Florida Gators: Gators-Vols 091512

Gators' success built from ground up

September, 16, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp, who played at Georgia and worked as defensive coordinator at LSU and Auburn before replacing Urban Meyer as the Gators' coach, knows a thing or two about playing and coaching in the SEC.

And after the Gators went 7-6 in his first season as a head coach in 2011, Muschamp knew his program needed an attitude adjustment.

"I do know a little bit about this league," Muschamp said Saturday night. "You can't win in this league if you can't run the football."

Tell that to Tennessee.

The No. 18 Gators ran for 336 yards, including 250 in the second half, to run away with a 37-20 victory over the No. 23 Volunteers in front of a sold-out crowd of 102,455 fans at Neyland Stadium. It was Florida's eighth consecutive victory over the Volunteers and 16th in their last 21 meetings.

For Mark Schlabach's full column, click here.

Vols melt under the bright spotlight

September, 16, 2012

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Good thing the Knoxville Police Department put out that warning earlier in the week about fans rushing the field at Neyland Stadium.

The next time, somebody might want to instead put out a warning about expecting a different ending to a movie we’ve all seen over and over again for much of the last decade.

In this case, it’s eight years and counting.

That’s how many times Florida has beaten Tennessee in a row after the latest flop on Rocky Top, a 37-20 romp by the Gators on Saturday night that spoiled what the Vols had hoped would be their breakout party.

The buildup was as loud as Tennessee’s shade of orange.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” was in the house. The Vols were ranked nationally for the first time since the beginning of the 2008 season, and Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore even went semi-Joe Namath on us earlier in the week when he said, “I think people want to wait and see how we do against Florida, but I’m here to tell them that we’re going to beat them.”

For a while, it looked like Sentimore might be a prophet and that the Vols would make the splash they were looking for on this big stage.

But a 20-13 Tennessee lead midway through the third quarter turned into one big Gator-chomping party. Florida reeled off 24 unanswered points to rudely remind the Vols of their place in this rivalry, which really hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all for a long time.

Since the SEC’s divisional split in 1992, Florida has won 16 of the 21 meetings between the schools.

“They’re front-runners. They talk a lot,” Florida running back Trey Burton said of the Vols. “As soon as we got up, their fans started leaving. It’s a big win for us.”

Indeed, the anticipated rush of the field became a rush of the aisles, as frustrated Tennessee fans scurried to the exits.

Afterward, the Vols’ coaches and players sounded equally frustrated. They talked about crumbling under the pressure, not responding to adversity, not making the proper checks on defense and being confused at times by what the Gators were doing on offense.

[+] EnlargeDerek Dooley
Randy Sartin/US PresswireCoach Derek Dooley and the Vols brain trust couldn't find any answers during the second-half meltdown.
“Once you get in the heat of battle and once adversity hits, you’ve got to respond to adversity and not crunch under adversity, and that’s what we did,” Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers lamented.

The Vols’ defense was torched for 555 total yards, including 336 rushing. Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat package tied the game at 20-20. Then came a three-play, 70-yard drive by the Gators with Jordan Reed catching a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel.

The Gators’ third touchdown in the decisive spree was Frankie Hammond gathering in a short toss when the Vols came on a corner blitz and then sprinting through the Tennessee secondary for a 75-yard touchdown.

“You can’t give up those in this league and expect to win the football game. You just can’t,” said Derek Dooley, who dropped to 0-11 against nationally ranked teams as Tennessee’s coach.

The truth is that the Vols didn’t do much of anything it takes to win in this league.

Getting gashed for 336 rushing yards is one thing. But the Vols looked slow in trying to recover when they were out of position, and there were more than a few orange-shirted players with their hands hanging for much of the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to go to work on that and keep guys motivated for 60 minutes,” Tennessee cornerback Prentiss Waggner said.

It wasn’t all on the Tennessee defense, either.

The Vols melted on offense after Florida tied the game at 20-20. They managed just five total yards in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tyler Bray, who threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, was 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter and wasn’t helped much by his two star receivers.

Cordarrelle Patterson couldn’t pull in a deep pass down the left sideline that might have been a touchdown, and Justin Hunter dropped one over the middle on the next possession that would have been a first down.

“It looked like we lost a little juice at the end, on both sides,” Dooley said. “When the ball broke out, it looked like we were lumbering on both sides.”

The Vols also seemed to panic in the play-calling department. They had 67 rushing yards at the half, but forgot about trying to run the football in the second half. In fact, after Florida tied the game at 20-20, Tennessee threw the ball on 11 of its next 13 plays.

“We weren’t responding well,” said Bray, whose intentional grounding penalty after the Vols snuffed out a Florida fake punt in the third quarter was when the game turned in the Gators’ favor.

“We knew that we were going to be the ones that stopped us. We just fell apart.”

Dooley did his best to emphasize that it was just one game. But this was more than just one game for the Vols, who get Akron at home next week before starting a grueling stretch that includes away games at No. 7 Georgia, Mississippi State and No. 9 South Carolina and a home game with No. 1 Alabama.

Nope, this was a chance for Tennessee to make some real noise with the rest of the country watching and serve notice that the Vols were at least on their way back.

The only thing they’re back to is the proverbial drawing board, and Dooley didn’t sound like he had a lot of answers.

“We felt like we were equipped to go toe-to-toe with them for four quarters,” Dooley said. “There’s no excuses. We didn’t get it done and give Florida the credit. They did what they needed to do. I don’t know what else to say.”

Gillislee shows no sign of injury

September, 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- So much for Mike Gillislee's bad groin.

Florida's senior running back rushed for 115 yards on 18 carries in the Gators' 37-20 victory over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. Gillislee had strained his groin during UF's victory at Texas A&M last week, and while he did practice every day this past week, there were some question about how effective he would be.

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Randy Sartin/US PresswireFlorida running back Mike Gillislee racked up 115 yards on 18 carries against Tennessee.
But Gillislee showed no signs of the injury -- other than walking off the field with a slight limp after a run in the fourth quarter. He ripped off a 45-yard run and a 33-yard run in the second half and finished the night averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

"That's just Old Man River," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "He just keeps going."

Muschamp said on College GameDay that Gillislee was going to get 20 carries against the Vols. However, it looked for a moment that he was trying to mislead the Vols because freshman Matt Jones started the game. But that was only because Jones had practiced the reverse the Gators tried to run on their first play.

Gillislee was on the field for UF's second possession.

Gillislee continues to lead the SEC in rushing (346 yards) and he is averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Gators injury report: Nothing serious

September, 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- No. 18 Florida came out of its 37-20 victory over No. 23 Tennessee relatively healthy.

DT Dominique Easley was helped off the field during the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a left knee injury. UF coach Will Muschamp said Easley "tweaked" his knee but wasn't seriously hurt.

"He’s fine," Muschamp said. "They (team medical personnel) already came to me and said he’s fine."

OT Chaz Green did not play because of an ankle injury. Muschamp said it was a game-time decision. Green has been bothered by the ankle for two weeks. He did not warm up with the first team on the field before the Texas A&M game, either. Kyle Kohene started in his place.


Five observations from Gators-Vols

September, 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Here are five things that stood out in Florida's 37-20 victory over Tennessee in front of 102,455 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

1. Florida was able to win the game despite going just 3-for-13 on third down. That's what big plays will do for an offense. Florida had nine rushes or passes of at least 20 yards -- including an 80-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard touchdown pass.

2. Starting RT Chaz Green did not play because of an ankle sprain, but Kyle Koehne stepped in a did a pretty good job. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound redshirt junior has spent his entire career playing mostly guard but was able to hold his own against UT's edge rushers. He did commit one false-start penalty but helped the Gators rush for 336 yards and not give up a single sack.

3. Buck LB Lerentee McCray was very active for the second consecutive week. He had two tackles, intercepted one pass, and caused another interception with pressure on UT QB Tyler Bray.

(Read full post)

Call it a happy case of déjà vu for No. 18 Florida. The Gators went into an electric atmosphere and fell behind to a motivated opponent for the second straight weekend. And for the second straight weekend, the Gators made some halftime adjustments and roared to a second-half win. With a surprising 555 yards of total offense, Florida's 37-20 victory over No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday night was a bit more explosive than the defensive slugfest against Texas A&M.

Here's how the Gators overcame their SEC East rival for the eighth consecutive season:

It was over when: Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel beat a blitz to hit wide receiver Frankie Hammond for a 75-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The score gave the Gators 21 unanswered points in the second half and put them up 34-20 with just 10 minutes to play in the game.

Game ball goes to: Driskel continued his rapid maturation as the Gators' starting quarterback in front of a packed house at hostile Neyland Stadium. The sophomore connected on 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers against a hapless Tennessee secondary. He ran for 81 clutch rushing yards without taking a sack, and he found Hammond for the game-clinching points.

(Read full post)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- No. 18 Florida took a 7-0 lead but No. 23 Tennessee responded with a pair of touchdown drives and took a four-point lead into the break in a battle of Southeastern Conference unbeatens at Neyland Stadium.

Stat of the half: Tennessee has rushed for 67 yards on 15 carries. That's more rushing yards than the Vols had in the last two meetings (20 yards).

Player of the half: After a shaky start, UT QB Tyler Bray heated up and led the Vols to a pair of touchdowns. He is 13-for-23 for 154 yards and hit Cordarrelle Patterson and Mychal Rivera for short TDs. He threw one interception and had two others passes that should have been picked off early, but settled down. On UT's second scoring drive he completed passes on third-and-11, third-and-10 and fourth-and-10.

What's working for Florida: QB Jeff Driskel has done a solid job of getting the ball out and finding his receivers. The offensive line has, for the most part, given him good protection. He's been effective running the ball and showed that he's learned something about getting rid of the ball when scrambling, too. He hit Solomon Patton for a 17-yard gain just before he ran out of bounds late in the first half.

What's not working for Florida: The Gators are having trouble in man coverage, especially CB Marcus Roberson. He got burned deep once and later in the half gave Justin Hunter a 7-yard cushion that resulted in an easy 5-yard catch for a first down on third-and-3. UF also has committed six penalties for 70 yards, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Xavier Nixon for taking his helmet off after a play. The Gators aren't mounting much of a pass rush, either.

Keep an eye on Gators' Gillislee

September, 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida running back Mike Gillislee, who suffered an injury to his groin last week in the win against Texas A&M, went through warm-ups and appeared to move well.

Gillislee will definitely be worth watching Saturday night. He's the SEC's leading rusher through two games and the centerpiece of the Gators' offense. If he's not 100 percent or can't finish the game, that's a huge blow for Florida.

He practiced this week, and the Florida coaches say he's ready to go. But groin injuries tend to linger and can always be tricky.

Speaking of the running game, the Vols have managed just 20 total yards on the ground in the past two games against Florida. Tennessee doesn't necessarily need to rush for 150 yards to win this game, but the Vols will have to muster some semblance of a running game to keep Florida's front seven honest, and keep the Gators from teeing off on quarterback Tyler Bray.

The other thing to watch is special teams. Florida has won 15 of the past 20 games in this series, and in most of those wins, the Gators either made a big play on special teams or the Vols committed a major blunder.

Vols vs. Gators: It feels like old times

September, 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This is the way Florida versus Tennessee used to feel.

It’s the way this game is supposed to feel.

Nobody is saying the winner of Saturday’s game in Neyland Stadium will emerge as the favorite to win the Eastern Division, but the winner will at least be in the conversation.

Tennessee is oozing with confidence. Some might say too much confidence when you consider the Vols have never beaten a nationally ranked team under Derek Dooley.

But these Vols believe it’s their time to break through after suffering through losing seasons in three of the last four years.

The Gators are equally confident after smothering Texas A&M in the second half last week in a 20-17 road win over the Aggies. This is a much more physical Florida team than the last two seasons, and that’s exactly the way second-year coach Will Muschamp wants it.

(Read full post)


McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.