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GAME 3: Vols Travel to The Swamp to Face Top-Ranked Florida
Series History: Tennessee and Florida are tied at 19-19 in the all-time series dating to 1916. The Gators own a 9-5 advantage in Gainesville and have won the last two contests there. Florida has won the last four straight overall.
Last Meeting: Tennessee spotted the Gators 17 points in the first quarter and never recovered en route to a 30-6 loss in Knoxville last season. The Vols actually outgained the Gators in total offense 258-243 but committed three turnovers.
SEC Openers: Tennessee is 33-39-3 in SEC openers dating to 1933. The Vols are 8-9 since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 1992. The Gators have been UT's SEC opener every season since 1996 with the exception of 2001 when the game was moved because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On the Road: Tennessee is an even 8-8 in its first SEC road contest each season since conference expansion in 1992. The Vols last won their first road conference game in 2004.
Vs. No. 1: Tennessee is 2-5 all-time vs. teams ranked atop the Associated Press Poll. This is the third time the Vols have taken on the No. 1-ranked Gators (0-2).
Division Decider: The two programs have combined to represent the SEC Eastern Division in the league title game 14 of a possible 17 times. The winner of the UT-UF game has represented the SEC East in the conference title game 10 of 17 years.
On Sept. 19: Tennessee is 5-0 all-time on Sept. 19 and is 2-0 vs. Florida. The Vols last played in this date in 1998, a 20-17 overtime win over the Gators.
On CBS, as Usual: Tennessee and Florida have seen their annual contest aired on CBS every season since 1996, when the two schools became each other's SEC opener on a regular basis.
A win would: A win would be Tennessee's first over the Gators since 2004.
A loss would: A loss would give Florida the all-time series lead for the first time in the history of the matchup at 20-19.
Listen to the Vol Network on StadiumCast: 89.7 FM
The Vol Network "StadiumCast" dial position for Tennessee's game versus the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday will be 89.7 on the FM dial. Fans attending the game can tune into the Vol Network broadcast at the stadium by bringing a portable radio and tuning in to that channel. The "Kickoff Call-In Show" with Bob Kesling, Tim Priest, Mike Stowell and John Wilkerson begins Vol Network coverage Saturday at 2 p.m. EASTERN / 1 p.m. CENTRAL.
Through Changes, UT Defense Remains Stout
Tennessee's defense looks different in a number of areas this season than it did in 2008. The Vols finished last season tied for third in total defense, fourth in pass defense, 12th in rushing defense and 10th in scoring defense.
Through two games, the 2009 Vols rank third in total defense, third in pass defense, 20th in rushing defense and 27th in scoring defense, even with these differences from the 2008 unit.
The Vols have a different coordinator, albeit a legendary one, in former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive guru Monte Kiffin.
Tennessee returns just five full-time starters from the 2008 squad.
Two defensive starters are playing different positions than in 2008. Gerald Williams moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, and Wes Brown moved from defensive end to defensive tackle.
Two true freshmen either start or see significant playing time in safety Janzen Jackson and defensive tackle Montori Hughes.
Berry's Stardom Began with Tebow Pick
Tennessee's junior safety Eric Berry is already one of the most decorated players in UT history. The 2007 Freshman All-America and 2008 Unanimous All-America selection arrived in Knoxville as a very highly-touted prospect, but burst into the national conscience with a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown off of UF signal caller Tim Tebow at Florida in 2007.
Since then, Berry has picked an additional 11 passes and returned them for UT and Southeastern Conference record 487 yards. He stands just 15 yards shy of the NCAA career record held by Terrell Buckley of Florida State.
Berry played very few snaps in the season opener, but led the team in tackles with 10, including one for a loss, vs. UCLA.
Hardesty Making Most of Feature Opportunity
Senior tailback Montario Hardesty is finally the feature back in Tennessee's offense after three seasons as a backup, splitting time or goal-line performer. In his starts vs. Western Kentucky and UCLA, he has rushed for the two highest single-game totals in his career at 160 vs. WKU and 89 vs. UCLA.
He is averaging 5.6 yards per carry through two games and has scored two touchdowns. His 43-yard TD scamper vs. Western Kentucky was a career-long run. He currently
ranks 11th in the nation and third in the SEC in rushing yards per game.
The New Bern, N.C., native rushed for 1,046 yards in his first three seasons and worked primarily as a goalline back in 2008, scoring six touchdowns.
Brown Continues to Impress
Complimenting senior tailback Montario Hardesty in the UT backfield is true freshman Bryce Brown, who signed with Tennessee as the No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation in the 2009 class.
Through two games, Brown has carried 22 times for 138 yards and one touchdown. He has also demonstrated a willingness to find contact, leveling several bruising hits on defenders in both the Western Kentucky and UCLA games.
In the WKU game, Brown and fellow true freshman tailback David Oku became the first freshmen runners to score a touchdown in their debut since Aaron Hayden and James Stewart did so vs. Louisville in 1991. Brown ranks ninth in the NCAA among freshman backs at 69.0 yards per game.
Hancock Showing Consistency at WR
Senior wideout Quintin Hancock has proven through two games to be the most consistent of Tennessee's wide receivers. He has caught 10 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown after not catching a pass in all of 2008. His 65 receiving yards vs. Western Kentucky were a career high.
The St. Augustine, Fla., native has equaled his career high for catches in both games with five grabs in each contest. He also caught five passes vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007. He and tight end Luke Stocker are the only Vols to catch multiple passes in both of this season's games.
Tracking The True Freshmen
Tennessee played 11 true freshmen in its season opener vs. Western Kentucky and eight in the UCLA game. Among those freshmen in both games were offensive standouts Bryce Brown, David Oku, Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague.
The four newcomers have combined for four touchdowns and five plays of 20 yards or longer. The all-purpose yardage tally for the group is at 437 yards. In addition to their offensive duties, Oku returns kickoffs along with Dennis Rogan and Richardson returns punts.
Lincoln Seeking Old Self
After starting off the 2008 season a shaky one-of-four in field goal attempts, UT placekicker Daniel Lincoln has hit four of his last five dating back to the 2008 Vanderbilt game.
Lincoln's two field goals against UCLA move him into a tie for seventh on the UT career field goals list with 33 conversions. He needs just two more makes to move
alone into sixth.
With his two kicks against the Bruins, Lincoln now has 12 multiple field goal games in his career.
The Ocala, Fla., native earned All-America honors in 2007 after converting 21 of 28 field goal attempts and scoring a school record 112 points. He converted 10 of 18
attempts in 2008 and had two multiple-miss games.
Kiffin's Defense Strong Through Two Games
Through two contests, the Tennessee defense ranks statistically among the best in the Southeastern Conference and the nation.
In the season opener vs. WKU, Monte Kiffin's defense allowed 83 yards of total offense and posted 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
WKU's 34 rushing yards were the fewest since UT allowed Vanderbilt just 25 yards in 2008. WKU's 49 passing yards were the fewest allowed by UT since South Carolina threw for just 45 yards in 2002. Tennessee had not held an opponent to fewer than 100 total yards since Arkansas gained just 92 yards in 2001.
In the UCLA contest, the Vols did not allow the Bruins a first down on six of 13 possessions and added another five tackles for loss and two sacks.
Tennessee has allowed just four third-down conversions in 25 attempts this season, which ranks fifth nationally.
Defense Relying on New Faces
UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin certainly has leadership and experience he can depend on within his unit. The Vols, however, are also relying heavily on a number of players who have not contributed in past seasons or are new to the program.
The UT participation report from the UCLA game noted six new starters and an additional 10 backups who had not previously played significant snaps in their careers.
Among those 16 players, 10 are either true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
Defensive Line Making Plays
The UT defensive line was expected to be somewhat of a question mark entering the 2009 season, but through two games, the Vols are among the national leaders in sacks and tackles for loss.
Tennessee's seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss rank in the top 20 nationally. The defensive line is responsible for 7.5 of the TFLs and five of the seven sacks.
The unit features seniors Dan Williams and Wes Brown inside along with juniors Chris Walker and Ben Martin and junior Gerald Williams on the ends. Freshmen Montori Hughes and Willie Bohannon along with senior Andre Mathis provide depth in the group.
Cunningham Takes Over Punting Duties
For the first time since 2000, Tennessee entered a football season without a Colquitt on the roster and handling the punting duties. Replacing the departed Britton Colquitt in 2009 is Chad Cunningham, who handled the punting duties for five games in 2008 while Colquitt served a suspension.
After not having to punt in the season opener, Cunningham kicked three times for a 49.7-yard average, which the best single game average of his career. He also connected on a 57-yard boot, which tied a career long (at Auburn, 2008).
Vols Playing No. 1 for Eighth Time
In its 100 plus-year history, Tennessee has been involved in seven contests in which the Vols' opponent was ranked No. 1 in the country. UT has a 2-6 all-time record when playing the nation's top-ranked team.
The most recent game between Tennessee and the No. 1 rated team was against Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 9, 2002, in Knoxville. The Vols' two victories against a No. 1 team have come against Southeastern Conference foes.
Tennessee, ranked No. 13, edged Louisiana State 14-13 Nov. 7, 1959, in Knoxville, to knock the Tigers out of the top spot. On Sept. 28, 1985, the Vols, 0-0-1 and unranked at the time, soundly defeated top-rated Auburn 38-20 in Knoxville.
|Date ||Winner ||Loser
|Nov. 7, 1959 ||(13) UT 14 ||(1) LSU 13
|Oct. 20, 1979 ||(1) Alabama 27 ||(NR) UT 17
|Oct. 18, 1980 ||(1) Alabama 27 ||(NR) UT 0
|Sept. 28, 1985 ||(NR) UT 38 ||(1) Auburn 20
|Nov. 10, 1990 ||(1) NotreDame 34 ||(9) UT 29
|Sept. 17, 1994 ||(1) Florida 31 ||(14) UT 0
|Sept. 20, 1997 ||(1) Florida 33 ||(4) UT 20
|Nov. 9, 2002 ||(1) Miami ||26 (NR) UT 3