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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Gators dominate Volunteers, take three straight in series

It was supposed to be a shoot-out at The Swamp, but only the Gators came armed.

UF, backed by an all-blue home crowd, romped over Tennessee 59-20, marking the biggest blowout in the rivalry series since 1990.

For the third straight time, Urban Meyer got the best of Phillip Fulmer.

BThat was a great night for Florida football, to see our fans out there in blue,C Meyer said. BEvery once in a while, you look up there and think, wow, I?m a fortunate guy to be coaching here at Florida.C

UF?s offense provided the heavy artillery, putting up four first-half touchdowns and scoring the final 31 points of the game.

Quarterback Tim Tebow thrust himself into the Heisman race, throwing for 299 yards on 14-of-19 passing with a pair of scores.

He ran for another 67 and two more touchdowns.

Andre Caldwell was missing in action with a sprained MCL, so Percy Harvin stepped up.

The sophomore finished with 13 touches for 195 yards and a touchdown, leading the Gators in rushing and receiving.

BIt was a complete team effort today,C said Tebow, who exuded a veteran?s presence in his first Southeastern Conference start. BOur receivers found a way to get open down the field, and our offensive line did a good job of forcing good running lanes. Any time you can run the ball and throw the ball well, you will be successful.C

While the offense fired at will, the defense held its ground against one of the fastest teams in the country.

The defense had been subject to Meyer?s scorn after the first two games, especially an interior line that generated no push and a backfield that gave up big plays.

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No. 3 UF (3-0, 1-0 SEC) forced three turnovers, including a fumble that changed the complexion of the game in the early stages of the third quarter.

Down 28-20, Tennessee had the ball and a chance to tie the game. On its first play of the drive, Arian Foster muffed a handoff from Erik Ainge, sending the ball bouncing toward the Gators? defensive line.

It jumped into the hands of Gators linebacker Dustin Doe, who ran in from 18 yards out, upping UF?s lead to 15 points and killing Tennessee?s confidence.

Tennessee had just one drive gain more than 10 yards in the second half, a testament to a total defensive effort.

BMy hat?s off to them, first to our players and second to our defensive staff,C Meyer said. BThey never cease to amaze me with their game plan and more important than the game plan is the players playing their hearts out, celebrating because of defense.C

The win puts UF in a familiar position, atop the SEC East standings.

Joining the Gators are Steve Spurrier?s South Carolina Gamecocks, who upset Georgia in week two.

UF has two road showdowns looming, Oct. 6 at No. 2 LSU and Nov. 10 at South Carolina.

Saturday was supposed to mark September?s marquee matchup, but the Gators? ambush left everyone, including Meyer, a little shell-shocked.

BNo, I didn?t see this one coming,C Meyer said. BI didn?t see it coming until the whistle blew at the end of the game.C

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