Florida-Tennessee: Where Were the Volunteers?

Joe MorganSenior Analyst ISeptember 20, 2008

I was wrong.

I'm pleased with the outcome of the Florida-Tennessee game, but I'm also embarrassed that I predicted Tennessee to make a game out of it.

I was naive enough to think that the Volunteers would be motivated, considering the buzz surrounding the "Tennessee quit," comments made by Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes.

I assumed that Phil Fulmer had his team mentally prepared for today's game. However, the Vols' nine penalties for 95 yards beg to differ.

I even thought that Tennessee would take care of the football, but they did the exact opposite, recording three turnovers, including an interception and a lost fumble on the one-yard line.

Instead, the No. 4 Florida Gators ran all over the Volunteers in a 30-6 victory Saturday.

On a day where Gators quarterback Tim Tebow hardly broke a sweat, the Gators defeated a conference rival on the road—by 24 points.

Tebow recorded 96 passing yards and two touchdowns on a day that was dominated by Florida's special teams.

Return man Brandon James led the special teams onslaught with a with a 52-yard opening kickoff return.

For an encore performance, James ran a punt back 78 yards for a touchdown, giving the Gators a 17-0 lead.

Even placekicker Jonathan Phillips got in on the action, hitting three fields goals of 39, 40, and 27 yards, respectively.

The defense didn't have a bad day at the office either.

Despite giving up 258 yards of total offense, the Gator defense proved to be a resilient group, yielding only six points to Tennessee.

Perhaps the biggest stand by the defense came when cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted a Jonathan Crompton pass in the end zone, preserving a 20-0 Florida lead going into halftime.

The pick by Jenkins pretty much epitomized Tennessee's struggles to execute on offense as the Volunteers struggled all day to get anything going on the scoreboard.

And that disappoints me.

What has happened to Tennessee the past two years?

When Florida plays Tennessee, I want to re-live the excitement of the classic games in this rivalry. 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004, and 2006 were classic games between the Vols and Gators that neither school will ever forget.

In the past two matchups, however, Florida has embarrassed Tennessee, outscoring the Volunteers 89-26.

Although I've enjoyed the recent Gator dominance, I miss the tightly-contested duels between these two SEC foes.

I know this may seem premature, considering the close game between the two in 2006, but the last two matchups have been very anti-climatic and they have robbed the fans of the excitement that this rivalry is very capable of.

I still want the Gators to beat the Vols every year, no question! I believe you would have to question my fanhood if I wanted Tennessee to beat Florida.

But as a fan, I'm longing for the excitement of Tim Tebow rushing for a crucial first down or Jesse Palmer connecting with Jabar Gaffney for a game-winning touchdown.

The fans and the players involved deserve better. 

So, here's a message for Tennessee: Please show up ready to play in Gainesville next season.

Winning a rivalry game shouldn't be this easy.