Florida Sledgehammers Vols In Second Half For 37-20 Victory
Gators Put Tennessee's Return To SEC Title Talk On Hold
Saturday, September 15, 2012
- by Larry Fleming
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee wanted to show a national television audience it was ready to play big boy football in the Southeastern Conference.
5in 0.0001pt 0in; ">The Vols flopped.
The 17th-ranked Florida Gators unleashed a devastating second-half ground assault and crushed the Vols, 37-20, for the eighth consecutive time with a sellout crowd of 102,455 filling Neyland Stadium on an otherwise perfect night for football on the banks of the lovely Tennessee River.
The game, where Tennessee was concerned, turned ugly in the final 18 minutes.
“It’s disappointing,” Vols coach Derek Dooley said. “They’ve got to be hurting in the locker room because we came in here expecting to win. We had a great game going and we just let it slip away. The sky’s not going to fall tomorrow. They’re a good football team and we lost.”
A pregame highlight was former UT All-America and coach Johnny Majors having his No. 45 jersey retired.
In the end, however, Florida dished out yet another whuppin’ to Tennessee, which doesn’t seem to have any answers for the Gators’ complete dominance in the series for almost a decade.
“We have athletes all over the field and we know if we keep giving them the ball that eventually they’re going to break (some),” said Florida’s sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who outplayed Tennessee’s more established quarterback, Tyler Bray.
“Fortunately for us, we hit a few big plays when we needed them and that really changed momentum.”
How about Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown scamper that tied the game at 20-all with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
Then, Driskel found Jordan Reed on a 23-yard scoring pass play with 30 seconds on the clock.
Couple those plays with Caleb Sturgis’ 25-yard field goal and you’ve got a 17-point quarter that Florida used to club the Vols into submission. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Vols were trailing, 27-20, and it only got worse.
“We just didn’t play very well there,” said Dooley, who fell to 0-11 against nationally ranked teams in three seasons at Tennessee. “We ran out of juice a little bit on the perimeter late in the game.”
Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued the mauling in the final quarter when Driskel hit Frankie Hammond on a 75-yard scoring bomb that pushed the margin to 34-20 at the 9:55 mark.
“We have put a tremendous emphasis on winning the fourth quarter and winning the second half and wearing down our opponent,” Muschamp said. “That’s something we’ve been able to do in the first three games.”
Sturgis’ 49-yard field goal with 6:44 left capped the Gators’ demolition of Tennessee’s defense after halftime.
When the Vols (2-1, 0-1) went up 20-13, Florida ran off 24 straight points in a game televised by ESPN, which brought its highly popular GameDay show to Knoxville for the most ballyhooed Florida-Tennessee game since 2007, the last time both teams were ranked.
“We weren’t responding well,” said Bray, who completed just three of his last 15 pass attempts and only 1 of 10 in the fourth quarter – there were two drops by Vols receivers in that stretch. “We just fell apart.”
Driskel and the Gators held together.
The sophomore completed 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and looked amazingly cool in the pocket despite the Vols applying frequent pressure.
On the other hand, Florida’s defense appeared to rattle Bray’s cage after the Vols’ junior was called for intentionally grounding a pass in the third quarter.
Bray, who went into the game as the field general of the league’s No. 1 passing attack (the Vols were averaging 353.5 yards per game), was 22 of 44 for 267 yards with first half touchdown throws to wide out Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Mychal Rivera.
Bray was intercepted twice and sacked once.
“We just have to make plays when it comes down to crunch time,” Bray said. “The big guys have to step up more than we did tonight.”
Florida had a definite defensive scheme to deal with Bray’s hot start to the season.
“We definitely knew coming in that Tyler Bray was an accurate quarterback that can fit the ball into tight places,” Gators defensive lineman Lerentee McCray said. “We just had to frustrate him a little bit and make him hurry up more than he wanted to.”
Games in this rivalry always hinge on which team wins the ground game. Once again, it was no contest. Florida rolled up 336 rushing yards, including 115 on 18 carries by Mike Gillislee, the SEC’s leading rusher.
Burton finished with 91 yards on only three carries and had a 14-yard scoring run to go along with his 80-yarder that tied the game at 20-all.
Trey Burton, who had touchdowns on runs of 14 and 80 yards, gained 91 yards on just three carries, a whopping 30.3-yard average.
When Driskel wasn’t throwing the ball to play-making receivers, he proved an effective runner and scrambler, picking up 81 yards on eight tries.
Florida wound up punishing the Vols with 555 yards of offense, including 336 on the ground. The Gators had 86 rushing yards at halftime.
“It was a breakdown on defense,” said Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson, who scored on a 1-yard run to give the Vols a 20-13 lead with 7:33 left in the third quarter. “We got hit with the big plays and we got frustrated as a defense. We should have come back.”
The Gators held Tennessee to 340 yards of offense, but only 83 came on the ground. The Vols simply can’t run the ball against Florida, no matter who is wearing those uniforms. Coming into the game Tennessee had averaged 46 rushing yards in the seven consecutive losses to Florida.
Rajion Neal was the Vols’ leading rusher with 87 yards on 23 carries, but 20 came on his first run of the game.
“Honestly, I am not sure what went on,” Neal said. “You can sense it once Florida went up a little and stuff started getting out of rhythm. You could feel something wasn’t right. The guys weren’t clicking like we normally do. I really can’t put into words what happened.”
Dooley had a pretty good idea how the game slipped away so quickly.
“We lost big plays and turnovers,” he said. “You can’t give up big plays in this league and expect to win a football game. You just can’t.”
Justin Hunter had five catches for 76 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson finished with eight receptions for 75 yards and a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Trailing 14-10 at halftime, Florida came out smoking and quickly moved within a shadow of Tennessee’s goal line.
The Vols bowed up.
Driskel was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right. As Driskel headed out of bounds, Johnson unloaded on him, sending the Gators’ quarterback flying into one of many photographers on the sideline.
Driskel jumped up, but the photographer stayed down with an apparent leg injury and left on a stretcher.
Sturgis salvaged the drive with a 25-yard field goal, his second of the game, and Florida pulled within 14-13.
When the Vols got their hands on the ball again, they knew what to do, and they threw in a little gimmickry along the way.
Tennessee methodically drove 81 yards in 12 plays and Johnson – that’s right, the linebacker – made two big plays in the drive. When the Vols got to the 1, the 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., took the snap in a wildcat package and zipped untouched into the end zone to open a 20-13 lead with 12:22 left in the quarter.
After that Florida exploded. The Vols imploded.
“We thought we could go toe-to-toe with them,” Dooley said. “There are no excuses. We just didn’t get it done.”
Said linebacker Herman Lathers: "Guys just started hanging their heads. We've got to get to work on that and keep playing for 60 minutes."
Florida 7 3 17 10 – 37
Tennessee 7 7 6 0 – 20
FLA –Trey Burton 14 run (Caleb Sturgis kick), 7:52
TEN – Cordarrelle Patterson 2 pass from Tyler Bray (Derrick Brodus kick), 3:02
TEN – Mychal Rivera 6 pass from Bray (Brodus kick), 8:40
FLA – FG Sturgis 20, 0:00
FLA– FG Sturgis 25, 12:22
TEN – A.J. Johnson 1 run (kick failed), 7:33
FLA – Burton 80 run (Sturgis kick), 3:15
FLA – Jordan Reed 25 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), 0:30
FLA – Frankie Hammond 75 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), 9:55
FLA – FG Sturgis 49, 6:44
First Downs 20 21
Rushes-Yds. 43-336 28-98
Passing Yds. 219 267
Com.-Att.-Int. 14-20-0 22-44-2
Total Offense 555 365
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Punts.-Avg. 5-48.6 8-44.0
Penalties-Yds. 8-78 9-54
RUSHING — Florida: Mike Gillislee 18-115, Trey Burton 3-91, Jeff Driskel 8-81, Solomon Patton 3-34, Matt Jones 5-9, Matt Elam 1-5, Mack Brown 1-3, Andre Debose 2-1, Team 2-minus 3; Tennessee: Rajion Neal 23-102, A.J. Johnson 2-5, Marlin Lane 1-1, Tyler Bray 2-minus 10.
PASSING — Florida: Driskel 14-20-0 219; Tennessee: Bray 22-44-2 267.
RECEIVING — Florida: Frankie Hammond 1-75, Jordan Reed 5-60, Quinton Dunbar 3-30, Burton 2-38, Patton 1-17, Hunter Joyer 1-5, Omarius Hines 1-minus 6; Tennessee: Justin Hunter 5-81, Cordarrelle Patterson 8-75, Michal Rivera 4-47, Zach Rogers 3-44, Neal 2-20.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)