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Florida Gators Upset #9 Tennessee Volunteers




Trevor Etienne rushed for 172 yards and one touchdown as the Florida Gators (2-1 overall 1-0 SEC) knocked off the #9 Tennessee Volunteers (2-1 overall 0-1 SEC) 29-16 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night. Despite only gaining 249 yards of total offense, the Gators looked to be in control for the majority of the game. Florida quarterback Graham Mertz finished 19/24 passing for 166 yards and one touchdown. But the running of Etienne was the difference in the win over the Volunteers.


The game started off well for Tennessee as the Volunteers’ defense forced a field goal attempt on Florida’s first possession that was blocked. The Tennessee offense took over and marched 71 yards on six plays in only 2:01 with the drive ending on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Joe Milton to Ramel Keyton.


Then, Travis Etienne took over. On the fourth play of the drive, the sophomore from Jennings, LA, burst through the middle of Tennessee’s defense, broke two tackles, and outran the Tennessee secondary for a 62-yard touchdown. “Trevor was on fire out there tonight,” Florida head coach Billy Napier said after the game. “I mean, the instincts, the vision. He and Montrell (Johnson) both were in situations where they made guys miss tackles and after contact created big plays.”


After the opening drive touchdown for Tennessee. the Volunteers offense sputtered the remainder of the first half. The next four possessions ended in three punts and an interception. And on the Florida side, including Etienne’s 62-yard touchdown, the Gators scored touchdowns on all four of their possessions. “You can look at tackling and not getting off the field on third down defensively,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said when asked about the issues the Volunteers had in the loss. “Offensively you can look at pre-snap penalties and lack of efficiency.”


In the second half, Tennessee’s defense buckled down and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. But Florida’s defense only surrendered one field goal and one touchdown to the vaunted Volunteer offense. Coach Napier admitted the offensive troubles were on him in the second half. “I probably was a little too conservative in the second half. But all that being said, it’s a three-touchdown game and the defense is playing well. You’re trying to get to the house with a W.”


The Gators MVP was easily running back Trevor Etienne. The 5-foot 9-inch sophomore averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 23 carries.


The Tennessee MVP was wide receiver Bru McCoy. The 6-foot-3-inch senior had five catches for 94 yards and a 55-yard touchdown.


For Florida, this upset gives the Gators yet another win over their rivals at home. Florida has beaten Tennessee every game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 2005. This was the Gator’s first SEC game of the season and while the offensive numbers were not eye-popping Coach Napier was pleased with the outcome. “We stayed on schedule,” Napier said of the offense in the win. “I think we only got sacked one time. We kept the third downs manageable. We were able to rush the ball. I think the guys up front did a great job; the tight ends did a great job.” The Gators host the Charlotte 49ers next Saturday at The Swamp, 7 PM EST on ESPN+.


For Tennessee, the loss showed that the defense has some holes to fill, and the offense needs to learn to be more efficient on the road. The crowd at The Swamp caused a few false start penalties for the Tennessee offensive line. “First half, I mean, end of the day nobody was doing what they needed to at the level that they need to,” Coach Heupel said of the play on offense. “That could be run game, that could be protection. It can be quarterback play. It can be the wide receiver play. That’s how it looks the way that it did after the first drop. That’s, listen, starts with me and our coaching staff too. We’re in it together.” “We got to go back to work, continue to grow.” The Volunteers host the UTSA Roadrunners at Neyland Stadium on Saturday at 4 PM EST on the SEC Network.

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