Gators: 16 Vols: 7 --- Key Points to Victory

There are two game balls that need to be handed out after Florida's 16-7 win over Tennessee. Take the Sharpie and print the letters… T-E-A-M. An overused cliché to be certain, but in this case it's all too obvious. The second game ball goes to the Florida coaching staff, signed by all of the Florida players, again for reasons all too obvious to those who have watched Florida football in recent years.

There were plenty of careless penalties and mistakes in tonight's game that will be addressed before the Gators take to the Blue Grass State for a meeting with the hapless Mildcats of Kentucky. However, most of these points belong to the victors, who fought through an outstanding Tennessee team and costly injuries. Here are tonight's points to victory.

Mental Toughness…

Despite losing two of their premier playmakers (Ray McDonald and Andre Caldwell) and allowing Tennessee to take control of the momentum, Florida didn't play not to lose or fold as we had became accustomed to in the Zook era. These Gators refocused and fired back. Tennessee took notice of that too.

Defensively, the Gators rose to the occasion late in the third quarter, when the Vols had moved into Florida territory. The Florida defense held Gerald Riggs to a one yard gain on a third and long two. Tennessee freshman Britton Colquitt then ripped an eight yard punt, and it was the Florida offenses turn to flex some muscle.


Quarterback Erik Ainge #10 of the Tennessee Volunteers is brought down by linebacker Earl Everett #30 of the Florida Gators while attempting a pass in the fourth quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2005 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Tennessee 16-7. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The Gators then began a Tennessee-like 15 play, 78 yard drive that culminated with a Chris Hetland 19 yard field goal. Florida led 16-7. The Gators took precious time off of the clock that displeased Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer, who promptly threw his clipboard in anger.

Chris Hetland…

Who says that Georgia never did us any favors? The Lee County, Georgia walk-on is living the dream and loving every minute of it. Hetland drilled three second half field goals (39, 35, and 19) before a national television audience on one of the biggest stages in college football. He also nailed the ever important PAT after Caldwell's touchdown.

"Special" Teams…

Special teams were going to play a big role in this one. Florida worked throughout the week to clean-up its woeful special teams play. It paid dividends tonight as the Gators recovered a fumble, blocked a field goal, received solid play from kicker Chris Hetland and punter Eric Wilbur, almost took Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt's throw on fourth down to the house, and allowed the Vols the absolute minimum in return yardage.

Defense...

The Florida defense held the Vols to seven points. They also allowed Tennessee to covert a pathetic 3 of 13 on third downs and zero of three on fourth down conversions. Furthermore, we were told all week about Tennessee's big play receivers. Where and who were they? I'll admit they have some talent, but I couldn't imagine them being better than the Florida secondary. They weren't. The longest play by a Volunteer receiver was Robert Meachem's 19 yard reception. Florida had three receivers either tie or eclipse that mark, and another who missed it by a yard.


(L-R) Cornerbacks Vernell Brown #16, Demetrice Webb #15 and safety Jarvis Herring #46 of the Florida Gators celebrate an incomplete pass on fourth down by the Tennessee Volunteers that all but sealed a victory for the Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2005 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Tennessee 16-7. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Converting Turnovers…

Jonathan Hefney's fumble of Eric Wilbur's third quarter punt gave the Gators the ball back when Tre McCollum recovered the ball on the Tennessee 28 yard line. The Florida offense converted the turnover into points with Hetland's 39 yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

Atmosphere…

"The Swamp" was electric. What more could you ask for? A muggy, sticky, breezeless, oh how we love it. Florida night. A beautiful full moon overhead. Gators fans everywhere. Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer decked out in an Orange pullover reminding each of us that time rendered tradition, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!" will soon air and that it's never too early to get those Halloween decorations from the attic.

Secondary play…

Florida's play in the secondary was spotty at times with Dee Webb, Reggie Lewis, and Vernell Brown. However, late in the third quarter through the final gun, the Gators got a little physical and for the most part, did a terrific job against a big group of Tennessee receivers. How many times in the fourth did Eric Ainge fail to find an open receiver downfield?

Florida's WR's…

Florida's wide receivers beat the Vols in several ways in the first quarter. None of them greater than with the effort they gave blocking and, of course, Andre Caldwell's 18 yard touchdown run, which was aided by a couple of good blocks.


Linebacker Omar Gaither #44 of the Tennessee Volunteers brings down wide receiver Andre Caldwell #5 of the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2005 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Deshawn Wynn…

Continues to carry the ball in the opposite arm, which at some point in time will afford a defender an excellent opportunity to force a fumble.

Penalities…There were too many flags period. I did find it interesting that center Mike Degory was flagged for movement, yet on a 2nd and goal, Tennessee center Richie Gandy was moving just as much as Degory, and the Vols were set. It happened again in with the Vols facing a 3rd and 13 situation later in the game.

Advantage Florida?

Since 1992 the winner of the Florida/Tennessee game has advanced to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game as the Eastern Division Champs.


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