Saturday September 19, 2009No. 1 Gators Take Down Tennessee, 23-13, to Open SEC Play
A school-record 90, 894 fans from The Gator Nation gathered at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday to watch the No. 1 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) defeat the Tennessee Volunteers (1-2, 0-1 SEC), 23-13, in the squads’ first game of 2009 SEC competition. With the win, UF set a new school record with its 13-game win streak.
Under head coach Urban Meyer, the Gators are now 5-0 against Tennessee. Florida accumulated 208 yards through the air, led by senior quarterback Tim Tebow (St. Augustine, Fla.), who completed 14-of-19 passes and also ran for 76 yards and one touchdown, the 46th of his career, tying for second most in SEC history with LSU’s Kevin Faulk (1995-98).
Redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.) put together 64 yards on the ground on nine carries, while junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) led the Gators with four receptions for 26 yards.
Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.) was 2-for-2 in field goals in the first half, giving the Gators a 3-0 advantage to kick off the CBS showdown. Sturgis capped off an eight-play 10-yard drive with the first field goal of his career, a 37-yard boot, at the 11:33 mark in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board first.
Sturgis would tack on three more field-goal points for UF in the third quarter to aid in the 20th series victory for the Gators.
The Vols and junior kicker Daniel Lincoln responded after the Gators’ first score, as Lincoln found the uprights on a 24-yard attempt on Tennessee’s ensuing drive, keeping the game even at three through the first 15 minutes of play.
The Gators strung an 11-play drive (nine rushes, two passes) to score the first touchdown of the game at the start of the second quarter, when Tebow punched in a one-yard quarterback keeper that put Florida ahead, 10-3.
An Eric Berry interception of Tebow gave Tennessee the go-ahead on another Lincoln field goal, this time a 20-yarder, to bring the Vols within four points, 10-6. After the Gators marched 52 yards downfield, Sturgis put three more points on the board for Florida with a 29-yard boot at the 51 second mark in the first half, extending the Florida lead to13-6.
Tennessee received the ball to kick off the second half, but a pick by Florida junior cornerback Joe Haden (Ft. Washington, Md.) on a Jonathan Crompton pass halted the UT drive, allowing the Gators to capitalize on the interception with another Sturgis field goal, this time a 35-yarder, to put the Orange & Blue ahead, 16-3. Haden’s pick marked the 15th straight game the Gators have come up with an interception, an NCAA-leading statistic.
Florida tacked on another score at the end of the third quarter with a seven-yard touchdown run by sophomore athlete Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.). The 13-play, 69-yard drive took 6:52 off the clock, putting UF ahead, 23-6, and closed out the third quarter of play.
In the back-and-forth battle between the SEC foes, the Vols answered the Florida attack after a Tebow fumble on the Tennesee two-yard line. UT drove 63 yards downfield and scored the first touchdown against Florida all season when senior tailback Montario Hardesty found the end zone on a 17-yard run with 8:11 remaining in the game, closing the gap, 23-13.
After forcing the Gators to punt and taking over possession at the end of the fourth quarter, Tennessee faced a fourth-and-six situation. Crompton, throwing a lob downfield, was picked off by junior safety Ahmad Black (Lakeland, Fla.) to close out the game, 23-13, and give Florida possession of the all-time series lead at 20-19.
Florida continues SEC action in Lexington, Ky., Sept. 26 when it visits the Wildcats for a 6 p.m. kickoff that will be broadcast on ESPN2.