The Tennessee Vols held off Florida, 38-33, on Saturday at a jam-packed Neyland Stadium, while surviving a heart-stopping Gator comeback that threatened to send the Vol fans home crying.
UT had an 11-point lead as time wound down, but Florida scored to pull within five. The Gators then pulled off an onside kick that gave Anthony Richardson one more chance for a miraculous comeback. The Vols were able to hang on, with the final play being intercepted by Tennessee.
Tennessee starts the season 4-0 for the first time in six years.
The Vols had lost five straight to nemisis Florida.
Tennessee led Florida 17-14 at halftime after Hendon Hooker led a late 99-yard scoring drive.
The Vols, playing before 102,000 fans at the checker-boarded stadium, got on the board first with a 32-yard Chase McGrath field goal. That was the only scoring in the first quarter.
Florida moved ahead in the see-saw game when Richardson connected on a 42-yard play to Keon Zipperer.
The Vols responded with a 70-yard pass play to USC transfer Bru McCoy, then with Hooker running it in.
After a Richardson score put the Gators back ahead, the Vols had to start on their one-yard line. The key play in the drive was a 43-yard pass that Ramel Keyton brought in by his fingertips. The score came on a pass at the back of the end zone to McCoy.
The Vols padded the lead early in the second half with a drive that was capped by a 16-yard pass to Jabari Small. Tennessee was up 24-14.
After another Florida score, Hooker seemed to be sacked in the backfield but he emerged from the pile to race 44 yards downfield. Jabari Small then ran it into a logjam that was originally called short and that was upheld by review. The Vols got a new first and goal on an unsportsman-like penalty on Florida coach Billy Napier and Small ran it in.
The Vols were again up by 10 at 31-21.
Florida had a fourth and seven on their own 24 and connected on a long pass to keep the drive going early in the fourth quarter. Then a fumble stopped the Gator drive. Another Tennessee drive, ending with a Jaylen Wright score, gave the Vols a 17-point lead at 38-21.
Montrell Johnson ran it in for another Florida score. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and Tennessee was still up 38-27. The Vols slowed down play to run time off the clock. Florida had a 71-yard drive that took less than a minute to pull to 38-33 with seconds remaining. Again, the two-point attempt failed.
Then came the onside kick, and a final frantic Florida attempt to score again that fell just short.
Richardson passed for 453 yards, while Hooker threw for 349 and ran for another 112 yards.
McCoy had five receptions for 102 yards.