Rapid Reaction: Florida pulls away for another win over Tennessee
The Florida Gators needed a bit of time on Saturday to shake the Tennessee Volunteers at The Swamp.
Just like the previous week, UF owned the second half. This time that was plenty for victory.
Florida, which entered the game ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll, pulled away in the third quarter for its 16th victory over the Vols in the past 17 meetings, winning 38-14 in Gainesville.
UF recovered from any lingering disappointment after the previous week’s game when the Gators almost erased a 21-0 deficit but fell short against No. 1 Alabama in a 31-29 loss.
The Vols, however, are not on the Crimson Tide’s level.
Florida trailed Tennessee 14-10 at one point but led 17-14 at halftime, then scored two quick touchdowns to open the third quarter. Quarterback Emory Jones passed for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 144 yards and running back Malik Davis scored twice to lead the Gators offense. Florida had 505 yards of total offense including 283 rushing.
The Gators (3-1) dug into their playbook on their first drive in the second half. Jones threw behind the line of scrimmage to wide receiver Trent Whittemore, who then threw to tight end Kemore Gamble for a 13-yard score to cap a 6-play drive. That gave the Gators a 24-14 edge.
Tennessee (2-2) kept the ball for 14 plays on the ensuing drive only to turn the ball over on downs. On the next Florida drive, Jones ran for 43 yards and passed for 28 more, capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown to Rick Wells for a 31-14 lead.
In the second quarter, senior wide receiver JaVonta Payton got behind the UF defense, beating safety Mordecai McDaniel one on one and hauling in Hendon Hooker’s pass down the left sideline for a 75-yard score and a 14-10 lead. Hooker passed for 221 yards and 2 TDs for the Vols before leaving late in the game with an injury, giving way to Joe Milton.
Nay’Quan Wright’s 23-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter gave the Gators the lead back at 17-14 and was further proof of the depth UF has at running back. Davis, Dameon Pierce and Wright (plus dangerous running quarterbacks Jones and backup Anthony Richardson) have all contributed to an attack that entered the game ranked second in FBS in rushing yards at 336 per game.
Just before halftime, UT defensive back Alontae Taylor forced a Gators fumble deep in Vols territory and linebacker Aaron Beasley recovered the ball at the 15-yard line. But UT’s chance to go into halftime tied went wayward when Chase McGrath’s 47-yard field goal try drifted wide right as the clock expired.
After forcing a 3-and-out on Tennessee’s first drive, Florida drove 66 yards in 10 plays, capped by Davis’ 4-yard TD reception from Jones.
The Vols responded with a touchdown on their next drive as running back Tiyon Evans took a short pass from Hooker and picked his way through the Gators defense for a 47-yard touchdown catch.
Jace Christmann hit s 47-yard field goal in the first quarter to put Florida ahead 10-7. He started at kicker in place of Chris Howard, whose missed extra point last week against Alabama wound up coming back to bite the Gators when they had to go for a 2-point conversion late and failed.
UT lost receiver Jimmy Holiday after he was called for targeting while covering a punt return late in the second quarter.