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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tony Joiner sealed UF's 39-point win with a kiss.

The Gators senior strong safety puckered up and laid a wet one on quarterback Tim Tebow's cheek in the second quarter, after Tebow had connected with Cornelius Ingram to put the Gators up 28-6.

"It's not the first time it's happened," Tebow said. "I'm surprised it wasn't further down."

In a UF-Tennessee game, a public display of affection should not be the lead highlight. But the game wasn't close, so cameras had to look elsewhere for emotional moments.

No. 5 UF, backed by an all-blue home crowd, romped over the visiting No. 22 Volunteers 59-20, marking the biggest blowout in the rivalry series since 1990.

"That was a great night for Florida football, to see our fans out there in blue," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "Every once in a while, you look up there and think, wow, I'm a fortunate guy to be coaching here at Florida."

Tebow opened in shaky fashion in his first start against a Southeastern Conference team but found his groove late in the first quarter on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper, putting the Gators up 14-3.

Tebow added another passing touchdown and two more running scores. He finished the game 14-of-19 for 299 yards with 18 carries for 61 yards.

"It was a complete team effort today," Tebow said. "Our 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."

UF's offense was unstoppable, and its young and potentially porous 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.

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.

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Down 28-20, Tennessee had the ball and a chance to knot 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.

"My hats off to them, first to our players and second to our defensive staff," Meyer said. "They 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."

Tennessee (1-2, 0-1 SEC) was feeling - and seeing - the blues on Saturday at The Swamp.

After losing two of their first three games, the Volunteers have to work their way out of a ditch just to sniff a major bowl game.

"Certainly, this wasn't the representation that we intended it to be down here today," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

Fulmer could have been talking about the 31 unanswered points Florida reeled off to end the game.

He could have been talking about the 37 rushing yards his vaunted backfield put up.

Any way you look at it, UF dominated and made a laughing stock out of what was supposed to be an SEC showdown.

"No, I didn't see this one coming," Meyer said. 'I didn't see it coming until the whistle blew at the end of the game."

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