Muschamp Notebook: Run Game Secures Win

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee set its sights on ending Florida's seven-game winning streak in the rivalry, but in the end, it came down to what has made the Gators successful since the 2005 meeting. Florida dominated the run game. It has been the recipe for success since the streak began, and the offense pounded the ball in the second half as the Gators tacked on another year to the streak.

"As the game wore on, I felt like we were winning the line of scrimmage," Will Muschamp said after the game. "In our rushing yardage, with 330-something yards rushing—when you do that, you're going to win a lot of games."

The 336 yards the Gators earned on the ground were the focal point of an offense that grinded out the clock and in the second half. After Florida took a seven-point lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter, the offense turned to toughing out yards on the ground to keep the clock running.

That's the way it has been over the course of Florida's eight-game winning streak, but it was never as extreme as Saturday in Knoxville. The Gators were +253 in rushing yards over Tennessee, the most of any game during the streak. It was the fifth time over the eight-game streak that the Gators rushed for over 100 more yards than the Volunteers.

"I do know this league pretty good," Muschamp said. "I know what it takes to win in this league. You better be able to run the football. You can't drop back and throw it every down and have success in this league."

The Gators earned their fourth straight win in Knoxville on Saturday for the first time in the history of the series.

Muschamp's key to the game happened late in the third quarter. The Gators were on their own 42-yard line faced with a 4th and 9 when Muschamp dialed up a fake punt that was stopped. Tennessee took over at the Florida 47-yard line, but the explosive offense went three-and-out after a stand by the Florida defense.

After the Tennessee punt went into the end zone for a touchback, Trey Burton broke an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play to give the Gators a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"That brilliant fake punt I ran at midfield, then (defense forces a) three-and-out, and the next play was 80 yards with Trey Burton," Muschamp said. "We felt like we had the counter on the backside, and it was blocked beautifully. They over pursued the speed sweep. Trey went backside and outran them."

The only issue in the Florida run game was in the red zone. The Gators had a drive before halftime that stalled, forcing kicker Caleb Sturgis to hit a 20-yard field goal as time expired. The drive got to the one-yard line but was stalled when Muschamp wanted his team to run the ball between the tackles.

Mike Gillislee was stuffed twice at the goal line. It was another episode where the Gators struggled in short yardage this season.

"We've got to get better running the ball in those situations," Muschamp said. "We don't need to be tricking anybody. We need to run it downhill and hit somebody in the mouth."

INJURY REPORT: Chaz Green (ankle) was a game time decision on Saturday and didn't play against Tennessee. Kyle Koehne started at right tackle and after playing inside at guard and center last season, and Muschamp said he "did a heck of a job."

Dominique Easley went down late in the game with a knee injury, but Muschamp said after the game that the Florida doctors already indicated that he was fine and wouldn't be affected by the injury.

KICKING GAME A PLUS: The Gators punted five times on Saturday, but sophomore Kyle Christy made them count. Christy hit five punts for 243 yards for an average of 48.6 yards. Three of his punts came in the first quarter before the Florida offense took control of the game.

Four of the five punts Christy had on the night were at least 49 yards.

Early in the game, the Gators were pinned near their own end zone before Christy's 55-yard punt salvaged field position.

"Kyle Christy flipped the field twice," Muschamp said. "Usually they're at the 50 and one first down, you're in field goal range. That wasn't the case."

Caleb Sturgis was his normal self. The senior kicker hit all three of his field goals, including a 49-yarder that made it a three-possession game with 6:44 left in the game.

"To make it a three-score game with Caleb there late in the game, I've got a lot of confidence in him," Muschamp said. "I told Brent to just give me six yards there (to set up the field goal), and he gave me six yards. That's good, team football."


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