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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

To say UF coach Urban Meyer was nervous about his defense heading into Saturday's game against Tennessee would be an understatement.

The national championship coach joked after the Gators? 59-20 victory that he had to take Ambien in order to sleep Friday night.

But the Gators? youthful defense pulled through against the Volunteers, causing the first turnovers of the season and only allowing 37 yards rushing - the fewest by a UFopponent this season.

Senior and team captain Tony Joiner said he had no reservations about the young players going up against a Southeastern Conference opponent.

BI?ve seen them go against the offense we have now,C Joiner said. BI?ve seen them make plays.C

Freshman corner Joe Haden and sophomore linebacker Brandon Spikes led the team with nine tackles each.

Sophomore cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis chipped in for five tackles, and defensive co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the corners? contribution was key to the Gators? victory.

B[The passes] were completed and now it?s a matter of, 'Can Joe Haden and Wondy get them down??C Mattison said. BAnd they did. It was tremendous.C

Although the Gators did not have any sacks, Mattison was not disappointed because Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge was quick to get rid of the ball. Mattison said this actually worked in the Gators' favor because Ainge was too hurried to throw any deep passes.

Ainge was picked off by sophomore Markihe Anderson in the first quarter, and freshman Jerimy Finch intercepted a pass thrown by backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Both players were injured during the game, and Meyer said he believes Anderson should be fine while Finch may miss some considerable time.

Sophomore linebacker Dustin Doe scored the first defensive touchdown of the season when he recovered a fumble and returned it for 18 yards in the third quarter.

BScoop and score - that was the only thing that was going through my mind,C Doe said. BTo win ball games you have to force turnovers. In the back of our mind, we knew we had to force the turnovers.C

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After UF breezed through its first two games, Doe said he felt the Gators finally proved their worth against the Volunteers.

BI feel we gained confidence in each other,C Doe said. BThe biggest thing about close drives is we never lost our composure. For a young defense, everybody says you don?t how they?re going to react under pressure, but we kept our composure.C

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