The Streak

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Many of Tennessee's current football players were just entering high school the last time the Vols beat Florida. Some of them were just entering puberty.

The fact the Gators have won seven consecutive meetings since Tennessee prevailed 30-28 in 2004 may not be an obsession for the 2012 Vols but it's an aggravation. It's a streak they hope to curtail Saturday evening at Neyland Stadium when No. 23 Tennessee hosts No. 18 Florida before ESPN's Gameday crew and a national TV audience.

As a Knoxville native, sophomore tailback Devrin Young has followed the UT-Florida rivalry most of his life. That's why 'The Streak' is a little more annoying to him than to some of his teammates.

"It's in the back of your mind, like 'Dang! We've been beat by this team this many times!'" he said. "You want to end that."

Tennessee's last win in the series came when James Wilhoit booted a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Vols a 30-28 victory on Sept. 18, 2004.

Senior receiver Zach Rogers, a native of Nashville, remembers the dramatic finish as if it were yesterday.

"Absolutely," he said. "I was watching on TV. Erik Ainge was driving 'em down and made some good plays at the end and we came out on top. I remember Wilhoit's kick. Nothing better."

Young was watching on TV, too, but he can't remember specific details.

"I watched it on TV after my little Rec League game," he said. "I just remember the end result."

Junior defensive lineman Daniel Hood, another Knoxville native, has no recollection of the last time Tennessee beat Florida.

"I was too young then," he deadpanned. "I was Pee Wee age."

Knoxville native Devrin Young wants the Vol losing streak to Florida to snap at seven.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Junior quarterback Tyler Bray, a native of Kingsburg, Cali., can't recall what he was doing on Sept. 18, 2004, but he's pretty sure Big Orange football wasn't a part of his day.

"I wasn't watching Tennessee and Florida; that's for sure," he said, flashing a smug grin. "I was probably watching a Pac 10 game."

Even the homegrown Vols who have followed Tennessee's program for many years have no explanation for the Gators' dominance.

"They just happened to pull it out those seven times in a row," Young said.

That might be a bit of an understatement. The Gators' recent mastery included double-digit victories in 2007 (59-20), 2008 (30-6), 2010 (31-17) and 2011 (33-23). Going back to the start of the Phillip Fulmer era, Florida has won 15 of the last 19 meetings with the Big Orange.

Several Vols, including Rogers, prefer to ignore Tennessee's recent futility versus Florida.

"We try to not to focus on the streak," he said. "It's in the past, and we can't do anything about it now. What we've got to do is game-plan for these guys this week and come out ready to play."

Still, Rogers admits that this game has a special feel to it.

"Florida week is definitely a week that every player and fan looks forward to," he said. "We just want to get back on the track of winning against them."

Hood concedes the point, noting: "It means a lot because it is who it is and we haven't beat 'em for a while. As a Tennessee fan and Tennessee player, every week you're preparing for teams like Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Finally getting to play them this week means a lot."

Whether all of them will admit or not, the Vols are somewhat embarrassed by their seven-game losing streak in the Florida series.

"It does bother us," Bray conceded. "I think this team's got a bit more maturity this year. Last year's probably wouldn't have cared what the streak was. This year we're taking some pride, taking some ownership. We need to beat them."

Although some Vols dismiss their futility against Florida, several admit that the Gators have had Tennessee's number lately.

"It says a lot," Young said. "It says they've got a-hold of us a little bit, and we need to go ahead and end that streak."

Junior receiver Justin Hunter, whose first-quarter ACL tear was a key aspect of last year's loss to Florida, admits that he's eager for another shot at the Gators and The Streak.

"It means a lot," he said. "I know we really want to get a win. That's why we're out here working hard. Last year we had a good run at 'em but things happened. For the fan base and the organization that would be real good."

Having grown up within 15 miles of the Tennessee campus, Young would love to be a member of the Vol squad that ends The Streak.

"It's that first win," he said, "so I want to be able to say I was blessed to do that in my career here at the University of Tennessee."

Tyler Bray


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