms to Justin Hunter on fourth-and-6 to cut Florida's lead to 24-17 with a 11:24 left.
Dooley, who was facing the Gators for the first time as head coach, said that's the kind of reaction he expects from a team that hasn't done much to prove it can fight back from adversity.
"We should do that. I'm proud of them for that, but we should do that every game," Dooley said. "All that does is give you a chance, and it proved out." It also didn't last very long.
Florida responded with Trey Burton's 2-yard touchdown run that iced the Vols, who allowed two more big sacks on Simms and turned the ball over with a fumble by Tauren Poole. Poole, who entered the game leading the SEC in rushing, was held to 27 yards.
Demps, who had only 17 yards rushing at halftime, finished with 73. Before halftime, Florida looked like the team that struggled against Miami (Ohio) and in the first half against South Florida.
Mike Pouncey mishandled several snaps. One overshot Brantley in the shotgun and resulted in fourth-and-28 after Brantley fell on the ball 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Florida was twice flagged for illegal formation . "My offensive line stayed in the game all the way," Brantley said hoarsely after trying to scream over the crowd of 102,455. "I didn't always get the ball where I needed it, but we've got a great offense, and I really trust these guys."
Tennessee scored first for the first time against Florida since 2001 when Daniel Lincoln kicked a late first-quarter 49-yard field goal, tying his career high. But the Vols had their own struggles. After recovering a fumbled punt return by Janoris Jenkins at the Florida 21, the Vols drove 18 yards but missed a chance to score when Jonathan Bostic picked off a pass by Simms thrown into double coverage in the end zone.
Tennessee was flagged nine times for 54 yards -- almost twice as much as Florida -- and mostly on simple false start and offsides penalties. "I'm extremely upset right now at myself, and we're all upset," Simms said. "We let them go tonight, and I hope they know that. We definitely could have won that game."