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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Sophomore running back Brandon James kicked off UF's Southeastern Conference season with a bang when made an 83-yard punt return on the Gators' first drive against the Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.

The return was the fifth-longest in school history, matching George Grandy?s 83-yard run against Tulane in 1966.

BWhenever he gets the ball you have to hold your breath because you never know what can happen,C sophomore linebacker Dustin Doe said.

While the Gators were on the sideline unable to breathe, the rest of the stadium was losing its breath, screaming in euphoria as the 90,707 in attendance watched James sprint for a touchdown.

James made his debut as the starting punt returner in Knoxville last season, but he didn?t have the same luck as he did Saturday night.

Against the Vols? last season, James nearly broke his first return for a touchdown, but he was tripped by punter Dustin Colquitt after a 35-yard gain.

He later returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown, but the play was called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty, so the sophomore silently prayed this time as he headed for the Gators? end zone.

BMaking that run, I was thinking the whole time, 'Please don?t call this one back,?C James said.

Surprisingly, Tennessee continued to kick to the dynamic runner. James finished with three punt returns for 91 yards, and he returned four kickoffs for 102 yards.

BI?m actually thankful [they continued to kick],C James said. BGoing into the game I was kind of skeptical if they were going to kick it.C

UF?s defense could sympathize with Tennessee?s struggle to catch the sophomore, since the Gators have to go up against James? quickness everyday at practice.

BHe can be at full speed in a second,C Doe said. BHis reaction time is off the charts. When you think you?ve got him, he?s gone. Just like that.C

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James said he was just happy he could create some momentum early.

BPretty much every time I touch the ball, they want me to take it back, and I don?t want to let anyone down,C James said.

UF coach Urban Meyer said he is always impressed with the electricity the Gators special team generates when they know that James is the punt returner.

BIt?s like sharks in the water, man,C Meyer said.

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