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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

If there was ever a year where a Gators blowout of Tennessee was possible, this could be it. But if there?s one thing we all know about rivalry games (particularly this one), it?s that they are incredibly unpredictable.

With the big game just a day away, let?s revisit some of the more memorable UF-Tennessee games since the turn of the century.

2000: With the No. 6 Gators trailing the No. 11 Volunteers 23-20 in Knoxville, Tenn., quarterback Jesse Palmer finds receiver Jabar Gaffney for a controversial 3-yard touchdown pass with just 14 seconds remaining.

Gaffney held onto the ball momentarily before Tennessee defenders knocked it out of his hands. The officials ruled that Gaffney established possession prior to the ball coming out, giving UF the lead and the victory.

After the game, Coach Steve Spurrier said BGod smiledC on the Gators that day.

The Volunteers' loss ended their 23-game home winning streak.

UF went on to win the Southeastern Conference title.

2001: Making up a game postponed due to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Gators and the Vols found themselves playing in a rare December matchup. With Heisman candidate Rex Grossman leading the way at quarterback, the second-ranked Gators were one win away from a berth in the SEC Championship Game and two wins from facing off with Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.

It was not to be.

Tennessee running back Travis Stephens went berserk, compiling 226 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead the Volunteers to the upset in a seesaw battle. With UF?s championship hopes in the balance, a Carlos Perez touchdown cut the lead to 34-32 with just a minute left. But Grossman badly missed Gaffney in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game.

The Tennessee win advanced the Vols to the SEC title game, where they lost to LSU.

Grossman finished second to the Nebraska?s Eric Crouch in the Heisman voting.

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2004: Like the "Swindle in the Swamp" game against FSU in 2003, the 2004 Tennessee game will live in infamy as far as Gators fans are concerned.

Following a missed extra point by Tennessee, the Gators held a 28-27 lead late in the fourth quarter. With UF trying to run the clock out, Tennessee forced a fourth down with less than a minute remaining.

Then came the controversy.

UF receiver Dallas Baker participated in a little extracurricular activity following the third-down play. A Tennessee defensive back shoved UF receiver Dallas Baker in clear view of referee Bobby Moreau. When Baker retaliated, Moreau enforced a 15-yard, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against just Baker instead of both players.

But a second mistake by the referees that may have been more costly for the Gators was a clock issue.

The refs inexplicably forgot to restart the game clock following the penalty. That gave Tennessee 43 seconds to score from its own 39-yard line. If the refs had called a double personal foul and remembered to start the clock, it would have been more like 20 seconds from the 24-yard line, a much, much more difficult task.

Even if only one of the mistakes had gone the Gators? way, the Volunteers? chance to score would have been significantly decreased.

Instead, Tennessee marched down the field, allowing kicker James Wilhoit to make up for his missed extra point by nailing a game-winning 50-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to give the Vols a 30-28 win.

2006: With the Gators trailing 20-14 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Chris Leak slid one yard short of the first-down marker on third down. They called on backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who ran for two yards to keep the drive and UF?s hopes alive.

Two plays later, Leak found Baker in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave the Gators a one-point lead with 6:30 remaining.

Needing just a field goal to take the lead, Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge drove his team to the UF 39-yard line before a clutch defensive play by the Gators forced Ainge to commit intentional grounding. The play resulted in a 14-yard loss for the Vols and completely stalled their drive before a Reggie Nelson interception gave the ball back to the Gators.

UF running back DeShawn Wynn narrowly managed a first down on the next series, allowing the Gators to run the clock out and win the game 21-20.

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