"Obviously I think we could have played better but I am never going to be the one to disrespect a group of very good players we play against," Meyer said to the media following the Gators 23-13 win in The Swamp. "It's SEC caliber football, it's Tennessee, and we are 1-0 in the SEC East."
His seniors have never lost to the Vols. Meyer is 5-0 as the head coach of the Gators against the Volunteers.
"If you would have told us in 2005 that we would have beaten Tennessee every time…it humbles you," he said. "We are appreciative and we are going to move on. I am very proud of our guys."
The Gators came into the matchup 29-point favorites. Tennessee used a very slow, methodical and conservative approach against Florida. It was enough to make the game closer than any Gator fan wanted. A few Gators also struggled.
"We didn't play as well and Coach Strong mentioned we had some missed tackles," Meyer said of his defensive coordinator Charlie strong. "Offensively, Tim Tebow didn't play his best game, but he played as hard as he has ever played.
"That was a hard fought, great win for Florida. Does that mean there is a lot of work to be done? Yeah, you saw what I did."
The Gators were not happy giving up 132 rushing yard including 96 to Montario Hardesty who has now scored the only touchdown on the Gators defense all season. Missed tackles were a big part of the Vols being able to keep some momentum in the game and sustain some long drives.
"I just think we missed a couple of tackles," Meyer said. "Then they caught us in Hog one time on 3rd-and-1, and 20 of it was on one run where it was 3rd down and 12 and we were in our blitz package which is obviously not very sound against the run and they popped a 20-plus yard run. When we single digit missed tackles, we win the game….we just have to tackle better."
Tackling got a little tougher on Saturday because of injuries and illness. Starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes missed most of the game with a sprained Achilles and starting weak side defensive end Jermaine Cunningham missed a great deal of the game recovering from illness.
"(Spikes) has tendonitis in his Achilles," Meyer said. "It happened Wednesday and on Thursday we fit him with some orthotics. It's not a major deal, just a painful injury. Jermaine Cunningham had to go in isolation also because he had the flu. We have some tough guys on this team now."
In all Meyer thought his defense did well.
"They did a great job," he said of his defense. "The thing we didn't do is we missed some tackles. They hit a screen pass on us and those are two good backs. I thought one thing we did was control the line of scrimmage which we had to do to win this game."
He also likes the play of his secondary which held Tennessee and starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton to 93 net passing yards and an interception despite being behind the whole game.
"Our secondary is one of the best I have ever been around," Meyer said. "They are good guys. They play hard and are well coached. The secondary is one of the strengths of our team right now."
Tebow didn't complete a pass down the field all night. The Vols used a zone defense that was a change up from what they have shown and it caused Tebow to eat the ball a few times and probably run more than Meyer and company wanted him to.
"Some of those throws were checked down and we wanted to throw the ball down the field," Meyer said. "They didn't play man coverage, they played all zone. We try and let Cooper and Deonte (normally) run by a guy, but you aren't going to run by a guy that retreats."
The offense was also hit with illness and injury. Deonte Thompson was not able to go due to a pulled hamstring and starting tight end Aaron Hernandez and starting running back Jeff Demps both were sick before and during the game.
"Deonte tried on Thursday and had a minor tug," Meyer said. "We were still hoping for a game day adjustment and he went out there and couldn't go.
"Jeff Demps also had a 101 fever today. He looked like a ghost. We kept him in at pregame until right at the end because of the heat. Aaron Hernandez on Friday had to go in isolation because he had the flu."
Tebow couldn't find open receivers down field and the offense went very conservative on the day.
"We didn't feel like we were throwing the ball very well," Meyer said. "They were playing good defense, so we tried to manage the game. I think we managed the game fine. We just have to hold onto the ball. If it's 30-6, people feel a lot better. I tried to lighten the mood in (the locker room). I told them to get with their families and enjoy the win.
Once the Gators had trouble with the downfield game, it was up to Tebow to use his running talents and the short passing game to make things happen. In Meyer's eyes it was a little more Tebow than he would like to see every week.
"That is our crutch, the Tim Tebow show," he said. "I would rather not do that. I would like to pound them and I think we have good enough running backs to do that. Our receiver position, we need to get some energy. Aaron didn't practice, he missed all of practice Thursday because of illness, and I don't think he played well either."
In the third quarter, the Gators relied on Tebow who drove them down for the final score of the game for the home team. The highlight was a third down run that was actually a scramble that featured Tebow tip-toeing the sideline to get the first down. It was an impressive drive.
"That was vintage Tebow," Meyer said of his quarterback. "He had a hell of a day. He kind of took it over on that drive and pounded them. That (third down) was one of the best plays and I can't wait to see it on film."
The sloppy play really bothered Meyer as it always does. Three sacks and two turnovers were key to keeping this game closer than it should have been.
"We had three sacks on the day and that is far too many, He said. "Our offensive line is a lot better than that. I think two were coverage sacks and we missed the twist on a blue blitz. Turnovers and sacks are a concern and we had far too many."
Is the offense we saw Saturday, what we will see the rest of the season?
"I hope not," Meyer answered. "If Deonte is back and Frankie Hammond develops and Omarius Hines develops. We like man coverage and when it is man coverage it is a little easier to operate. In a zone, we have to work through that. Whatever it takes to win the game."
The receivers listed above need to step up. Right now it is the one position on the team that seems to be holding everything else back.
"I'm not feeling good at receiver now," he said. "We have to go out and recruit some receivers. We have to get better at receiver, we have to recruit at receiver, and we have a little bit of a drop off. When you pull Deonte Thompson out of the line up there is a little bit of a dip right now. We have to improve that right now."
Some freshmen are getting better but not yet ready to contribute. Hammonds, Hines, and Lawrence have a chance but Meyer needs to see it early in practice week.
"Tuesday and Wednesday in practice is how you do it," he said. "Omarius Hines is making that push. T.J. Lawrence, (Frankie Hammonds), those are three names right now that have got to continue to improve. Riley Cooper has become a premier receiver now because that is the way he practices."
The illnesses, injuries, and inexperienced play at receiver are part of the worry for Meyer as a coach. The pressure added to a top ranked team this year has been more than he expected.
"There were times when I felt like we called a little bit of a tight game," Meyer said. "I felt like we played tight, but we won the game. If we don't turn the ball over we win handily. At times I feel like the pressure is on this team a lot."
"There is so much pressure on this team to perform perfectly. I would rather be on that end of it…then (feel like we did a) great job we lost by 10. There was a lot of pressure and I felt it in (the locker room). Coach Strong added to the pressure as he wasn't very pleased with everything.
"Can we improve? Yes. But, we are 1-0 in the SEC East. We have the longest winning streak in school history. We just beat our rivals. Our guys are going to enjoy that victory and then get back to work."
"When you are sitting on top of that mountain there is pressure. We don't chill around here, we work and we grind, because we don't want to lose that spot at the top of the mountain. "
Meyer wants his players to enjoy the process and the game as they move through the season. The pressure to win big can't dominate his players' psyche.
"I have to make sure that it doesn't because at times, I felt it at times this week," he said. "It's just silly and things just get carried away. I have to make sure that doesn't happen. I want those guys to go out and have fun playing the game. When they do, they are really good."
The Gators head off for their first road game of the season at Lexington, Kentucky next weekend. The Wildcats are undefeated at 2-0 and Meyer can't wait to take his group traveling.
"I am excited to do that." He said. "I love our players. I love being around them, I love to eat dinner with them at the hotel on the road. We have our tight knot group and I am anxious to get back with them tomorrow. I want them to enjoy their families tonight, and then let's get back to work."
Meyer used place kicker Caleb Sturgis instead of senior returning kicker Jonathan Philips on Saturday and Sturgis performed perfectly on all of his place kicks. Meyer will continue to challenge the two as the season goes on.
"We are going to do it like a couple of years ago when Chris Hetland was the kicker," he said. "We are going to open it up. Caleb is kicking it very well right now. Those field goals he hit today, he bombed them. I am very proud of Caleb he is talented and a good guy."
The offensive line also saw some juggling and Meyer likes his depth along the offensive front.
"The second half, we had the ball in the third quarter for 11 minutes," Meyer said. "I thought the checkmate of the game would be if we punched it in when up 23-6. We had a bootleg called and fumbled the ball. That was a good rotation by Coach Addazio. We had Maurice Hurt, it was good seeing him play again and James Wilson and Matt Patchan. We had a good bit of no-huddle so our team is gassed right now."