CFN Thoughts - Florida Rocks The Vols
CFN's Instant Analysis on Florida's win over Tennessee
By Richard Cirminiello
Florida is for real.
Will Muschamp's second team in Gainesville is no joke. The Gators, an unknown quantity to many when the season began, have emerged as a very pleasant surprise after the first three weeks of the 2012 season. In consecutive weeks, Florida has now gone on the road for wins in College Station and Knoxville, arguably stamping itself as the biggest threat to Georgia in the SEC East.
Florida is playing Muschamp's brand of bare-knuckles football, pounding it between the tackles with RB Mike Gillislee, and outmuscling the other guys on defense. The special teamers, like PK Caleb Sturgis, are pulling their weight, and the maturation of true sophomore QB Jeff Driskel appears to be happening at warp speed. He's still not being asked to do too much, but his all-around physical gifts are obvious, and his toughness in and out of the pocket has started to rub off on his teammates.
The Gators can seriously start dreaming about a shot of playing in the SEC title game in December, which hasn't happened in these parts in a few years. Sure, the program still has a long way to go, and Driskel remains green, but these past two wins in hostile territory are defining moments for a coach who desperately needed a fast start, and a team that was seeking an uprising. SEC road wins are coveted gems. Florida already has a pair in its back pocket.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb
Once again this rivalry game came down to rushing, and once again the Tennessee Vols were found lacking.
While Tennessee did much better than their -9 net yards from 2011, their 83 yards on 28 carries (3 ypc) again meant another key SEC game in which the Vols failed to crack the 100 yard mark.
Meanwhile, the Gators junior Trey Burton beat the Volunteers rushing mark all by himself (91 yards), and did it on just three carries…with two touchdowns to boot.
But it didn't stop with Burton. Starting UF tailback Mike Gillislee didn't even make the first series, and yet he finished the day with 115 yards on 18 carries. Not to be outdone, quarterback Jeff Driskel tacked on 81 yards of his own, on just 8 carries.
It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the Tennessee defense found itself on the field more often than their Gators counterparts, particularly in the second half.
But that's not the shocker – nor is the Gators 336 total RUSHING yards for the day.
The shocker would be that Tennessee was outscored 24-0 in the game's final 19 minutes, at home. That after stopping the Gators' fake punt near mid-field with 20 minutes to play, up 20-13, the Vols would only run the ball four more times.
Four. More. Times.
From that point forward, the Tennessee offense basically shot blanks, in handing Florida coach Will Muschamp the biggest conference win of his short head coaching career.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
That makes it eight straight wins for Florida over Tennessee. But that's not what you should take out of this game.
Fact is, this was a huge win for the Gators. It may be just the wind needed in their sails to point the ship back in the right direction. The program had kind of run aground ever since the Urban Meyer departure, and despite winning its first two games this year, there were still many more questions than answers.
And then this.
Nobody is ready to make this Florida team the hands-on favorite to knock off the upper-crust of the SEC West, but there are reasons to believe that the Gators may have a legitimate shot to compete for the SEC East title.
No, this Tennessee team that played on Saturday night isn't on par with those from the Phillip Fulmer era, but the Vols have a fairly sage squad with talent that has begun to ripen. The fact that the Gators were able to come into Neyland Stadium and not hear Rocky Top too often says something for their new-found resolve.
The offense? It clicked all night long. The running game had all kinds of balance and speed on the ground, and Jeff Driskel played a solid, mistake-free game under center. In the end, putting up over 550 yards of offense probably says all you need to know about how effective the Florida offensive-attack was tonight.
There's obviously still a long way to go, but if Will Muschamp can keep his team focused and find a way to knock-off Georgia and South Carolina when they come to Gainesville in back-to-back weeks in October, well then--game on.
By Matt Zemek
When Florida's fake punt failed in the third quarter, it was entirely reasonable to arrive that the opinion that the Gators were not coached particularly well. With Tennessee leading by seven in front of an energized six-figure crowd at Neyland Stadium, the Children of the Checkerboard knew that their opponent had repeatedly misfired for two and a half quarters. A neutral observer would have found it hard to amass evidence in support of the contention that Florida would win the game going away.
Yet, that's precisely what happened.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about early-season college football – September college football – is that the results from the first two weekends often say more about the losers than the winners. It is quite clear that Tennessee's emphatic victory over North Carolina State on Aug. 31 said a lot more about the deficiencies of the Wolfpack than the virtues of the Volunteers. (Alabama's win over Michigan was and is an exception, not a trend-setter.) September is a month of volatility in this sport, and Vols-Gators offered a perfect illustration.
There's no doubt that Tennessee is talented and that Florida has been quite fortunate in a number of respects. Yet, the following statement is hard to refute: While Tennessee shriveled in the face of game pressure, Florida – for all of its manifest missteps – has played an authoritative second half in an enemy SEC lair for a second straight week. Luck can be a companion, but teams and coaching staffs maximize luck. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease is making fantastic second-half adjustments.
Tennessee, for its part, now knows its win over N.C. State meant little.
By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn
In a battle of one program trying desperately to keep their dominance into a new era and another trying just as hard to regain that which they once had, the team that had it kept it, and the team that didn't will keep searching.>
Point to a brutal sequence to start the fourth, end the third that stuck the knife in the Vols and twisted. A deep, well thrown ball by Tyler Bray saw Cordarrelle Patterson attempt to go all EA Sports one handed catch and it was dropped. Would have likely been a TD. Then, on third and 10, Bray threw a caught ball, but was visibly frustrated that the receiver didn't run to the sticks. Then in the fourth, on third again, before Florida Katie barred the door, Justin Hunter dropped a wide open conversion catch. Florida was great. The play calling was diverse from the jump, and when they got in space, they were just faster.
Jeff Driskel accounted for 300 yards of total offense, and the Gators found their leader. For the doubters of "Coach Boom," exit stage left.
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball
The first three quarters of this game looked more like the classic Florida - Tennessee matchups that glued college football fans to their TV sets during the 1990s.
Then the Gators broke it open.
Unfortunately, the final score does not reflect how tough of a struggle this contest was. It looked like the Volunteers were going to win the game at halftime. They moved the ball almost at will and managed to hold Florida to 10 points.
However, for the second week in a row, Will Muschamp and his staff made some excellent adjustments at halftime. After sputtering in the first thirty minutes, the Gators exploded in the second half, scoring points on five of their seven second half possessions. On the other side of the ball, the defense held the Volunteers scoreless over the final 22 minutes of play.
After this convincing victory, it's safe to say that Muschamp is no longer on the hot seat. Does his team have a long way to go before it's back at the level that it was under Urban Meyer? Yes, it does. However, Muschamp's ability to make adjustments on the fly will keep the Gators in every game that they play this season.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Derek Dooley. The Volunteers continue to improve every season under his leadership, but the team still continues to miss assignments and make mental errors at times. Even though he may lead them to a bowl game this year, it remains to be seen if the Orange Nation will give him another season.