Florida (2-1) defeated No.11 Tennessee (2-1) 29-16 in front of 90,751 screaming Gator fans, the 12th largest crowd in program history and the second largest crowd in the UF-UT rivalry.
Gator Country provides early takeaways from Florida’s dominant win over the Vols in week three.
WINNING TIME OF POSESSION
Florida dominated the time of possession in the first half, keeping Tennessee’s defense on the field for 21:42 of 30 possible minutes. The Vols’ defense was visibly gassed late in the first half, leading to four straight touchdowns by the Gators’ offense, three of which came in the second quarter.
Florida won the time of possession 37:34 to 22:17. Keeping Tennesse’s offense off the field was a major key to victory.
CROWD MADE A DIFFERENCE
There’s no question that the sold-out Swamp made a difference on Saturday night. Tennessee was penalized ten times for 79 yards, with a number of those being procedural penalties.
“They had procedure penalties. The crowd affected them,” Billy Napier said postgame.
“I think in this league, home field advantage is a big deal,” Napier added. “And they were a factor tonight. There’s no question. How many procedure penalties did the crowd create? I think Austin had a really good plan. We stemmed the front on occasion. They were a factor. All the third downs, the fourth downs, really significant. Really thankful for that. 90,000 strong.”
It’s also important to note that the crowd caused communication issues throughout the night, even causing Tennessee to burn two timeouts on their first possession of the third quarter.
TREVOR ETIENNE CAREER DAY
Trevor Etienne was nothing short of spectacular against Tennessee, rushing for a career high 172 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. Etienne got Florida on the board with his 62-yard rushing touchdown on the Gators’ second offensive possession, which provided the spark the Gators’ needed to get going offensively.
“Trevor was on fire out there tonight. I mean, just the instincts, the vision,” Napier said on Etienne’s performance.
Napier also noted on Montrell Johnson, who scored a critical touchdown on a slip screen.
“Him and Montrell both were in situations where they made guys miss tackles,” Napier added. “And then after contact created big plays. You think about the screen, Montrell gets a little piece of the guy. Both of those guys have got great contact balance. And what’s good for our team is they’re some of the hardest working kids that we have. They have character. They’re extremely bright. They set a great example. So I think that helps your team when your best players are the best examples.”
SPECIAL TEAMS MISCUES
The Florida Gators’ Special Teams miscues continued in week three. After a promising 14 play drive that took 7:26 off the clock, Florida’s kicker Adam Mihalek came up woefully short on a 46-yard attempt, leaving the Gators empty on their first possession. After the Gators scored their first touchdown of the game on a 62-yard house call from running back Trevor Etienne, Mihalek’s extra point was blocked by Tennessee’s Special Teams unit.
Both of Mihalek’s kicks were too low to the ground, which is not needed in most scenarios, especially from short range.
The missed XP prompted Billy Napier to go for two on the Gators’ next touchdown, which they did not convert.
Florida was also called for an offsides on a kickoff and Jeremey Crawshaw averaged 35.7 yards on three punts, including a 24-yard punt. Consistency continues to be an issue for the Australian punter.
While the Special Teams miscues didn’t lose Florida the game in this one, the Gators left five points on the field against the Vols and allowed very favorable field position.
Backup place kicker Trey Smack got an opportunity to kick in week three and converted on both of his extra point attempts while adding a 27-yard field goal.
AUSTIN ARMSTRONG MAKES A STATEMENT
Through two games of the 2023 season, Austin Armstrong’s defense ranked third in the FBS in yards allowed, but Tennesse was the first big test for this Gators’ defense. Florida held Tennesse’s up-tempo offense to 16 points and 393 yards, which are both season lows for the Vols.
Perhaps the most important plays of the game were on 4th down, where Florida stopped Tennessee on all three of their 4th down conversions.
“How many fourth downs did they — three, right? So, to me, those are turnovers, right? So, I mean, when you have a four-turnover game on defense, it’s going to be hard to beat you,” Napier said postgame.
Florida also recorded their first turnover of the 2023 season when Desmond Watson and the rest of the Gators’ defensive line got pressure on Joe Milton, who launched a balloon pass that landed in the arms of DB Devin Moore.
“So the pick was huge, right, just because we affected the quarterback,” Napier said. “All the things we talk about all week. Protect our quarterback, affect their quarterback, to hit the guy and the ball to go up and get it on the short field and then to cash it in.”
FIGHTING THROUGH ADVERSITY
The Gators were gut punched early on in the contest. After a solid opening drive that resulted in a missed field goal, Tennesse scored a touchdown in just over two minutes, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead in Gainesville.
Florida responded with four straight touchdowns without allowing Tennesse to score again before the first half, which including two three and outs and the Gators’ first turnover of the 2023 season.
“I think it was difficult early,” Napier said postgame. “We moved the ball down into the red area. It forced us to kick a field goal. We missed the field goal. And then they just go straight down the field and score. So that’s when you know I think you’re onto something when you see a group rally and continue to work and stick together. Some of those intangibles that we’ve built showed up tonight. I think ultimately there was adversity in the beginning.”
The Florida Gators improve to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in the SEC.