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SEC Saturday Recap: Florida Wins Ninth Straight Over Tennessee

floridatennessee-wrThere was a time when the game in late September between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers usually decided who would represent the SEC East in the annual SEC Championship game and in many cases which team would play for a national championship at the end of the year. Those days are gone now and if you watched the first half of the game Saturday, you see why. The first half looked like a bad Keystone Cops routine as each team turned the ball over four times.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a broken leg and threw a pick six on the very same play to give the Vols an early 7-0 lead. It was already the third turnover of the game that was barely six minutes old. Tyler Murphy came into the game to replace Driskel. Murphy has been with the Gators for four years and has never seen any playing time. But he went out and led the team to 17 unanswered points for the rest of the half. The offense looked better with him in the game than it has in three seasons. This begs the question, why is he just now getting some action?

Florida wound up winning the game 31-17 thanks in large part to a swarming defense that has been the team’s hallmark ever since Will Muschamp took over as head coach two seasons ago. Muschamp can certainly coach up a defense. On Saturday, after Murphy came into the game, they also started to look good on offense too.

The Gators threw some balls down-field for the first time in a long time. They even connected on a couple of them. One was a phenomenal catch by Quinton Dunbar that converted a third and long just as Tennessee looked like they were gaining some momentum. The ball was sailing out of bounds and Dunbar looked as if he was out when he caught it, but he managed to get his foot down inbounds, even though the rest of him was out of bounds. With Florida connecting on some passes down the field, the running game opened up a bit too. Murphy made several nice runs to pick up first downs as did Mack Brown and Matt Jones.

The Gators still have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the Likes of the Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks in the East. Turnovers were again a huge problem ans were penalties. Kick returning is also a question mark. Several return men took the ball out from deep in the end zone and failed to get back to the 20 yard line. This is especially troubling since the ball is now brought out to the 25 on touch-backs.

But nobody can fault the effort of the Gator defense. They forced turnovers, put pressure on the quarterbacks, stuffed the run game for the most part and gang tackled on nearly every play.

Yesterday I picked Florida to cover the spread which was 16 points. They would have done it had a late field goal not been missed. But more importantly, that was a kick to make the game a three possession game with a little over five minutes to play. Those are mistakes that can cost a team when they play against better teams.

Tennessee? Well, they are just a mess. Nine straight losses to Florida only tells part of the story. They are under .500 since 2008. In that time they have won only 12 SEC games and only beaten one opponent ranked in the top 25. UT fans may be starting to give up and accept that this is just who they are now.

One thing is for sure. This rivalry is a log way away from the days of Spurrier vs Fulmer and Manning vs Weurffel.

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