Florida dumps UT, 30-6

Head coach Phillip Fulmer left no doubt where the buck stopped following Tennessee's 30-6 setback at the hands of fourth-ranked Florida Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

"As I told our football team, that loss is on me," he said to open his post-game remarks. "I'm a big boy with broad shoulders, and I can handle it. Obviously, our team was uptight or something because that wasn't us."

Asked later if he meant this was a "coaching loss," rather than a players' loss, Fulmer replied: "I think we're all responsible, and it starts with me. That's what I just told the football team: It starts with me."

Tennessee, now 1-2, heard some boos from a disappointed home crowd of 106,138.

"That's part of it," Fulmer said. "There's probably not anybody very happy with me right now and there's probably not very many people happy with the quarterback right now.

"You get a lot more praise when you win and a lot more criticism when you lose. Maybe because you're in those positions (head coach and quarterback), maybe you do deserve it. I said from the beginning it's my responsibility, and I take that.

"There were a couple of things I'd have probably booed, too."

Basically, dreadful showings by the offense and kick-coverage teams offset a quality effort by the Vol defense, which limited the Gators to just 243 total yards. Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman winner, completed just 8 of 15 passes for 96 yards. Meanwhile, Florida managed just 147 rushing yards on 39 carries (3.77 per attempt).

"We never really gave our defense a chance to be successful," Fulmer said, noting 17 of Florida's points were due to "short-field" drives of 44 yards (first TD), 0 yards (first field goal) and 47 yards (third TD).

The Vol defense's primary struggle came on third-down plays. Florida converted on 8 of 13 third-down tries.

"Eight of 13; that's too much," Fulmer said. "That's too much."

Still, the defense played well enough to win. The same could not be said of Vol special teams. Florida's Brandon James returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to the UT 44-yard line, setting up an eight-play touchdown drive that gave the Gators a quick 7-0 lead.

Montario Hardesty fumbled at the Vol 23-yard line on Tennessee's third offensive snap but the defense stiffened and limited Florida to a 39-yard Jonathan Phillips field goal.

Moments later, however, James was at it again. The Gator speedster returned a Chad Cunningham punt 78 yards for a touchdown that widened the gap to 17-0 with 4:42 still to play in the opening period.

Noting that Tennessee missed several tackles on both the opening kickoff and the punt return TD, Fulmer mused: "Brandon James is a good football player, but he's not THAT good."

In spite of the early 17-0 deficit, Tennessee could've gotten back in the game if the offense hadn't seen two long second-quarter drives end with turnovers at the Gator 1-yard line.

The first probably ranks as the biggest play of the game. Down 17-0, the Vols drove to a second-and-goal at Florida's 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Then quarterback Jonathan Crompton lost the ball when his right hand collided with the left elbow of fullback Kevin Cooper, who was plowing ahead as the lead blocker on the play. Florida recovered at its 3-yard line and promptly drove to a 40-yard Jonathan Phillips field goal.

That 10-point swing turned what should have been a 17-7 Gator lead into a 20-0 Gator bulge.

"I take responsibility for that," Fulmer said, noting that every Vol quarterback is taught to shield the ball and every Vol fullback is taught to "cross over and make sure he's cleared the quarterback."

So which player was most at fault on the tide-turning play?

"I'll have to see (on tape) which one actually happened," Fulmer said. "I haven't seen it yet."

Tennessee had another chance to score in the final minute of the first half – again driving to a second-and-goal at the 1 but again coming away empty. This time Hardesty was stopped for no gain on second down, a pass to tight end Luke Stocker was broken up on third down and another pass was intercepted in the end zone on fourth down. The Vols appeared disjointed on those last three plays, a point Fulmer conceded.

"We had one timeout left," the head man noted, "and I had said to save it for the field goal if we had to kick it. But we wasted too much time between a couple of plays (second down and third down). Then on fourth down Jon (Crompton) missed a signal."

A 14-yard punt return by James led to a 47-yard touchdown drive that put Florida up 27-0 with 4:29 left in the third quarter. The score came on a 15-yard pass from Tebow to Percy Harvin.

Tennessee answered with its only scoring drive of the day, going 63 yards in 11 plays. Crompton hit Lucas Taylor for 22 yards, scrambled for 12 and then capped the drive with a one-yard sneak. A two-point conversion pass was tipped, however, leaving the score 27-6 with 14:18 to play.

Florida drove to the Vol 9-yard line on its ensuing possession, then Phillips hit his third field goal of the afternoon – a 27-yarder with 9:29 left that concluded the scoring.

Gator head man Urban Meyer, who appeared to run up the score in a 59-20 drubbing of Tennessee last year in Gainesville, had an opportunity to add some points in the final minutes of this game. On a fourth-and-four at the Vol 7-yard line, however, Florida took a delay-of-game penalty, then ran a simple off-tackle play that was stopped for a modest gain.

Crompton finished 18-of-28 passing for 162 yards. Arian Foster led Tennessee's rushers with 37 yards on 14 carries.

Although the Vols outgained Florida 258-243 in yards, they committed all three of the game's turnovers and went 1-for-3 in the Red Zone, whereas the opportunistic Gators scored on 4 of 5 Red Zone opportunities. Tennessee also incurred 95 yards in penalties.

Fulmer, now 0-4 against Meyer, was asked if he was embarrassed by his team's sloppy performance.

"I'm a professional," he said. "What we did on the field today did not look like I want it to look. I'm not embarrassed by the effort of our team or the effort we put into our preparation. I know how hard we worked this week, as players and coaches.

"I am very disappointed that we did not give ourselves a chance to be successful."


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