Gators Battle To The Final Whistle In Knoxville
The 20th-ranked Florida Gators fell to their Eastern division rival, the Tennessee Volunteers, 38-33. On Saturday in Neyland Stadium, the Gators were not given much chance to pull off an upset, but they came close. In recent history, the Gators have rarely been underdogs to the Volunteers due to the fact that Florida had beaten Tennessee 16 out of the last 17 meetings prior to Saturday's loss in Knoxville. I will admit that having Ventrell Miller back was a huge difference in how well Florida played, but it still seems that Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker was too much for the Gator defense.
On the day for Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson, he seemed like the AR we know. As he had 453 yards passing and rushed for 62 yards, and accounted for four total touchdowns. Richardson threw his first passing touchdown of the season against Tennessee on Saturday. I think offensively Florida did a great job taking care of the football against Tennessee aside from the one fumble that proved very costly.
Defensively Florida gave up too many big plays, especially Hendon Hooker's down-the-field passes and ability to make plays with his legs. The Gators gave Tennessee all they could handle throughout the game but it just wasn't enough. Even with Florida close to full strength by having Ventrell Miller, the Gator defense gave up 576 yards to the Volunteers.
The game looked all but over when it was 38-33 with less than a minute remaining. The orange and white in Neyland Stadium had begun doing the Gator chomp celebrating their victory. However, when Florida recovered the onside kick, I had that child-like faith that the Gators would win the game. We've seen this story so many times where UF finds a way to make a big play at the end of the game to win so I would have loved to see it again. Possibly another Hail Mary for the win, especially after seeing the Tennessee fans doing our Gator chomp.
Billy Napier is still in his first season, and I do not doubt that he is a good coach. The Gators are currently in a rebuilding process, and even Steve Spurrier lost to Tennessee only four times as the Gators head coach. Florida returns to The Swamp next Saturday against Eastern Washington for a noon kickoff, and this one should get the Gators back on the winning side.
Even though Florida did not win, Anthony Richardson looked like he got his confidence back and the offense thrived because of it. While there are no moral victories when it comes to Florida football, Saturday may be the closest thing to it. With what we saw offensively I am encouraged for the remainder of the season, but the defense has to be better. But all in all, the way the Gators finished in Knoxville should get them more respect because they did not quit even when it looked grim.