Sept. 19, 2013
Each Thursday, Brian Rice will take a look back at the Lowe's #DefiningMoments. Two years after ending a long losing streak in Gainesville, Casey Clausen led another Vol victory, sparked by a long throw and a great catch.
By Brian Rice
Two years after leading the band following the Volunteers' first win in Gainesville since 1971, Casey Clausen returned to the scene of his biggest win as a Tennessee quarterback looking for a repeat.
In the week leading up to the game, Florida offensive lineman Max Starks said that the team had taken offense to Clausen's turn atop the band ladder two years earlier and promised he wouldn't have the opportunity again. Through the first 29 minutes of the first half, the UF defense had backed up those words.
It had been a long day for the offense as time ticked away in the opening half. After a Tennessee three-and-out, Florida drove the field, opening the scoring with a 49-yard field goal with 9:26 left in the first quarter. Four Dustin Colquitt punts and a pair of UT turnovers had ended the first six UT drives.
Colquitt's fourth punt of the half gave Florida possession at its own 20, where the Gators were poised to sit on a 3-0 lead and go to the locker room ready to receive the second half kickoff. But DeShawn Wynn popped the first play up the middle for seven yards, prompting Florida coach Ron Zook to call a timeout to get his team set for a quick drive. Quarterback Ingle Martin misfired on a pass attempt on second down and UT called a quick timeout after Ran Carthon failed to pick up the first down on a run a moment later.
Rashad Baker returned the ensuing punt 16 yards to the UT 39. A screen pass from Clausen to Cedric Houston put UT at midfield. After a spike stopped the clock with 0:04 left, Clausen stepped up in the pocket and heaved the ball 48 yards into the endzone. Two Gator defenders converged on receiver Tony Brown, and the ball popped high off of the hands of the three men and right into the waiting grasp of James Banks.
"That's one of those plays you work on all the time," said Banks of what was the longest reception of his career to that point. "You never think you're going to run it, or that it's going to work."
Not only did it work, the play gave Tennessee a lead it would not surrender.
Florida couldn't pick up a first down on its opening possession of the second half. Tennessee got the ball near midfield after the UF punt, but moved the ball just 18 yards. 18 was just enough for James Wilhoit, whose 51-yard field goal put the Vols up 10-3.
The teams traded punts over the next three possessions before UT took over at its own 20 with 4:35 to go in the third. After successful runs from Jabari Davis and Corey Larkins, Clausen hit Bret Smith for a 52-yard gain that was stopped just short of the goal line. Davis rumbled up the middle one yard to paydirt, scoring a touchdown against the Gators for the third-straight year.
Florida answered with a 10-play, 77-yard drive covering just 2:10 to pull within seven at 17-10 with 14:00 left in the game. But Tennessee answered right back. The Volunteers went 77 yards in 11 plays, mostly on the ground, to chew up 5:22 of clock time. Davis finished off the drive with runs of 20, 6 and 9 yards to give UT the 24-10 lead.
From there, the UT defense stepped up to put the game away. Jason Allen intercepted a Chris Leak pass on the next UF possession. A Colquitt punt pinned Florida at their own 6 minutes later. Martin returned at QB and led the Gators down the field, but his 4th down pass at the UT 17 fell to the turf, giving the ball back to UT. A Davis fumble two plays later gave UF the ball at the UT 16, but three incomplete passes from Martin ended the threat, giving UT its first back-to-back wins in the Swamp since 1955-71.
Clausen finished 12-for-23 for 235 yards and improved to 11-0 as a starter on the road at Tennessee. And he had one more mountain to climb: Back to the top of the band director's ladder.
"Don't doubt us," Clausen said. "Don't tell us we can't do something. If you do that you are going to make us go even harder."
One other note from the game, it was the 600th-consecutive contest attended by the Tennessee Athletic Department's Gus Manning, a streak that began in 1951.