The University of Tennessee Volunteers fell to the Florida Gators Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Vols fans were hoping Tennessee could break a losing streak against Florida that began in 2005. For the Gators, the winning streak continues.
Last week the gators played Texas A&M and pulled off a 20-17 victory. But the Gators played a lackluster first half against Texas A&M and came back in the second half to win. During the 2011 season, the Vols were a team that played a powerful first half but fatigued in the second half. During the third quarter of Saturday’s game, it appeared as though Tennessee had fallen into the same pattern. With a team that had a history off falling apart in the second half squaring off against a team that builds momentum in the second half, Gator fans had reason to be optimistic.
During Saturday’s game, the Vols played a well-executed first half much to the delight of more than 102,000 fans. The Gators were the first to score at 8:02 in the first quarter after a three play drive that took 1:11 off the clock when Trey Burton rushed in for a 14-yard touchdown. The extra point kicked by Caleb Sturgis was good which put the Gators up 7-0.
The Vols were quick to retaliate with a three-play drive that covered 60 yards and ending with Tyler Bray passing to Cordarrelle Patterson who ran in two yards to score. Michael Palardy kicked the extra point making the score tied. It was the first time since 2004 the Vols scored a touchdown in the first quarter against Florida.
In the second quarter, the Vols moved ahead with a 16-play drive that covered 76 yards. Bray passed to Mychael Rivera who ran six yards to score. Palardy’s kick was dead center of the uprights making the core 14-7 for the Vols.
The Gators were behind but not out. A series of plays brought the Gators to the 1-yard line. But, the Vols defense formed a human shield that proved to be impregnable that held the Gators off. The frustrated Gators had to settle for a field goal in the waning seconds of the half that made the score 14-10 at half-time.
In the third quarter, Florida picked up another field goal when Sturgis kicked it 25 yards to score. Tennessee responded with a 12-play drive that took A.J Johnson into the end zone. Derrick Broadus missed the extra point putting the score at 20-13.
With 3:27 left in the third, the Gators fired back when Burton ran 80 yards for a touchdown making the score 20-19. The extra point kicked by Sturgis tied up the game.
With 1:49 left in the third quarter, Jeff Driskel passed to Jordan Reed who ran 23 yards to score. Sturgis kicked in another extra point tying the score once again 27-20.
Florida turned up the heat on the Vols in the fourth quarter when Driskel passed to Frankie Hammond who ran an impressive 75 yards to score. Sturgis kicked the extra point giving Florida a lead of 34-20.
With 6:44 left in the game, Sturgis booted in another field goal to score a field goal making the score 37-20. The Gators maintained the lead throughout the waning moments of the game frustrating the Vols efforts to cut the Gators lead and make a comeback.
“We had a good game going into the third,” said Vols Coach Derek Dooley. “We gave up some good plays and couldn’t recover. We’ve got to learn from this and move on.”
The Vols were 2-0 going into Saturday’s game and ranked #23. Next week the Vols return to the gridiron at Neyland Stadium against Akron.
Dooley noted the third quarter meltdown that led to defeat.
“We had a lot of mistakes defensively,” said Vols Coach Derek Dooley. “They ran a couple of run plays that gutted us. We hit a bad stretch at a bad time…… They did a good job with shifts and formations.”
Tyler Bray praised the Gators for their performance and acknowledged the Vols’ shortcomings.
“I give Florida the credit, they did what they needed to do.” Bray said. “We lost a little juice in the end. It was disappointing. We knew it was going to be tough and we let it slip away.”
By Michael Williams