The Tennessee Volunteers invaded The Swamp today with massive chips on their shoulder. Tabbed as 29 point underdogs, the scrappy Vols proved naysayers (including some of their own fans) wrong by playing with the No. 1 team in the nation. While the Florida Gators won the game both on the scoreboard and the stat sheet, the three hundred point win never materialized. The Vols only had one thing to play for and this team accomplished their goal as respect has been given to the Vols by the Gator Nation.
While many fans on both sides of the ball expected the Gators to annihilate the UT Vols, that was not our prediction. The Tennessee Vols have the nation's No. 3 defense and that shows. On the flip side of the coin, the Florida Gators miss Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. The UT defense stymied the Gators offense for most of the game. Aaron Hernandez's four catches for 26 yards led all Gator receivers.
Did Tennessee play the nation's No. 1 team?
Following the win, the Gators have more questions than answers. While the Florida offense did gain 323 yards and put 23 points on the scoreboard, the Gators revealed some massive holes in their armor. Tebow was hurried most of the game, threw an interception and fumbled at the four yard line. The Gators were moving in to put a dagger in the heart of all Vol fans and allowed the ball to be stripped. Dennis Rogan's 41 yard return set UT up on a short field. Instead of putting the game out of reach at 30-6, the score suddenly became 23-13. Granted, most knew that the official line on the game was ludicrous, a ten point lead is not a comfortable position to be in when you are the No. 1 team in the nation. There will be many boo-birds this week proclaiming the Gators as not the No. 1 team, but it does not matter. The Gators are 3-0 with a 1-0 SEC record. Until this team loses, they deserve their ranking.
The Vols Never Quit
The largest difference between the current UT Vols team now versus last year's team is simple to see: this team does not quit. The same thing could not be said this time last year. Lane Kiffin's staff has already begun to change the attitude and atmosphere of this team. Will that translate into wins down the road? No one knows, but rest assured that only good things can happen to teams who no longer lay down.
Florida held a poor UT offense to 210 yards of total offense and won the battle. UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton simply managed the game plan that was handed to him.
At the same time, most Florida Gator fans can not honestly call this a victory. Over all the outcome of this game feels like a tie. The Gator offense did not soar to massive heights, the Gator defense played solid, but so did Tennessee. Many fans expected the Tennessee team to be buried under the sod of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and that simply did not transpire. Unlike last season, the Vols walked off of the field with their heads high. This UT team gave their all.
Darrell Owenby is a seasoned SEC sports analyst, freelance writer and editor of SECRivals.com. Darrell can be heard around the nation on sports talk radio shows discussing the SEC.