The Florida Gators exploded in the second half to beat the Tennessee Volunteers 37-20, quieting a raucous crowd in Neyland Stadium for good.
Florida rushed for 336 yards on the ground, while QB Jeff Driskel kept defenses in check, making plays with both his arm and his legs.
Similar to last weekend, Gators’ Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn made impressive 2nd half adjustments, as his unit keyed several timely stops in the second half. Tennessee did not score after the midway point of the third quarter.
Play of the Game
With Tennessee ahead 20-13 and the Gators needing a spark, Trey Burton took the shotgun snap, faked a hand-off to Quinton Dunbar, stiff-armed Vols safety Marsalis Teague and sped down the right side 80-yards for a touchdown. Burton’s scamper began a Gators’ run of 24 unanswered points to close out the game.
The Florida H-back did not score on his own. Credit to the Gator offensive linemen James Wilson, Kyle Koehne and fullback Hunter Joyer for giving their back a wide-open running lane In fact, the entire Gator offensive line had a ‘hat’ on a Tennessee defender throughout the play. That’s the physically imposing front Coach Muschamp had envisioned when he arrived in Gainesville.
For the Stat Geeks
Florida outgained the Vols 152 to 5 in the fourth quarter. The game was a 27-20 score heading into the final period.
After Saturday’s win, UF has a 23-11 record in 34 College GameDay appearances, including a 16-7 record on the road. (Via Orlando Sentinel)
Gator Players We Learned About
Offense: QB Jeff Driskel
When Muschamp and Pease were talking about Driskel giving them an added element on offense (over Jacoby Brisset), now Gator Nation understands what those two were talking about.
Driskel had a marquee performance in which he delivered time and time again, finishing with 70 percent passing and two touchdowns. He displayed uncanny sense of calm throughout, zipping accurate passes to receivers even with 300 pound defensive lineman in his face. In addition, he used his mobility to extend plays and showed an accurate arm outside the pocket.
Driskel has now passed two tough road tests with flying colors. He may have some issues when he plays from inside the pocket, but thus far he has been a handful for opposing defenses.
Defense: LB Lerentee McCray
The Gators’ Buck linebacker turn heads in front of a national scene after an impressive showing in Knoxville. Just asked Tyler Bray about McCray.
The Vols quarterback’s had a nightmarish game that had McCray’s fingerprints all over it. Before the final whistle blew, the Ocala product would have an interception and a load of QB hits on the stat sheet.
McCray’s performance shouldn’t surprise the diehard Gator followers; when he arrived in Gainesville five years ago, he was Rivals.com‘s 10th rated linebacker in the country and an U.S. Army All American.
Five years later, college football viewers are taking notice. After Saturday’s performance, McCray was awarded an SEC honorable mention.
Coach: Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease
So much for a lack of creativity. Pease drew up a masterful gameplan in Knoxville, employing a bunch of misdirection plays that kept the Tennessee defense off balance.
When those play-fakes led to long gains, Pease went back to them throughout the second half. Two of Florida’s second-half touchdowns would come from the play-action; Tennessee simply could not adjust.
Numbers and notes that caught my eye this weekend
– When trailing at halftime, Florida was 0-5 last season. This year they are 2-0, with both wins coming on the road
–Gatorsports.com reports that Tennessee invited several top recruits this past weekend to watch from their sideline. For those players choosing between the Gators and the Vols, the tide may have turned to Florida’s favor. Stay tuned.
– The penalty bug bit the Gators hard in first half, with seven penalties for 60 yards. That will continue to be a struggle for the Gator coaching staff going forward.
– Focus will be on offense, but Gators defense deserves as much credit as any for suffocating Tennessee’s passing attack down the stretch. This unit does not thrive off of big plays, but display a bend-don’t-break mentality that will prove to be more sustainable in SEC play.
– If you’re looking for flashy numbers, the defense limited Vols QB Tyler Bray to 50 percent passing on the day. For a passer who is getting a look from NFL scouts, the Gators make him look JUCO in his own stadium.
– Frankie Hammond against Bowling Green and Tennessee: two curl routes, 125 yards, two touchdowns, two daggers.
– Trey Burton ran for over 100 yards and scored twice from the Wildcat set. In Columbus, Urban Meyer is smiling. NFL scouts are too. Aaron Hernandez, anybody?
– The Gator special teams may be one of the nation’s top units, let alone in the SEC. Caleb Sturgis hit three fields goals with ease in Knoxville, included a booming 52-yarder. Sophomore punter Kyle Christy has been equally impressive in his duties as well.
– While Pease has done a miraculous job masking the inefficient receiver group, they need more production than 27 catches in their next three games. Simply baffling numbers from a bunch of four-star recruits and a five-star in Andre Debose.
– The Gators have yet to allow their opponent to score in the fourth quarter all season.
Home against Kentucky, 12:21 PM Kickoff.
Could this SEC contest be an easier game than the opener against Bowling Green? Now that Florida’s offense is no longer in flux, it should. In the past six contests against the Wildcats (all wins), the Gators have scored at least 38 points.
AP Poll: No. 14