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Florida 47, Tennessee 21: Gators feast on Vols’ many mistakes in Rocky Top rout

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Florida got its way against Tennessee. And the Vols could never get out of their own way.

Florida v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

The Florida Gators arrived on Rocky Top to face the Tennessee Volunteers as a team in search of consistency and identity.

They leave knowing this much: They’re way better than the mistake-prone crew from the other sideline.

Florida capitalized on six Tennessee turnovers — some more Florida’s doing, some far more Tennessee’s — and built a lead that was never threatened en route to a 40-21 win.

The Gators got the first of those turnovers on Tennessee’s first offensive possession, as the returning David Reese plucked a fluttering ball from the air for a fumble recovery that set Florida up deep in Tennessee territory.

Four plays later, Florida had a 7-0 lead after a Feleipe Franks pass to R.J. Raymond.

Tennessee’s second drive was even shorter than its first, with Luke Ancrum reading and poaching a pass for an even shorter field.

And two plays later, it was 14-0 on a Franks plunge.

Things got worse for Tennessee from there.

The Vols erased their goose egg with a field goal that came after Florida fumbled away great field position immediately after stopping Tennessee on downs, but finished the half with a safety, a fumble — on what should’ve been a touchdown, but hilariously turned into a touchback — and a fumble. The Gators added 12 points off those errors, and led 26-3 at halftime.

They would add to their lead nearly as soon as the third quarter began, forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff and scoring on the next play, a bruising Jordan Scarlett run that helped extend Florida’s lead to 33-3 and sent scads of fans in attendance to the exits.

Both teams would add two more touchdowns in the second half, and Tennessee got another field goal, but all of those scores — despite how neat Florida’s touchdowns were, coming on a strike from Franks to Tyrie Cleveland and a dash around end by Dameon Pierce — were ultimately inconsequential to the outcome, serving to make Florida’s point total its largest ever at Neyland Stadium and little else.

And Florida’s yardage total barely exceeding Tennessee’s, at 387 to 363, hardly mattered. The Gators stopped the Vols when they had to, committed just the one turnover to Tennessee’s six, and averaged twice as many yards per carry. Franks completed just nine of 18 passes, but dealt with drops and threw a few balls away — and three of his completions scored six points.

This was a better Florida than we have seen yet this year, even if its foe played the game with a shotgun aimed at its toes. And so it won as impressively as Florida has this year.

And with next week’s trip to a Mississippi State team that seems far more mortal than it did as Saturday dawned, thanks to a dominant win by Kentucky over the Bulldogs, Florida fans can — and will — do a little dreaming this week.