Saturday September 15, 2012Gators Score Final 24 Points, Rally to Beat Vols 37-20
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –Trey Burton, Jordan Reed and Frankie Hammond scored touchdowns as the Gators exploded for 24 straight points to take a 37-20 decision before an electric crowd at Neyland Stadium on the banks of the Tennessee River.
With the win the No. 18/17 Florida Gators (3-0, 2-0 SEC) rallied in the second half on the road for the second consecutive week sending the Volunteers (2-1, 0-1 SEC) to their first defeat of the year. It was Florida's eighth straight win in the series.
Burton took a direct snap from center, sprinted to his right and raced a career-long 80 yards for a touchdown to tie the Florida-Tennessee game at 20 late in the third quarter.
The touchdown was Burton's second of the night and marked the longest run of his career. It keyed a night in which Florida exploded for a season-high 555 yards of total offense (336 rushing, 219 passing).
Shortly after Matt Elam intercepted Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray setting up a touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Reed on a beautiful 23-yard pass to the left corner of the end zone to give the Gators the lead. Mike Gillislee, playing far from full strength, set up the touchdown with a 45-yard run into Tennessee territory. Gillislee went over the century mark again, finishing with 115 yards on 18 carries.
Driskel then found Hammond for a short pass that he turned up field and ran away from the Vols' defense en route to a 75-yard touchdown strike to give the Gators a two touchdown lead.
Caleb Sturgis added his third field goal of the night, a 49-yarder with 6:44 remaining to give Florida a 37-20 lead, capping a run of 24 straight points after trailing much of the first three quarters.
A.J. Johnson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to give Tennessee a 20-13 lead, but UT kicker Derrick Brodus struck the upright on his point-after attempt to keep the Gators within a touchdown on the scoreboard.
Burton evened it and the Reed-Driskel combo put the Gators in front.
Sturgis ended the first half with a short field goal and start the second with a shorter one after the Gators stalled on two drives inside the Tennessee 10-yard line. Sturgis booted a 25-yard as time expired in the first half and a 20-yard to cap the opening possession of the second.
Driskel was terrific on both drives. He had a 31-yard to set up Sturgis' second field goal. The drive before Driskel hit tight end Burton for 31-yard gain to the UT 11, but two runs netted only three yards and Driskel's third-down pass attempt to Solomon Patton fell incomplete.
On the final series of the first half, UF was forced to settle for a field goal after Driskel led the Gators on a no-huddle drive of eight plays and 81 yards before the Vols stuffed tailback Gillislee on third-and-goal from the 1.
Prior to that play, Driskel used his feet and arm to march the Gators into position to tie the game. He hit Quinton Dunbar for 20 yards, scrambled for 28, then rolled out under pressure and speared a sideline dart to Solomon Patton for a 17-yard gain to the UT 9.
After Gillislee ran eight yards to the 1 on first down, he was smothered for minus-1 on the next two carries.
Tennessee grabbed a 14-7 lead when quarterback Tyler Bray found tight end Mike Rivera in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown strike that marked his second TD pass of the game.
On that drive, the Vols converted three third downs -- all on Bray passes -- during a 16-play, 76-yard march, capped when Bray play-faked on a first-and-goal at the UF 6 and lobbed the ball over the heads of a pair of Gators linebackers for the go-ahead score.
Earlier, Bray hit Cordarrelle Patterson for a 2-yard touchdown pass late in the first period to tie the game at 7. That drive was aided when Bray and Justin Hunter hooked up for a 42-yard gain, then got a 15-yard pass interference call against UF cornerback Marcus Roberson. The Bray-to-Patterson touchdown came on a quick slant from the left, with Bray's throw perfectly hitting Patterson in the numbers.
That Tennessee touchdown evened things after Florida linebacker Lerentee McCray's first interception of his collegiate career, plus his 25-yard return, set up the Gators' lone score and early advantage for the visitors.
All-purpose guy Burton lined up behind center, took a direct snap and sprinted around left end for a 14-yard touchdown run to give UF a 7-0 lead midway through the opening period. On the previous play, sophomore quarterback hit Reed for 20 yards to move the Gators into scoring position. Burton finished with three carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Driskel looked by far the most comfortable of his young career, finishing 14-of-20 passing for 219 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He added eight carries for 81 yards. Just as noteworthy, the Gators' signal-caller was not sacked once on the day.
After a pair of road wins in two hostile environments, the Gators finally return home next Saturday to face Kentucky in the SEC home opener at 12:21 p.m. on the SEC Network.