Tied 10-10 in the third quarter, Florida was faced with 4th and 6 with Tennessee holding the momentum. But instead of punting, Omarius Hines took a direct snap off the fake and rumbled 36 yards for a first down. Hines' run led to Frankie Hammond's only catch on a touchdown from John Brantley. The Gators never looked back. UF rode the surge to a 34-17 win over the Vols.It is Florida's six consecutive win in the series and third straight at Knoxville. Florida has never done that before.
The Gators (3-0) were a second half team, as Brantley converted crucial third downs when Carl Moore (2 catches, 26 yards), Deonte Thompson (four catches, 55 yards) and Hammond saved wild throws from the quarterback. Jeremy Brown, who earlier blew coverage on the Tennessee score that tied the game at 10-10, picked off a pass that led to a Mike Gillislee score. The Gators began the fourth quarter with a Jeff Demps fumble and terrible defensive sequence. The Vols converted from 3rd and 25 and 4th and 6 with a deep touchdown when Will Hill blew his over-the-top coverage. With the score 24-17, Florida's five minute, 60 yard drive ended with a Trey Burton touchdown. On the series, Demps picked up crucial yards, sneaking through holes and proving to be more than a speedy back.
Brantley is still wild, going 14/23 with 167 yards and a touchdown. He was a bit more active running with one nice 12 yard gain. But it's merely a charade to have him as an option quarterback. Demps gained 74 yards on 26 carries as Tennessee did a nice job of choking the middle. But Demps also was a valuable outlet man with three catches for 34 yards. Gillislee was a touchdown vulture with two scores on eight carries and 27 yards. Moody had 20 yards on five carries.
On defense, aside from Brown and Hill's mistakes, the Gators were solid. UF had six sacks as they were able to get pressure from a four-man rush. The Vols had to throw the ball, but no where near Janoris Jenkins, as he has built Janoris Island. Instead, Vols QB Matt Simms had to look short, where Jon Bostic, Brandon Hicks and Jelani Jenkins did a fine job in coverage. Simms finished 19/30 for 270, but two interceptions, including one by Bostic in the end zone in the second quarter. The Gators can also take a lot of pride in holding the Vols to only 29 yards on the ground. Florida rushed for 150.
The Gators should still be concerned. The Gators have not yet been able to score in the first quarter, which cannot happen against Alabama and LSU. Tennessee simply did not have the horses to compete with the Gators. Bama and LSU will. It is also obvious that Moore and Thompson aren't that bad, Hines is the most dynamic pass catcher, and Gillislee and Demps are the one-two punch. The question will remain of the offensive line and Brantley, who both need much more consistency. The o-line has the talent, but too many guys are not firing off into their blocks. Or worse, never pulling into the run lane and allowing Demps to get murdered on a sweep. Brantley is maybe too excited to throw. His poise in the pocket is fine and he has the NFL quality of throwing away to play another down. But the high balls to Moore and Thompson could lead to broken ribs or alligator arms.
That said, beating Tennessee is always a good thing. With Georgia's loss to Arkansas Saturday, it is clear South Carolina will be the Gators foe in the SEC East. Today was one step towards winning the division. UF plays Kentucky next Saturday at 7pm in Gainesville.