Fake Punt Shifted Things the Gators' Way

While Neyland Stadium started to regain energy after a game-tying Tennessee touchdown in the middle of the third quarter, the Volunteers had Florida right where they wanted them. The Tennessee defense forced a 4th-and-6, sending their punt team to get the ball back and the chance to take the lead. Urban Meyer had other ideas.

The ball was snapped to Omarius Hines, lined up a few yards behind the long snapper, and bounced off defenders to the Tennessee 25-yard line.

"The momentum changer… Omarius ran a great play there," Meyer said. "We've been working on that since the beginning of the year. We tried to get numbers, and we got numbers. They executed it well. As soon as I heard from the press box that we had numbers, all we had to do was execute it."

The fake was only half the battle. The drive took six more plays before John Brantley connected with Frankie Hammond on 3rd-and-goal from the 7-yard line, giving the Gators a 17-10 lead.

"Whenever you run a trick play or a fake of some kind, if you don't capitalize, that's as bad as not making it," Meyer said. "To have our offense take it down and score, obviously that was the momentum changer."

Florida converted their eighth fake punt in as many tries under Meyer. It was the first fake punt Meyer has called since October 4, 2008, at Arkansas.

"We always try to identify what the team is doing early in the game," Meyer said. "When you look at the history of our program, when momentum shifts, you have to get it back somehow. When you have experienced offensive players, you don't have to do that kind of stuff. When you have inexperience, you have to somehow create a play."

The reason for the risk was momentum. The Tennessee fans were beginning to build with enthusiasm, and excitement on the Volunteers' sideline was the highest of any point during the game.

"We all know what happens in this stadium, and it's not good," Meyer said. "We had to get the momentum back somehow."

YOUNG PLAYERS SHINE: The four Florida touchdowns came from young players who weren't well known names coming into this season. Mike Gillislee had two rushing touchdowns, while Trey Burton added another. Frankie Hammond also caught a touchdown, the second of his career.

"Those are all names that a lot of people in this room don't know because they haven't done a thing around here," Meyer said. "Now they're starting to make their mark around here. To be hitting SEC time, I thought it'd be a week or two earlier we'd be getting this thing going."

The youth on both sidelines was evident throughout the game. The Florida offense was able to wear down the Tennessee defense in the second half, but it was difficult to get things going at different points of the game.

"I think you saw two young teams trying to figure it out out there," Meyer said. "I'm very proud of our guys. Coming on the road and winning in the SEC, that's something we will never take for granted."

THIRD DOWN SUCCESS: The Gators were 8-for-14 on third downs in the game. Brantley connected with Jeff Demps and Deonte Thompson on separate third downs in the first quarter, for 15 and 16 yards respectively.

"I thought Johnny really did a nice job," Meyer said. "Some of those were third and longs, I mean real longs."

The third down success was made easier because Tennessee couldn't get pressure on Brantley. He was only sacked for one time, and it came near the end of the fourth quarter.

"They didn't really have much pass rush on us," Meyer said. "Our offensive line protected well. Xavier Nixon, I don't think he played great because he's been out so long, but it was great to have him back."

PRE-SNAP ISSUES: There were multiple plays throughout the game where the offense struggled to get set or snapped the ball with the play clock running down. Brantley was even forced to use timeouts because the play wasn't set up before the play clock ran out.

"We're just not getting in and out of the huddle fast," Meyer said. "Our tempo is not good. That happens on the road, but it's happening at home, too. That's something we're addressing in practice. When you're snapping the ball at one second every time, there's something. We've got to shorten the names of plays, get wristbands looking a little different, or we may just need to hustle a little quicker to get to the line of scrimmage. I'd imagine that's probably what we have to do."

RUN GAME: Jeff Demps had 26 carries and three receptions for 128 total yards. His workload increased because of a thigh bruise that limited Emmanuel Moody.

(The run game was) not good enough," Meyer said. "This offense minus (Tim) Tebow, you have to find guys to run the ball because we're going to be a physical team.

"I was not overly pleased with the way we ran the ball in this game. I thought we'd do a little better."

The main frustrations of the run game were on short yardage situations. The Gators were stuffed early on a 4th-and-1 handoff to Gillislee.

"It's going to be a long season if we can't hit that 3rd-and-1," Meyer said.

DEFENSE STEPS UP: While the Florida run game sputtered, the run defense shut down Tennessee, allowing only 29 yards. In six games against Tennessee, Florida teams led by Meyer have allowed only 55.7 rushing yards.

They also held Taurean Poole, who came into the game as the leading rusher in the SEC, to 27 yards.

The defense recorded two more interceptions, giving them ten in three games. There were breakdowns in the Florida secondary, however. Will Hill returned as the free safety, and a lack of continuity created issues.

Jeremy Brown fell for a double move from Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown. Brown bounced back on the next Tennessee possession to intercept quarterback Matt Simms.

"We lost our eyes on the receiver on the first touchdown," Meyer said of Brown's mistake. "To see Jeremy Brown snap back… Great corners have bad memories. To have him step in front of that play, then the offense went down and put us up by two scores."

The other mistake came when Janoris Jenkins let Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter run by him, expecting safety help. It didn't come, and Hunter scored on an easy 35-yard reception.

"Other than two busted coverages, I thought our defense played real well," Meyer said. "I never felt like they were taking control of the game. Against Oregon, they had some big hits in the run game. I didn't feel that at all."

OFFENSIVE IDENTITY: Meyer still doesn't have the identity of his offense pinned down. For now, it will continue to be running the football behind his offensive line. They were sloppy on Saturday, but it was the first time having the starting offensive line the Gators imagined from day one of fall camp.

The focus now becomes building chemistry of the offensive line and running behind them.

"When they start playing together and getting some momentum going, that's going to be the strength of who we are," Meyer said. "We're playing good defense with good special teams, and a good offensive line. That's a good team, and we're playing to win behind those guys."

Brantley was 14-for-23 for 167 yards and one touchdown, but Meyer still wants improvement for the offense to reach its potential.

"For us to win another game, that has to keep improving," Meyer said.
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