It was the most points surrendered by a John Chavis defense since Florida, then coached by Steve Spurrier, blitzed Tennessee 62-37 at The Swamp in 1995.
Speaking on his post-game show, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer called it "a very disappointing day." He said he was expecting his team to play well following a strong week of practice but "we just didn't."
That might be the understatement of the year. The Vols were simply outclassed. In addition to Tebow's passing yards, Florida ran for another 255 yards, finishing with 554 total yards. A whopping 335 of these came in the second half, when the Gators outscored the Vols 31-7. Conversely, Tennessee managed just 37 rushing yards and 298 total yards.
"They just controlled us too much at the line of scrimmage on both sides," Fulmer said.
Tebow connected on 14 of 19 passes and averaged an eye-popping 21.4 yards per completion. He compiled his 67 rushing yards on eight attempts, an average of 8.4 per try. And he had lots of help.
Speedy Percy Harvin rushed nine times for 75 yards and caught four passes for another 120, finishing with 195 all-purpose yards. Kestahn Moore added 48 rushing yards on 11 tries. Louis Murphy caught two passes for 60 yards and tight end Cornelius Ingram caught three for 56.
It was a game of big plays, and Tennessee made a couple of them. LaMarcus Coker returned a kickoff 74 yards but the Vols squandered the scoring opportunity when Erik Ainge threw an interception. Freshman Eric Berry picked off a Tebow pass and raced 96 yards for a touchdown that pulled Tennessee within 28-20 in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Vols, the list of Florida big plays was considerably longer. Consider:
Brandon James bolted 83 yards with Tennessee's first punt of the afternoon, staking Florida to a 7-0 lead with the game less than two minutes old.
After a 28-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal narrowed the gap to 7-3, Tebow hit Ingram for 25 yards and Riley Cooper for a 30-yard touchdown to cap a three-play 65-yard burst that widened the gap to 14-3.
After a 22-yard Lincoln field goal and a methodical nine-play, 58-yard TD drive by Florida, Tebow handed to Jarred Fayson for 28 yards and hit Ingram with a 20-yard scoring pass to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive that built the lead to 28-6.
Ainge hit tight end Chris Brown with a 15-yard TD pass just before halftime to narrow the gap to 28-13 at the break and Berry returned his interception as the Vols closed to 28-20 in the third quarter.
Tennessee got the ball back at its 12-yard line moments later, then disaster struck. Trying to hand off with his left hand because of a broken pinky on his right hand, Ainge and Arian Foster botched the exchange, resulting in a fumble. Florida linebacker Dustin Doe scooped up the loose ball and rambled 17 yards for a touchdown that padded the lead to 35-20 and literally opened the floodgates.
The Gators tacked on 24 fourth-quarter points against a weary Vol defense that was on the field all but 27 seconds of the third period. The Gators kept the ball for more than six minutes prior to Berry's interception, then for 3½ minutes on their ensuing touchdown drive. After a three-and-out by Tennessee, Florida then maintained possession the final 4½ minutes of the quarter.
Ainge was pretty much Tennessee's entire offense, completing 26 of 41 passes for 249 yards. Josh Briscoe was his favorite target, catching eight balls for 76 yards. Lucas Taylor added six catches for 57 yards and Austin Rogers four for 64.
Fulmer said the Vols "fought our butts off" to rally from the early deficit but noted that the Ainge/Foster fumble "turned the game around."
Florida's dominance was too complete to blame the loss on a single play, however. Fulmer conceded as much in subsequent comments.
"It was just bad play," he said. "We just didn't play well, and I take responsibility for that."