Defense keys ninth straight win over Vols

The turnovers for the Florida offense didn't go away early. Luckily for the Gators, the defense changed its struggles to create turnovers, totaling six against a sputtering Tennessee offense. While the Florida offense need time to get going, the defense allowed that to happen before Florida cruised to a 31-17 win over the Volunteers.

The tone wasn't the same after the Miami game. Even though the Florida offense struggled in the red zone that game, Will Muschamp ripped his defense for getting off to a slow start.

They answered those criticisms on Saturday, creating turnovers on Tennessee's first three drives. The made life difficult on redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman, making his first career start, ending the game 4-for-11 for five yards and two interceptions.

"Our guys understand what's expected here and how we're going to play," Muschamp said. "They're a competitive bunch and understand when it's right and not right. They understood we did not perform very well at Miami. We needed to play better and can make a difference in every game."

The Florida offense wasn't much better than Tennessee's in the first half. Quarterback Jeff Driskel struggled at the start of the game before leaving with a season-ending fibula injury. The defense's strong played also allowed Tyler Murphy to ease into the game, even though his play didn't look like it needed it.

Florida allowed just five passing yards and 26 rushing yards in the first half, allowing the Gators to start putting together a consistent offensive effort.

"They kept us in the ball game and let us catch our breath a little bit," Muschamp said. "Sudden change is a part of the game. We've done it too much. They understand and know they better respond when put in those situations."

The players heard the challenge after the Miami game. They gave up two touchdown drives to the Hurricanes before shutting them down from the start of the second quarter to the end of the game. They had to come out with that consistent effort to start the game.

"We started very well, which was the challenge going in. We played well in the first half. I was a little disappointed in the second half. We were in position to make plays in the run game and missed some tackles. We had some guys there are at the point of attack and didn't make the play.

"We got hit on two wheel routes, which was disappointing. We had poor eye control. Just do your job, cover your guy. It ain't that hard."

INJURY REPORT: Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has a fractured fibula that will require season-ending surgery on Sunday.

Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) was a game-time decision that didn't feel good enough to play. He is expected to be fine next weekend at Kentucky.

Right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) was another game-time decision that didn't feel strong enough to play. He will continue running on Sunday and should be fine for next weekend.

Running back Valdez Showers tweaked his ankle on Wednesday, and his status is uncertain for next weekend.

Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy suffered a thigh contusion after a hit on a kickoff return and was held out of the rest of the game. Muschamp expects him to be back next weekend.

Florida will also get sophomore receiver Latroy Pittman and freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson back next weekend after suspensions.

TARGETING CALL: Florida defensive back Brian Poole was called for a targeting penalty early in the fourth quarter. The 15-yard penalty also calls for an ejection that was confirmed by video replay. Since the ejection happened in the second half, the first-year rule also calls for Poole to be suspended during the first half of next week's game at Kentucky.

There wasn't much of an argument from Muschamp, who has vocally disapproved of the rule since it was added in the offseason.

"It was the right call," Muschamp said. "I don't have any problem with the call. I've got a problem with the rule. Brian Poole was not trying to flagrantly hurt anyone. It was a bang-bang play. He's trying to go up, the ball is high and he's going in high. It's a bang-bang play."

PLANS AT RUNNING BACK: Matt Jones took most of the early carries at running back for Florida, but he ended the game with 12 carries for 49 yards and one touchdown. When he struggled early in the game, Mack Brown started to carry the load.

Brown ended the game with 24 carries for 86 yards and one touchdown.

The Gators don't have a clear idea at running back going forward.

"Whoever's got the hot hand and whoever's running well," Muschamp said. "Whoever has the hot hand, we're going to go with it. We thought Mack was moving it pretty good."

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