Florida (1) 23 Tennessee 13

1

2

3

4

Total

Tennessee

3

3

0

7

13

Florida

3

10

10

0

23

Attendance (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium):  90,894

Recap Box Score Play-by-Play Drive Chart

Vol Pride Remains Intact After a Physical Effort

Head coaches Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer shake hands at the end in Gainesville. AP Photo by John Raoux.

Head coaches Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer shake hands at the end in Gainesville. AP Photo by John Raoux.

In a game that didn’t satisfy the Florida Faithful who wanted to teach Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers a lesson, the Vols left Gainesville with their pride intact after keeping the game within reach well into the fourth quarter.

Senior QB Tim Tebow led the Gators to a 23-13 win over the Big Orange in the traditional SEC opener for both schools. This was Florida’s fifth consecutive victory over Tennessee and a school record 13th win in a row.

Gator QB Tim Tebow effectively ran the ball. AP Photo by Phil Sandlin.

Gator QB Tim Tebow effectively ran the ball. AP Photo by Phil Sandlin.

Even though he committed two turnovers, an interception and a fumble that Tennessee turned into 10 of their 13 points, it could be said that Tebow was the difference. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 115 yards and also ran for 76 yards and a touchdown. But it was his leadership and shear determination evident throughout the afternoon that never left him discouraged in the face of a very good performance by the physically-minded Vol defense.

The Gator defense was also stellar, giving up only 210 total yards to the Vols who relied mostly on the running prowess of Montario Hardesty who gained 96 of Tennessee’s 117 rushing yards on 20 carries. Freshman Bryce Brown added the remaining 21 yards on 8 carries.

The much-maligned Vol QB Jonathan Crompton was tightly reigned in by the coaching staff, passing for only 93 yards on an 11-for-19 afternoon of mostly short passes and screens. He threw two interceptions to sour an otherwise safely competent performance. Crompton was effectively managed by the game plan that obviously relied on the running game with no room for gambling on Crompton’s shaky north-south passing.

In the end, it was Florida’s winning the first down count, 20 to 13, and time of possession, 32:40 to 27:20, that left the competitive Vols short. Key was Florida’s conversion rate on third down (8 of 13) and fourth down (1 of 1) that kept drives going. Tennessee could only muster 5 third down conversions in 12 situations (and 0 of 1 on fourth down).

So there was no embarrassment, no backing down from a challenge of playing your biggest rival – ranked number one in the country – in their own stadium. All the Gator faithful could come up with was a lame version of “Rock Top”:

“Rocky Top, you’ll always be second in the SEC.”

English soccer fans they’re not…

Oh, God here it comes…

Expecting the worst, I thought it arrived a bit sooner than fair. The Vols kickoff was returned to midfield with ease, and to react out of frustration (how can you be frustrated after only a few seconds?) or from too elevated amperage cost us another 15 yards (face mask on the tackle). So there you have it – if they are going to kick our arse, then let’s just tee it up for them. First down Gators on the Vols 30.

After not much because of good pressure on Tebow, the Gators go for it on 4th and 3. Figures. They aren’t going to give us anything all day. But after the first down, the Vols pressure Tebow some more, leading to an intentional grounding call on 2nd and 7 that results in Florida settling for a 36-yard field goal.  Florida 3 Tennessee 0.

Surprise!

So now the Vols get possession on their own 27. And, what do they do? Run, baby, run. Mostly Hardesty with a little Bryce Brown thrown in, and the next thing you know, we are way deep into the Gator red zone after three 3rd down conversions and another that only went to second down. With a 3rd and 9 at the Gator 10, the Vols are caught for holding and settle for a Daniel Lincoln 24-yard field goal. With only 3:00 left in the opening quarter, Tennessee finds itself amazingly even after each team has a single possession. Florida 3 Tennessee 3.

The game gets rather entertaining.

Florida comes out on the next possession from their own 28 with business on their mind. Moody for 23 yards, Rainey follows up with 11 yards, and a nifty pass play for 12 yards on 3rd and 10, and at the end of the first quarter, you felt like Florida had been dissed because the score was 3-3 in their own house. After another Gator first down, Florida had the ball on the Vol 12, 2nd and 8. Tebow ran the ball and met Tennessee’s All-World DB Eric Berry shoulder-to-shoulder at a pretty high level of momentum. Even though Berry was knocked back a bit by the sheer force of the violent collision, Tebow went down, and a message had been served – We Are Not Backing Down, Brother.

But it really didn’t phase Tebow a bit. He ran the ball two more times and now the Gators were ahead, and somehow it looked ominous. Florida 10 Tennessee 3.

Tennessee Montario Hardesty was the Vol offense for large stretches of the afternoon. AP Photo-Phil Sandlin.

Tennessee Montario Hardesty was the Vol offense for large stretches of the afternoon. AP Photo-Phil Sandlin.

More Hardesty on the next Vol possession with some short passing thrown in leads to a punt at the Florida 44. Better fortune would have kept the drive alive, but Hardesty, after receiving a short screen pass in the right flank stumbled a bit in the open field short of the chains.

On only the second play of the next Gator possession, Tebow throws the ball 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the left only to have Eric Berry catch the ball in front of the receiver just above the grass line while extending his body horizontally. And just like that, the Gators all of a sudden look vulnerable.

After another nice Hardesty run for a first down on the next Tennessee possession, Tennessee looked sure to tie the score with a pass to the end zone, but somehow Gerald Jones on 2nd down finds himself trying to catch the ball while standing out of bounds on the right side just beyond the pylon. I still don’t know what happened other than Gerald just found himself where he (hopefully) didn’t intend to be. Brain lock? Pass just a bit off? Whatever it was, it resulted in a Tennessee 20-yard field goal instead of a game-tying touchdown that surely would have put Florida on their heels. Florida 10 Tennessee 6.

Florida really shows some mettle on the next drive. From their own 37, Demps begins the drive with a 21-yards right on a scamper from an option to the right. But Tebow is forcibly sacked for a 7-yard loss on 2nd and 7 by Walker, and Florida calls a time out with 3:53 left and the gators facing a 3rd and 14 on the Tennessee 46. A huge situation for both squads.

Tebow delivers. After being pressured into what looked like another sack, he throws a tight-end screen for an 18-yard gain right up the middle and puts the Gators in business at the Vol 28. And if it weren’t for a violent hit in the end-zone to break up a sure touchdown, the Gators would have gone into the half time break with a commanding 11-point edge. But the 29-yard field goal instead gives Florida a not-so-formidable 7 point lead after which Tennessee runs out the clock to end the half. Florida 13 Tennessee 6.

I would say the Gator Nation was in just a bit of a state of shock. I was. And I was feeling quite proud of what I had just seen – a Tennessee team that was prepared and came to play, not to believe what the odds makers had set as a 30-point blowout. Oh, but this was Florida Field, and if seen the Gators put up a lot of points in a half against better squads.

The weakness shows itself, and that was the ballgame.

Second half. Tennessee gets the kickoff and starts from their won 38, and on 3rd and 5, we decide to open it up a bit, Crompton throws downfield on the right side and it is picked off at the Florida 35. One downfield pass so far, one INT. Florida then quickly runs the ball for two first downs, but is then held on downs and settles for a 35-yard field goal. Florida 16 Tennessee 6.

Felt a bit like a swift kick in the teeth that wasn’t going to heal any time soon.

But the Vols got the ball in good position (40 yard line) after the kick off went out of bounds. On the first play from scrimmage, a block below the waist on a running play puts the Vols 1st and 25 from the Tennessee 25. The dynamic was all of a sudden different. We weren’t going to be able to just run the ball like we did for nearly the entirety of possession in the opening half. But when you saw Hardesty run the ball three successive times to the middle of the line and gain only 5 yards in 3 carries, you just knew something was wrong.

What was wrong was our fundamental offensive weakness – Tennessee has no big play potential. None. No QB. No receivers. Nothing. After one downfield pass equaled one interception, the last thing we were going to do was throw. Because we knew it was a hugh risk, and a 10-point deficit was just not big enough to get all antsy about this early. Unless Florida scored again.

After the Vols meekly gave up possession and punted to the Gators, the power boost that gave life to the Gators occurred on 3rd and 3 on the Florida 38. Tebow somehow escaped being caught and miraculously ran around the left end for a 4 yard gain for a first down. A real back-breaker for the Vols, because Rainey followed with a 12 yard run, and then another first down, and then another first down, and then another first down, and then another first down, and the Gators were looking to cook the Vols for dinner – first and goal at the Vol 7. Demps ran it right up the middle for a TD, and that was it. You just knew it was over, and all there was to hope for now was that the fourth quarter wouldn’t turn into the disaster that we all knew would likely happen. Florida 23 Tennessee 6.

But it didn’t. Florida somehow didn’t score in the fourth quarter. But when Tennessee opened the final quarter from their own 22 yard line and all of a sudden had to throw away their total run dependency, they had nothing in the tank. No prescription available. Crompton couldn’t get near a completion and another Florida possession was begun after a Vol punt.

Tim Tebow fumbles the ball to the Vols just in time to give Tennessee a bit of hope. AP Photo-John Raoux.

Tim Tebow fumbles the ball to the Vols just in time to give Tennessee a bit of hope. AP Photo-John Raoux.

And the Gators just drove the ball right down the Vols’ throat. Five plays later, the Gators had it 2nd and 6 at the Vol 13, and with Tebow trying to stretch his arms for a first down at the Vol 2, the ball was stripped and Dennis Rogan ran the fumble back to the Tennessee 36, and somehow, the idiocy of hope was back in full view. A game that was lost somehow looked possible to salvage. Until you realized that a running game was not going to produce two scores, but that’s all we had. We would just run and run until there was no more time, because that’s all we can do.

And run we did, but it was a 23 yard gain by Bryce Brown on a 3rd and 7 screen pass that kept the drive alive. Then Brown ran for 13, for 3, and then Hardesty ran off left tackle for 17 yards into the Gator end zone. Pretty much all you could hear was Rock Top above the moans and groans of the gator faithful. Florida 23 Tennessee 13.

Exciting? Yes. Winnable? No.

Unless we could get the ball right back from Florida without a first down. That actually happened – Tebow was sacked again on a 3rd and 5 from his own 25. Now with about 7 minutes remaining, we had to move the ball quickly and score and follow it with and on-sides kick. Two first downs later, we were only at our own 44, and on 4th and 6, we had to go for it and Crompton threw upfield into double coverage and the pall was picked off to put an end to any fun we thought we were actually having.

Florida, to their credit, ran out the clock and the game was over.

The Aftermath

It surprisingly felt good. This Vol squad was prepared. The coaching staff gets an A for this performance – their game plan was spot on and kept us in the game for most of it. We survived the onslaught that most everyone expected. It didn’t happen because we controlled the ball for stretches and forced two Gator turnovers that led to 10 points. We just couldn’t score enough because of the same reasons evident during the UCLA game. We have no big play threat, and not enough of a passing game to really throw a defense into a cold sweat. We rely on a strong defense (thank the Lord for that) and a tireless running game.

That’s just not nearly enough to beat the Number One team in their house.

But above all, this team does not quit. They play hard for 60 minutes, which by itself is a vast improvement over last season. And they weren’t shaken by the surroundings. The crowd didn’t seem to me to be any different than most in the SEC on the road – they weren’t allowed to get their ya-ya’s out perhaps.

I think this performance gives us a good mind frame going into the middle part of the season. After we even up our record next week against Ohio, the middle meat of the season presents itself with the likes of Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. If we’re 4-4 after all that, we will have a realistic shot at a bowl.

But it’s way early to even think about that. However, because of the visible togetherness of this squad, which is no doubt a benefit of this new coaching staff, the present rebuilding of our program is off to a modestly decent start. And this togetherness makes me think that I’m beginning to doubt that Kiffin will dump Crompton. Something tells me we’re going to see this season out with Jonathan, come hell or high water. I just hope we’re given another option than just those two.

Lane Kiffin and his staff seem to have a hold of this team. The upcoming middle part of the schedule will be a real test. AP Photo-John Raoux.

Lane Kiffin and his staff seem to have a hold of this team. The upcoming middle part of the schedule will be a real test. AP Photo-John Raoux.

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

Florida Helmet_SMALL11:33 Caleb Sturgis kicks a 37 yard field goal. FLA 3 TENN 0. The field goal capped an 8 play, 10 yard drive lasting 3:27.

Tennessee Helmet3:00 Daniel Lincoln kicks a 24 yard field goal. GOOOOOOD! TENN 3  FLA 3. The field goal capped a 15 play, 66 yard drive, lasting 8:33.

Second Quarter

Florida Helmet_SMALL12:48 Tim Tebow runs for a 1 yard TD. Caleb Sturgis’ extra point is good. FLA 10 TENN 3. The TD capped an 11 play, 72 yard drive lasting 5:12.

Tennessee Helmet5:56 Daniel Lincoln kicks a 20 yard field goal. GOOOOOOD! FLA 10 TENN 6. The field goal capped a 6 play, 17 yard drive, lasting 2:08.

Florida Helmet_SMALL0:51 Caleb Sturgis kicks a 29 yard field goal. FLA 13 TENN 6. The field goal capped an 8 play, 10 yard drive lasting 3:27.

Third Quarter

Florida Helmet_SMALL9:33 Caleb Sturgis kicks a 35 yard field goal. FLA 16 TENN 6. The field goal capped a 8 play, 47 yard drive lasting 4:19.

Florida Helmet_SMALL0:07 Jeffrey Demps runs for a 7 yard TD. Caleb Sturgis’ extra point is good. FLA 23 TENN 6. The field goal capped a 13 play, 69 yard drive lasting 6:52.

Fourth Quarter

Tennessee Helmet9:56 Montario Hardesty runs for a 17 yard TD. GIVE HIM SIX! TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE! Daniel Lincoln’s extra point is GOOOOOOD!  FLA 23  TENN 13. The TD capped a 7 play, 63 yard drive, lasting 3:26.

This Week’s Scores Involving Upcoming 2009 Opponents

Louisville 27 Kentucky 31

North Texas 7 Alabama 53

Cal Poly 10 Ohio Univ 28

Mississippi State 15 Vanderbilt 3

Florida Atlantic 16 South Carolina 38

Tennessee-Martin 14 Memphis 41

Southeastern Louisiana 6 at Mississippi 52

West Virginia 30 Auburn 41

Georgia 52 at Arkansas 41

This Week’s Scores Involving Past 2009 Opponents

Central Arkansas 28 Western Kentucky 7

Kansas State 9 UCLA 23

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8 responses to “Florida (1) 23 Tennessee 13”

  1. Sandy says :

    Well, I think we’ve got a coaching staff that can compete with the top echelon of the SEC.

    The team was prepared and executed well.

    However, they were never in a position to win the game.

    The offense was severely handicapped by the lack of confidence in the quarterback position. On 1st and 25, after the illegal block penalty, three straight simple handoffs. The few times they went downfield, it was nowhere near a completion, or a pick, although those didn’t hurt that much. The problem is that there was no threat.

    Maybe Stephens would be better, but evidently he has not shown he is more capable than Crompton in practice. Otherwise he would have played in this game.

    The defense played well enough to win.

    I was pleased by the sportsmanship from both teams, during the game, and postgame. I still believe Urban would have run the score up as high as he could. The fact is, he couldn’t. That is the positive to take away from this game.

  2. T K says :

    RESPECTABLE……IN A WORD! AND GUYS IT LOOKS LIKE I GOT THE CLOSEST TO THE SCORE AGAIN…..ALTHOUGH I WAS WAY OFF. WEIRD THING IS I LET MY GUT PICK THE SCORE THIS WEEK. I USUALLY DO A LITTLE MATHMATIC CALCULATION OF SORTS (SORRY GUYS THE METHOD IS A SECRET). I PROJECTED THE SCORE AS FLORIDA 28 TENNESSEE 19 USING IT. SHOULD HAVE STAYED WITH IT BUT I LET MY GUT FEELING TAKE OVER FOR MY ENTRY OF 49-9

    I THINK KIFFENS GAME PLAN WAS VERY NICE. WE RAN BETTER AGAINST THEM THAN I EXPECTED AND IT WAS OBVIOUS TO ME THAT HE WAS LIMITING DANGEROUS PLAYS REGARDING CROMPTON. AND CROMPTON DID NOT GET AS SHAKEN AS I THOUGHT HE WOULD. HE MUST LOOK AWFULLY GOOD ON THE PRACTICE FIELD AND IM WONDERING JUST HOW CLOSE STEPHENS COMES TO BEATING HIM OUT. BUT ENOUGH SAID. ALMOST TIRED OF BEATING THAT DEAD HORSE.

    GOT REALLY TIRED OF THE MEDIA CONTINUING TO BLAST THE AIRWAYS WITH KIFFENS PRESEASON COMMENTS AND MEYERS REACTIONS TO THEM. GLAD THIS GAME IS OVER SO WE DONT HAVE TO LISTEN TO ANYMORE OF THAT HOPEFULLY.

    AND NOW WE MOVE ON TO MIGHTY OHIO……..ANOTHER NEW SCHOOL FOR MY “SEEN IN PERSON” RESUME. AND AS I UNDERSTAND IT THIS COMING WEEKEND IN KNOXVILLE HAS AS ONE OF THE ‘LEGENDS OF THE GAME”, JUST ONE WEEK AFTER JOHNNY MAJORS AND APPEARING IN KNOXVILLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER 25 YEARS…..COACH HUGE WALTERS. WE WILL ALL BE WATCHING..

    LATER FANS

  3. DW says :

    Sorry about the lapse in communications fella’s — I chose not to take my laptop on the 6000 mile bike trip thru the Rockies over the last two weeks. I can see that I missed some highly introspective comments and maybe next trip I’ll reconsider!
    I arrived back in TN just in time to view the game, and I don’t remember ever being pleased with a loss like I was in this game. If the experts say FL is worthy of #1, then TN should make top 25 this week. Well, at maybe top 30. Not bad for a one dimensional offense.
    I am feeling a little guilty for uttering during the 2nd half “I wonder when Crompton is going to throw an INT” — which he promptly answered 5 seconds later. I’ll try to curb those thoughts from here on out.
    Great write-up Freddy. I could just read your blog and save myself 3 hours of couch time in the future!

    • norcalvol says :

      Welcome back, DW!!!
      Personally I’d rather be biking through the rockies than doing just about anything.
      Thanks for the kind comment on the game summary – my objective was met!
      And, yes watch those thoughts next week – we can’t afford a Rutgers, North Texas State, or Virginia game of our past. But hopefully you won’t have to worry about it – hopefully Stevens will be starting. But somehow, I think ol’ Jonathan will be back again.

  4. T K says :

    HEY FREDDY DONT FORGET WYOMING…….
    AND BIG DON WELCOME BACK…… A TRIP THROUGH THE ROCKIES……GETTING MORE LIKE THAT BROTHER OF YOURS EVERY DAY……CATCH ANY SNAKES???

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