Tennessee Orchestrates Win at Swamp

Yet again, the Volunteers ruled the Gators in the second half at the Swamp, handing Florida its first SEC loss....

When the final seconds washed away in No. 17 Florida's 24-10 loss Saturday, Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen knew how to send the Gators a harsh reminder on their home field.

He climbed his way to the top of the ladder, raised his hands and began conducting the Volunteers' marching band just as he had done two years earlier.

Only this time, the moment lacked spontaneity. It was choreographed; mapped out perfectly as if to say Florida should have never expected anything less.

"One thing I've been saying about this team is, ‘don't doubt us,'" Clausen said.

Suddenly, the questions plaguing Tennessee had been answered. For Florida, they had only begun. Now, the Gators are left to ask which identity belongs to them.

It could be the team that went up 33-10 against Miami in the third quarter. Or it could be the team that gave up 23-points to lose the same game.

Saturday, the latter may have proven true.

In its Southeastern Conference opener, Florida tried to beat Tennessee at its own game. As expected, the Gators tried to run. And run. And run.

But the Volunteers were prepared, halting Florida's ground game a week after it trampled Florida A&M.

The Gators picked up just 73 total rushing yards, handing the Volunteers their second consecutive win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in as many years.

"Times change, teams change and coaches change," Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer said. "They are a good team, with three good running backs."

Tennessee proved they, too, are a good team, stealing the momentum in the SEC East that so many Florida players indicated was on the line before Saturday's game.

The Volunteers picked up the win just as they have all season, waiting until late in the game to strike. Florida, who faced endurance problems against Miami in the second half, suffered some of the same issues against its second competitive opponent of the season.

"Defensively, I thought we played well enough to win," Coach Ron Zook said. "We got into some situations where we didn't get off the field, and that's when we got tired."

The Gators would have went into halftime with a 3-0 lead and the little momentum that was established in the first two quarters. But a Tennessee Hail Mary touchdown in the final seconds of the half established a tone for the rest of the game.

"It was very frustrating," said tight end Ben Troupe, who led the offense with 106 yards on five catches. "That gave them a lot of confidence."

So despite a half in which neither team established an impressive offensive showing, Tennessee was the first to make something out of nothing.

Clausen helped establish a more demanding lead when he hit wide receiver Bret Smith on a 57-yard pass that turned into a one-yard touchdown from Jabari Davis.

But Florida did manage to answer back. Quarterback Ingle Martin, who finished 16 for 32 with 205 yards and one interception, marched his team 77 yards for a five-yard touchdown carry from DeShawn Wynn.

Tennessee, though, had already established the game's momentum. And they weren't going to let up then. Clausen matched Martin's run, tearing for 76 yards in 11 plays against a visibly exhausted defense.

"We came out in the second half and physically wore them down," Clausen said.

As a result of the defeat, Florida may have lost the conference edge. But the Gators maintained that the SEC title is still close within reach.

"Georgia lost to us last year and still won the SEC," linebacker Reid Fleming said. "We still have our goals ahead of us. We have to come tomorrow and get ready for Kentucky. We have a whole lot of season left to play."


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