Florida had a pair of huge interceptions and a fake punt to bail out a struggling offense and beat Tennessee for the sixth straight season, 31-17, Saturday before 102,455 at Neyland Stadium.
Florida (3-0) went up 10-3 on a 44-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis to open the second half — finishing off a 10-play, 53-yard drive. Tennessee (1-2) quickly tied it, however, with a 49-yard pass from Matt Simms to Denarius Moore with 8:59 left in the third quarter.
But on fourth-and-6, Omarius Hines took the snap on a fake punt and raced straight up the middle 36 yards to the Tennessee 25. It was the first time UF had faked a punt since the Arkansas game in October of 2008.
A 14-yard pass from John Brantley (14 of 23 for 167 yards) to Carl Moore on third-and-8 moved the ball to the 9. On third-and-goal, Brantley hit Frankie Hammond Jr. for the score with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
UF cornerback Jeremy Brown then intercepted Simms’ pass and returned it to the Vols’ 29 with 2:39 left. Hines’ 13-yard reception got it to the 9, which eventually led to a 5-yard score by Mike Gillislee to make it 24-10.
Simms made things interesting with a 35-yard TD throw to Justin Hunter on fourth down to cut the margin to seven points with 11:24 left in the game. The score came after an officials’ review that overturned a fumble near midfield by Jeff Demps (who finished with 26 rushes for 73 yards) to give the Vols the ball.
But the Gators’ offense responded with one of its most impressive drives all season, going 60 yards in nine plays and eating up over five minutes of the remaining time. Deonte Thompson and Moore had clutch receptions of 24 and 12 yards.
Demps picked up 16 yards to the UT 8, gained two more yards on first-and-goal and Trey Burton scored on a 2-yard run from the shot gun to push the lead back out to 31-17 with 6:15 remaining in the contest.
Matt Elam recovered a Tennessee fumble on the Vols’ next drive to sent fans pouring out of the Neyland.