Bubba Caldwell's reverse for a touchdown. It was the only touchdown for an offense that kept shooting itself in the foot with penalties and sporadic play from the offensive line. But the reverse is something they saved for Tennessee because the way Tennessee played on defense. From the 18, Leak rolled to his right with Chad Jackson in an option pitch route. From the opposite sideline, Caldwell runs a loop behind Leak and takes a pitch heading the opposite direction. Caldwell had a picket fence of blockers in front of him with only one player to block and Dallas Baker held him long enough for Caldwell to squeak into the end zone. Coach Meyer said it was the right call at the time.
"That is one of our staples in the red-zone," Meyer said. "We actually had another one called and one of our tackles jumped off-sides. Whenever you play a team that pursues as well as they do, we didn't want to use it early because teams didn't pursue like Tennessee does. We had a good feeling, we kept watching, we called it and it worked out pretty good."
Defensive Play of the Game
The defense was lights out all night. With no turnovers associated with the defense, it is hard to single out a particular play. One that was huge was on special teams but will be listed among defensive statistics in the final tallies for the stats. Tony Joiner bated Tennessee punter Dustin Colquitt into throwing a fourth down pass from the Tennessee 30 yard line. The call was gutsy from Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer, but Joiner made it seem somewhat foolish. The Gators, like they have in all three games baited the punt team and left the gunner on the outside of the punt formation wide open. Joiner intentionally delayed and then sprinted after the snap towards the receiver who was running wide open along the right sideline. Colquitt floated the pass and under threw the receiver. Joiner got both hands on it and could have scored.
Said Meyer, "Tony Joiner and I talk every time. Yes we do (try and bait them). The thing is we have to block one of these dang punts. Guys are coming clean and we aren't getting home. I said Joiner they are going to try it, and I told him to cheat a little early, but that's a punter out there throwing it to a gunner and we will take that chance. We have done it every game this year and at some point, we thought they might do it."
Special teams Play of the Game
We have left this out of the first two games because the special teams have been anything but special so far this season. On Saturday night it was very different. After being held to three plays to start the third quarter, Eric Wilbur punted a rather flat punt that was muffed by Jonathan Hefney of Tennessee. Some credit needs to go to Billy Latsko who was racing down and in Hefney's face when the ball ht, Latsko also kept Hefney from being able to scoop the ball in and Tremaine McCollum came up with the ball. The play netted the Gators a field goal in the game and increased the pressure on Tennessee's offense.
Dee Webb's blocked field goal was huge also. With the score tied at seven, the Tennessee Offense drove a short field from the 44 yard line seemingly to the goal line. A corrected call from instant replay gave the Vols a 4th and 18 and a chance at a 35 yard field goal to take the lead. Webb came around the right end of the protection and laid out blocking the ball with his right hand. The Gators were able to keep the Vols from leading at half from the play and I was a huge momentum swing at the time.
Offensive Player of the Game
Chris Leak had his streak of games with a touchdown pass snapped when he did not connect for a score on Saturday night. Still, Leak made some big time plays in the game. At the end of the game, he carried the offense on his shoulders and moved them into scoring position twice, and more importantly kept the ball away from the Tennessee offense. I don't care what some math professor from some small Alabama college says about him, leak is a great college player and made some plays to seal the victory when others around him were not helping him well. Examples include a sterling run of 17 yards on 3rd and 9 to put the offense in field goal position to take a six point lead early in the third quarter. On the last field goal drive he kept the drive alive with three third down conversion passes.
One was a 3rd and 19 when he zipped a slant pass into Dallas Baker for 23 yards. The next came on a 3rd and 11 and he hit Jemalle Cornelius on the right hash for 24 yards. On the night, leak was seven of twelve on third down conversions when throwing the ball. Meyer liked a lot of what he saw in Leak Saturday night.
"Chris Leak made some tremendous plays when he had to," Meyer said. "Chris Leak showed a lot of toughness on that one drive when we ate up all that clock."
Defensive Player of the Game
We keep beating it like a dead horse, but the entire Gator defense has played great so far this year. The defense according to Meyer may all get game balls for this game and it is hard to pin point any one player for their work. Holding the Vols to 213 yards of offense was a chore and should be even more appreciated knowing that the offense wasn't overly helpful in keeping the ball, save for one seven minute drive late in the game. It was a dominating type of performance and Meyer would probably say that they have only really given up one score all season. Meyer was very happy about the defense after the game.
"Our defense played outstanding, just looking at the stats, they were outstanding," Meyer said. "I think for three weeks in a row, I am not sure our secondary can play much better. The whole defense is going to get a game ball and the defensive coaching staff will get a game ball. Joe Cohen and Derrick Harvey, we have a saying that we consider these guys are soldiers. It isn't something we take lightly with what this country is going through, but when a soldier drops his rifle the next one has to pick it up and go a little harder. I though Joe Cohen and Derrick Harvey did a great job."
Special Teams Player of the Game
Chris Hetland has ice in his veins so far this year. He is a perfect five for five on the season and three for three tonight. Hetland who is a walk-on may be changing that status if he keeps up the goods work.
"Chris Hetland, I am very proud of him," Meyer said. "He has done a great job. He is talented and a guy that is effortless when he kicks the ball. He missed an extra point the other day, but he has made all of his field goals. Our field goal kicker should not have to pay his own way."