After being held scoreless for three quarters, the Florida Gator football team rallied for ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat rival Tennessee 10-9. With this win, the Gators have now beaten the Volunteers for 10 consecutive years!
Offensively, the Gators were horrific to watch for about 95% of this game as they only managed 232 yards. It was constant three and outs, dump off passes, and runs up the middle. The longest pass completion of the day went for just 15 yards.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel did not play that well today as the redshirt junior completed 11 of 23 passes for 59 yards and three interceptions. He was also sacked three times. I will mention, however, that two of Driskel's interceptions were not his fault as they deflected off of his receivers. Florida's receivers were not in sync with Driskel today as they dropped over six passes thrown to them. The only positive I can find from Driskel today is that he ran the ball more. Driskel had 14 rushes for 30 yards.
As Driskel continued to struggle, the pleas for a Treon Harris appearance began to grow louder from many Gator fans on Twitter. The fans would get what they asked for as the true freshman came in at the end of the third quarter and led the Gators on a drive resulting in a touchdown. Treon only completed two of four passes for 17 yards, but he showcased his ability on the ground as he rushed four times four 24 yards.
Many credit Treon for leading the Gator comeback, but honestly the running game finally picked it up in the fourth quarter. Junior running back Matt Jones really picked it up in the fourth quarter as he rushed for the only Gator touchdown of the day on route to 114 total yards rushing. Jones also led the way in the receiving department as he had four catches for 19 yards. Sophomore Demarcus Robinson had the most receiving yards with 30 on three catches.
Now, on to the unit who kept the Gators in this game: the defense. After getting gashed by Alabama, the Gator defense brought it today as they allowed just 233 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. The play of the secondary was much better this game as they combined for two interceptions with no blown coverages.
Both Gator interceptions could not have come at better moments in the game today. The first pick involved star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III diving into the end zone to prevent Tennessee from scoring right after UF had turned the ball over. The second pick came late in the fourth quarter and also required some extended effort as sophomore safety Keanu Neal laid out to intercept the ball and seal the victory for the Gators. The other Gator turnover was a fumble forced (and recovered) off a sack by true freshman Jalen Tabor, another member of the Gator secondary.
The great play of the secondary complemented an outstanding performance by the Gator defense as a whole. Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison led the Gators with 11 tackles (two tackles for loss) and also posted one sack on the day. Defensive lineman Bryan Cox was all over Tennessee's Justin Worley as he sacked the senior quarterback three times today.
In special teams, sophomore kicker Austin Hardin played a huge role as he nailed the go ahead kick with 6:20 left in the game. What's interesting about this play is that the play clock hit zero before the Gators even got the kick off. Hardin's 49-yard field goal should not have counted and been pushed back for a 54-yard attempt. Nevertheless, the refs missed the call and the Gators were able to take the lead and eventually win the game.
Senior punter Kyle Christy was once again phenomenal as he punted eight balls for 282 yards and averaged 35.2 yards per punt. Five of his punts landed inside Tennessee's 20-yard line! Speaking of the punting game, senior Andre Debose ran a Tennessee punt back for a touchdown early in the first quarter, but had it negated due to a block in the back penalty. Had the Gators lost to Tennessee, this would have been a play that many would have looked at and asked what if.
Head coach Will Muschamp's job remains safe for another week, but that coaching seat of his has not gotten any cooler. It is pretty clear who Gator fans want as their quarterback for the LSU game (hint: it's Treon Harris) and hopefully Muschamp will realize that and give the freshman his chance. Last time I could recall, using a freshman QB worked out well for teams like Texas A&M and Florida State. Treon just needs a chance and if he succumbs to the pressure... well we will cross that bridge when we get to it.
I'm not happy with a 10-9 win over a now 2-3 Tennessee team, but regardless a win is a win. Next up for the Gators as I previously mentioned is LSU (currently 4-1) in The Swamp next week on October 11. The Tigers are trailing Auburn at the moment and will be looking to release some frustration at Florida if they can't pull out the 'W' on the road.
I know the Gator defense will be ready for offensive weapons Travin Dural, Leonard Fournette, Kenny Hilliard, and true freshman QB Brandon Harris, but I have no idea if that lackluster Gator offense will be able to even move the ball against LSU! I guess we will just have to wait in see. All we can do is hope that the defense keeps it close and that the Gators pull out another miracle victory late in the game.
As for the Tennessee Volunteers, it is another devastating loss for them as they have now endured a decade of losing to the hated Florida Gators. Maybe head coach Butch Jones should call Kentucky's Mark Stoops so they can debate whose fourth quarter interception was worse and why the play clock gods seem to always favor Florida.
Once Tennessee gets over yet another bitter loss, the Vols will turn their attention to their next home game against the Chattanooga Mocs (3-2) on October 11 at 4 p.m. This game should be over at the half.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com