Saturday September 21, 2013Gators Defeat Tennessee for Ninth Straight Win in Series
Solomon Patton races toward the end zone on a 52-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy accounted for a pair of touchdowns and the Florida defense forced six turnovers as the No. 19 Gators defeated Tennessee 31-17 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Saturday at the “Swamp.” The win was the Gators' ninth straight in the series.
Murphy, summoned after starter Jeff Driskel was forced from the game with an ankle injury in the first period, entered the game having never thrown a pass as a collegian. He finished eight of 14 for 134 yards, and added another 84 yards rushing on 10 carries, including a fourth-quarter touchdown of seven yards to push UF ahead 31-10.
The Gators (2-1, 1-0) finished with 382 yards of total offense, but it was their defense that set the tone behind four interceptions and two fumbles. The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) finished with 220 yards of total offense, but at halftime had just 31 yards on 25 plays.
The Gators led 17-7 at the half, thanks to a 2-yard touchdown run from Mack Brown with 37 seconds to go in the second quarter. The Vols got a field goal on their first drive of third period from Michael Palardy. The points came after UT coach Butch Jones opted for a quarterback switch, benching ineffective redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman (4 of 11, 5 yards, 2 interceptions) in favor of Worley, the junior backup.
UF was bouyed by a spectacular two quarters from a defense that forced four turnovers and held the Volunteers 31 total yards on 25 plays. Tennessee's only points came when cornerback Devaun Swafford returned a Jeff Driskel interception 62 yards for the first score of the game. Driskel injured his ankle on the play and was replaced by Murphy, the junior backup who began the day having never attempted a college pass.
Brown's touchdown was set up by a tipped-ball interception by junior defensive tackle Darius Cummings, whose 30-yard return set the Gators up on the UT 40. Seven plays later, one a crucial third-down run by Murphy to move the chains, Brown took an inside handoff and broke it outside for the score and 10-point lead.
The touchdown was UF's second of the day. Earlier in the half, Patton took the pass from Murphy and weaved around two UT defensive players and raced 52 yards for the touchdown and 10-7 lead.
That play came after UF defensive back Brian Poole came down with a batted ball to set the UF offense up at its own 44.
UF's Austin Hardin had kicked a 23-yard field goal late in the first quarter after the Gators' defense forced a turnover deep in UT territory.
Swafford's touchdown return came when Driskel, with a UT defender wrapped around his ankles, tried to force a throw to wide receiver Trey Burton, who was blanketed in coverage on the Tennessee sideline. The ball hit Swafford in the numbers and he raced untouched for the score at the 9:23 mark of the period.
The pick was Driskel's fourth turnover in the last two games and the QB's fifth of the young season. He left the field after the play to be examined by UF's health team.
The play marked the second miscue for the Gators. One possession earlier, punter Kyle Christy let a center snap sail through his hands and picked up the ball in time to be smashed and brought down at the UF 15.
The Vols took over from there, but UF sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., made a spectacular play in crashing from the left side, beating a chip block by the UT tailback and forcing a fumble that he recovered.
Fowler did it again later in the quarter when he sacked Vols quarterback Nathan Peterman and forced a fumble the Gators recovered at the UT 6. A fumble on first down cost UF six yards and the Gators eventually had to settle for the field goal from Hardin to get on the board.