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Saturday September 18, 2010No. 10 Gators Defeat SEC Foe Tennessee, 31-17

Gainesville, Fla.

The No. 10 Florida Gators beat the Tennessee Volunteers, 31-17, on Saturday afternoon in front of 102,455 fans at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.  With the win, the Gators move to 6-0 in SEC season openers under head coach Urban Meyer.

 

Florida was led by sophomore running back Mike Gillislee (DeLand, Fla.) who had two rushing touchdowns for the Gators, one in each half. The first came off a 2-yard run with 11:49 remaining in the second quarter to put Florida on the scoreboard, 7-3. The second touchdown ended a five-play, 40-yard drive with a five-yard rush to give Florida a two-touchdown lead, 24-10.

 

The first half was a tale of two defenses, as both teams held each other to less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. The Gator defense held strong for Tennessee’s first drive of the game with a three-and-out, highlighted by redshirt senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders’ (Bradenton, Fla.) tackle for loss, holding quarterback Matt Simms and the Volunteers to three yards of offense.

 

Once the Gators got a hold of the ball, junior running back Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.) shined in the first drive for the Orange and Blue, contributing 29 total yards, including two first downs and a 16-yard reception to the Tennessee 30-yard line. Tennessee’s defense stalled the Gators, and senior punter Chas Henry (Dallas, Ga.) came up big for Florida with a 47-yard punt to the Tennessee 1-yard line.

 

Tennessee’s second drive was similar to their first, with the Florida defense holding the Volunteers, yet again, to three plays and three yards. Senior safety Ahmad Black (Lakeland, Fla.) tackled Tauren Poole for a loss of two yards, forcing Simms to look to the pass and coming up short with an incomplete pass to Denarius Moore, who was held without offensive yards in the half.

 

The second drive for Florida began with two consecutive rushes, as Demps rushed for two and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) followed that up with a seven yard rush for 2nd and 1. However, two rushes for no gain gave Tennessee the ball on the Tennessee 43-yard line.

 

After a nearly scoreless first quarter, the Volunteers struck first in their third drive of the game with a 49-yard field goal by Daniel Lincoln with 1:17 remaining in the first quarter. Lincoln’s kick looked to be headed to the right of the posts, but the ball curved back into the uprights to put the Vols on the board, 3-0.

 

The Gators answered back on the next drive with a 43-yard kickoff return by Demps to the Florida 43-yard line. A Tennessee facemask penalty gave the Gators an extra 15 yards. After an incomplete pass and a negative rush, Brantley found redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) for a 16-yard reception at the Tennessee 27-yard line. A few plays later, Brantley found freshman wide receiver Robert Clark (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and hit him with an eight-yard pass to the Tennessee 4-yard line. Two consecutive Gillislee two-yard rushes later, the Gators were up on the scoreboard, 7-3, as Gillislee found a seam in the Tennessee defensive line.

 

Tennessee struggled offensively to open the second quarter, as senior linebacker Brandon Hicks (Jacksonville, Fla.) and senior defensive end Duke Lemmens (Westlake Village, Calif.) sacked Simms for a loss of nine yards. However, Janoris Jenkins fumbled the punt return and Shane Reveiz recovered the ball at the Tennessee 40-yard line. Simms found Zach Rogers in the backfield with a 33-yard pass. The Gators held the Volunteers scoreless in the red zone as sophomore linebacker Jonathan Bostic (Wellington, Fla.) picked off Simms in the end zone at 3rd and Goal for Bostic’s second interception of the season.

 

Florida’s fourth drive was halted by the Tennessee defense, but not before redshirt-freshman Jordan Reed (New London, Conn.) had a 22-yard reception at the Florida 40-yard line. The Gator defense answered back highlighted by freshman defensive end Ronald Powell’s (Moreno Valley, Calif.) sack to the Tennessee 30-yard line, a loss of four yards. The Gators took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

 

At the half, the Gators were leading the Volunteers in nearly every statistical category. Florida had 94 yards of total offense with 19 yards rushing and 75 yards passing with 16:08 possession time. The Orange and Blue converted 50% of their third-downs (3/6) and had the lone interception of the half with Bostic’s pick in the end zone.

 

The Volunteers had 69 yards of total offense with 16 yards rushing and 53 yards passing. Tennessee held onto the ball for 13:52 of the first half and converted on 25% of their third-downs (2-8). The Gators had seven first downs to the Volunteers’ four. Tennessee did not fumble in the first half, while Florida had three fumbles and lost possession of the ball once.

 

Brantley began the second half with a seven-yard pass to Thompson at the Florida 27-yard line. Brantley then handed off the ball to Demps for an 18-yard rush to the Florida 45-yard line for a first down. Brantley then answered Demps’ rush with one of his, for 12 yards to the Tennessee 43-yard line for another first down. Back-to-back rushes by redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody (Coppell, Texas) gave the Gators 3rd and 3 on the Tennessee 36-yard line, but Brantley found Demps for a seven-yard pass to the Tennessee 29-yard line. The Tennessee defense found its rhythm after Demps’ reception and held the Gators to a 44-yard field goal by Sturgis at 10:25 in the third, the Gators now leading 10-3.

 

The Volunteers answered back quickly with a three play, 71 yard drive for a Tennessee touchdown. Poole rushed for six yards before Simms found Justin Hunter and Moore for 16 and 49 yards, respectively, and Moore scored for the Vols, tying things up at 10 with 8:59 remaining in the third quarter.

 

Things started slow for the Gators on the next drive, with the only positive yardage coming from a six-yard rush by Demps to the Florida 39-yard line. With the Gators facing 4th and 6, Florida drew up a fake punt play to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Omarius Hines (Coriscana, Texas), rushing 36 yards to the Tennessee 25-yard line, giving Florida a first down with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter. The Gators have only gone for eight fake punts under Meyer and all eight have resulted in first downs for Florida. The Gators took a timeout and then gave the ball to Gillislee for another two-yard rush. Brantley found redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore (Rancho Cordova, Calif.) on the Tennessee 9-yard line for a 14-yard pass, giving the Gators 1st and Goal. Back-to-back Demps one-yard rushes gave the Gators 3rd and Goal on the Tennessee 8-yard line.

 

Brantley switched things up from the previous plays of the drive and found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, Fla.) in the end zone with a seven-yard pass, giving the Gators a 17-10 lead with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter. This was Hammond’s first reception this season for the Gators.

 

After a 4-yard rush by Poole at the Tennessee 29-yard line, Simms found Kevin Cooper for a first down with a seven-yard pass. Simms then went back to Luke Stocker, who came up with a reception at the Tennessee 40-yard line. On the next play, Brown came up big for the Gators with his second career interception at the Tennessee 44-yard line. Brown returned the ball for four yards to the Tennessee 40-yard line.

 

Gillislee rushed for 11 yards and a first down to the Tennessee 29-yard line. Demps rushed for seven yards to the Tennessee 22-yard line. Brantley then found Hines for a first down with a 13-yard pass to the Tennessee 9-yard line for a 1st and Goal. After a penalty moved the Gators back to the Tennessee 14-yard line, Moody rushed for nine yards to the Tennessee 9-yard line.

 

Gillislee then had his second touchdown of the afternoon with a five-yard rush with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter. His score capped off a five-play, 40-yard drive with a 2:26 time of possession.

 

The last play of the third quarter was another defensive highlight as redshirt senior nose tackle Brandon Antwine (Garland, Texas) sacked Simms for a loss of six yards. The drive continued with redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins (Olney, Md.) sacking Simms for a loss of 10 yards and forcing Simms into an intentional grounding on the 1-yard line, giving the Volunteers a 3rd and 25. Simms found Rogers for a nine-yard pass to the Tennessee 10-yard line, but the Vols were faced with 4th and 16 and punted to the 50-yard line.

 

Florida struggled in the next drive with a forced fumble and recovery by Tennessee’s Austin Johnson. Simms found Poole for a 12-yard rush to the Florida 39-yard line and a first down for Tennessee. Three consecutive incomplete passes and two penalties in a row gave the Vols 3rd and 25 on the Tennessee 46-yard line, but Simms found Stocker for a 19-yard reception on the Florida 35-yard line. With a 4th and 6 on the line for Tennessee, Simms hit Hunter with a 35-yard pass for a Tennessee touchdown, closing Florida’s lead to one touchdown, 24-17.

 

The next drive for Florida was highlighted by a Thompson reception for 24 yards to the Tennessee 40-yard line for a first down after back-to-back tackles by Chris Walker slowed the rushing game down. Brantley then found Moore for a 12-yard reception and another Florida first down. Two plays later, Demps rushed for 16 yards to the Tennessee 8-yard line, giving the Gators 1st and Goal. Demps moved the Gators closer to the end zone with six-yard rush to the Tennessee 2-yard line before freshman wide receiver Trey Burton (Venice, Fla.) rushed for his second touchdown of the season, giving the Gators a 30-17 lead with 6:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Gators ran down the clock with a time of possession of 5:09.

 

The next drive, Simms answered the Florida offense with a nine-yard pass to Stocker to move to the Tennessee 34-yard line, before seniors Lemmens and Justin Trattou (Ramsey, N.J.) sacked Simms for a loss of four yards to the Tennessee 30. Simms then found Poole for a 27-yard reception at the Florida 43-yard line before junior free safety Will Hill (West Orange, N.J.) forced Poole to fumble and it was recovered by freshman strong safety Matt Elam (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) at the Florida 40-yard line.

 

On the next drive, Gillislee rushed for four yards to the Florida 44-yard line. Brantley found Thompson for an 8-yard reception to the 50-yard line. Florida could not recover after a Gerald Williams sack for a loss of eight yards and the Gators were forced to punt.

 

Tennessee used its passing game to close the gap with the Gators, with Simms finding Rogers, Hunter, and Poole for a total of 23 yards before penalties and a Hicks sack forced the Volunteers to punt away for its final drive.

 

Florida had 317 total yards on offense with 150 yards rushing and 167 yards passing. The Gators had 18 first downs and converted 8 third-downs out of 14. The Florida defense had six sacks for 34 total yards to the Volunteers’ one sack for eight yards. Tennessee had 259 passing yards.

 

Brantley was 14-of-23 with 167 yards. Demps carried the ball 26 times for the Gators with a total of 73 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving on three catches. Thompson had 55 yards receiving on four receptions, while Gillislee had two touchdowns for Florida and Burton had one. Bostic had eight tackles (5 solo, 3 assisted) and one interception for the Gators, while Hicks contributed six tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a QB hurry.

 

The Gators return back to the friendly confines of The Swamp to face SEC foe Kentucky on Sept. 25. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will air nationally on ESPNU.

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