Kiffin rebuffs Meyer's comments

Updated: September 22, 2009, 12:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said he put his Volunteers in the best position they could be in to beat Florida. Then he took one more shot at Gators coach Urban Meyer.

Meyer said Sunday that he kept his game plan conservative in No. 1 Florida's 23-13 win because he didn't believe Tennessee appeared to be playing for a win. He also said several of his players had been hit by the flu.

On Monday, Kiffin said he didn't want to respond to Meyer's comment. But asked whether he was worried about the flu also hitting Tennessee, he said: "I don't know. I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."

I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick.

-- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin

Tennessee (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) was tagged as a four-touchdown underdog, thanks in part to some of Kiffin's offseason comments about Florida.

The Vols' first-year coach pledged to sing "Rocky Top" after beating the Gators at the Swamp, and had accused Meyer of committing an NCAA violation in trying to hang on to a recruit who eventually joined Kiffin at Tennessee.

In looking back at the game, Meyer said Sunday he probably should have opened up the defending national champs' offense. But he said there was no reason to because of the Vols' conservative approach to their own offense.

"When I saw them start handing the ball off, I didn't feel like they were going after the win," Meyer said.

"The way we lose a game there is throw an interception. Why put yourself in that position? Let's find a way to win the game. We're not trying to impress the pollsters. We're trying to win the game. A lot of it had to do with the way they were playing. It made our life a little easier."

SEC commissioner Mike Slive already has reprimanded Kiffin for accusing Meyer of the NCAA violation, and warned all coaches about taking shots at one another.

"This offseason the commissioner made a big deal of renewing vows in terms of what we say about other teams, other coaches and other players," Kiffin said. "Obviously Urban feels he doesn't need to follow that. We won't say anything else."

Tennessee didn't play its role in what was supposed to be a Florida blowout.

With 11:37 left in the game and Florida (3-0, 1-0) holding a 23-6 lead, the Vols recovered a fumble by Tim Tebow at their own 2. Kiffin turned to running backs Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown to pound out runs and catch short passes.

That's where Meyer felt Kiffin wasn't concerned about winning.

"They wanted to shorten the game. I remember looking out there and there's 10 minutes left in the game and there's no no-huddle, they are down, I think it was 23-6 and [there's no] urgency," he said.

Kiffin said he preferred to turn to his tailbacks, who had little trouble moving the chains against the Gators' defense, rather than the Vols' struggling passing game.

It worked. Hardesty scored on a 17-yard run with 8:11 left to cut the margin to 23-13.

"That was the best thing to put us in position to win, and we moved the ball doing that," he said. "That was how we needed to play at that time."

With about 2 minutes left in the game and a chance to score, Kiffin gave Jonathan Crompton -- who had already thrown one interception -- a chance to throw downfield to Denarius Moore. The pass was picked off by Ahmad Black for Crompton's seventh interception of the season.

"People should know the truth. We came out to play," Moore said. "They said it themselves. They didn't expect us to come out and play like that. We just played our hardest, and so did they."

Kiffin said the Vols got beat by Tebow, who made some key scrambling plays in third-and-long situations.

He'd also like another shot at the senior quarterback whom he calls "Superman."

"I wish it was like basketball where we got another chance to play them, where we play them two times in a year," he said. "Unfortunately we won't get to play him again, and they'll have to play without [Tebow] next time."

Information from ESPN.com's Chris Low and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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