Tennessee's comeback bid lasted all but a few seconds.
With the Gators leading 28-20 with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter, UF linebacker Dustin Doe scooped up a fumble by Tennessee's Arian Foster and took it in for a touchdown. The score put the Gators ahead 35-20 following an extra point.
More importantly, it completely changed the flow of the game, as the Gators pounded the Volunteers following the fumble return en route to a 59-20 victory.
BIt was phenomenal,C Doe said. BYou live for opportunities like these. (It was) game-changing.C
Foster?s fumble appeared to be unforced, as the running back never completely secured the ball on the exchange from quarterback Erik Ainge.
Because Ainge has a broken finger on his right hand, the right-handed quarterback has been handing the ball off with his left hand.
BWhether it was [Foster?s] arm that came down on it, or me getting him the ball late, I?m not quite sure,C Ainge said.
After a scrum of players failed to grab hold of the ball, it bounced to Doe who had a clear path to the end zone.
BScoop and score,C Doe said. BThat?s all I was thinking about. Scoop and score.C
Doe?s big play came on the heels of a crucial defensive play by the Volunteers.
Tennessee appeared to be on the verge of bouncing back from a 15-point halftime deficit when a 96-yard interception return by Vols? cornerback Eric Berry cut UF's lead to 8 following the point after.
The Volunteers forced a punt on the Gators' next possession, taking the air out of the crowd and pushing the momentum in their favor.
That swing would last for one play, when the Gators? defensive touchdown put them back in the driver?s seat for good.
After the defense stole the momentum back, the UF offense took control of the game and put Tennessee away.
BIt?s 28-20, and we?re talking about going for two the next time we score,C Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. BAll of a sudden the ball pops out, and it was a huge swing. It just went downhill from there.C
UF's defense had forced just two turnovers in two games prior to kickoff Saturday, but the unit came up with three - Doe?s fumble recovery and two interceptions - against the Volunteers.
Coach Urban Meyer stressed the importance of Doe?s play, as well as a first-quarter interception by cornerback Markihe Anderson.
Anderson?s play kept Tennessee off the scoreboard after marching to the UF 11-yard line.
BThose are difference makers,C Meyer said. BThose are game changers.C