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Jabar Gaffney had 101 yards receiving, including a 21-yd TD.

Saturday December 1, 2001Vols beat Gators 34-32 for SEC East title

Gainesville, FL

Jabar Gaffney had 101 yards receiving, including a 21-yd TD.

Travis Stephens was nearly unstoppable, running for 226 yards and two touchdowns as the fifth ranked Tennessee Volunteers ended a seven-game losing streak at Florida with a 34-32 upset of the Gators Saturday in Gainesville. The win - before a record crowd of 85,771 - earns the Volunteers the SEC East title and a berth in next Saturday's SEC Championship game against LSU.

Florida spotted the Volunteers a 14-0 first quarter lead, but stormed back with 20 straight points to take a 20-14 halftime advantage. Quarterback Casey Clausen gave Tennessee the lead on their very first drive when he hit Troy Fleming with a short touchdown pass. Then after Florida quarterback Rex Grossman had a pass picked off by Jabari Greer, Stephens scored an easy touchdown from six yards out to give the Vols the 14-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Gators caught fire. Grossman scored on a quarterback sneak after hitting Reche Caldwell with a pass to the Tennessee one yard line. On Tennessee's next series, Gus Scott forced a fumble and Todd Johnson returned it to the Vols' 16 yard line setting up Jeff Chandler's 20 yard field goal to make it 14-10. Then Grossman hit Jabar Gaffney with a 21 yard touchdown pass with 9:00 to go in the half to give the Gators their first lead, 17-14. The touchdown was set up by Mike Nattiel's interception of a deflected pass. Chandler closed out the scoring with a 27 yard field goal.

Tennessee took the second half kick off and went on an 80 yard touchdown drive with Stephens sprinting 35 yards for the score to put the Vols back in front 21-20.

The Gators squandered a number of touchdown opportunities, settling for Chandler's 35 yard field goal after a drive stalled. That put the Gators in front 23-21 with 5:54 to go in the third quarter. But after a Lito Sheppard interception on Tennessee's next series, the Gators failed to convert on fourth and five.

In the fourth quarter, Tennessee went back in front 27-23 on a Jabari Davis two yard touchdown run. They missed a two-point conversion. Jeff Chandler came back with another field goal after a drive stalled, this time booming one from 52 yards out to cut the Tennessee lead to 27-26 with 10:30 to go.

But the play that may have been the backbreaker for the Gators was Stephens' 68 yard run that set up Davis for a one yard touchdown run that put Tennessee up 34-26 with 8:30 to play. That forced the Gators to have to score a touchdown and then go for two points to tie. The Gators did score - on Grossman's two yard touchdown pass to Carlos Perez with just over a minute to play. But Grossman misfired on a pass to Gaffney that would have tied the game up.

"We didn't deserve to win, even though we were two points away from tieing it up", said Florida coach Steve Spurrier in his postgame radio interview. "For some reason, Tennessee runs the ball right down our throats. I was really disappointed in our run game, defensively".

While the Vols gained 242 yards rushing against the Gators, the Tennessee defense held Florida to just 36 yards on the ground. Florida missed Earnest Graham, who was out with an injury. His replacement, Robert Gillespie, gained just 21 yards on nine carries.

"Give Tennessee credit" said Spurrier. "This is the year we lost both of our close games. In close games we were 0 and 2. It was a good year, but we didn't win anything so we're very disappointed".

Grossman, who was pressured all game long by the Tennessee defense, finished with 33 completions in 51 attempts for 362 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

It's Tennessee's first win in "the swamp" since 1971. It gives the Vols a 10-1 record and a 7-1 mark in the SEC. The Gators end the regular season with a 9-2 record and 6-2 in league play. The Gators now await a bowl bid.

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