The crowd of 100,027 fans that had packed into Neyland Stadium on Saturday night dwindled down to a sparse few.
Once eager Tennessee hopefuls hastened toward the stadium exits as it became painfully clear that Florida was not going to surrender its comfortable lead over their Volunteers.
Six takeaways, 87 tackles, 24 points off turnovers. They all appeared on the stat sheet on Saturday night as the Gators marched to a 47-21 victory over the Vols.
And yet, I can’t quite bring myself to view Florida’s beating of a paltry Tennessee team as a formidable victory.
The Gators needed to leave Knoxville with a check mark in the SEC win column with their laborious upcoming schedule. We all knew that going into Saturday’s game.
But after watching how the Vols unraveled at seemingly every turn of the contest, this wasn’t the test that the Gators needed heading into a tough stretch.
It didn’t do anything to show us that Florida can compete with a good SEC team.
The game did show us that the Tennessee Volunteers are a trainwreck of a football program. They basically handed Florida its first conference win on a silver platter with all those turnovers (four fumbles, two interceptions).
Perhaps the most baffling play came in the second quarter.
Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano found tight end Austin Pope on a deep route. Pope couldn’t have possibly been more open as he turned and dashed toward the Vols’ checkered endzone.
From there, it seemed easy enough. Just hold onto the ball, and sprint into the endzone.
Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson had covered about 50 yards hustling to where Pope was swiftly approaching the goal line. Henderson dove at the feet of Pope, who tumbled forward with the ball sailing ahead of him out of the endzone.
No touchdown. No points. No nothing for the Vols. You can’t make this stuff up.
But that seems to be the story of the Gators’ 2018 season.
The Gators’ blowout victories over Charleston Southern, Colorado State — and now Tennessee — have not been because UF played well.
They were because their opponents were just that bad.
Perhaps much of what went right in this game was a product of the increased focus on physicality and toughness in Florida practices. The preparation sure showed on Saturday night.
But when you face a team that can’t get out of its own way, what else do you expect to happen?
Alanis Thames is a sports writer for The Alligator. Follow her on Twitter @alanisthames and contact her at [email protected].