8:00 PM ET, September 16, 2006
Neyland Stadium, KNOXVILLE, TN
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Might as well give Urban Meyer a visor.
Dallas Baker caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chris Leak that gave Florida the lead in the fourth quarter and the Gators held on to beat No. 13 Tennessee 21-20 on Saturday to make Meyer 2-for-2 against the Vols.
Meyer's first trip to Neyland Stadium as Florida's head coach was a success. Not even Steve Spurrier, who made Vols fans cringe at the sight of his visor while going 8-4 against UT, started 2-0 against the Vols as the Florida coach.
No. 7 Florida (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) preserved the victory when Reggie Nelson got his second interception of the game after Tennessee (2-1, 0-1) went for it on fourth down at the Florida 45.
Then all the Gators needed was another first down, and they got it by inches on third down with 1:22 remaining.
"That was one of the finest team efforts I've ever seen -- to get down 17-7 in that type of environment against that type of talent and no one panicked," Meyer said.
Meyer became the first Florida coach to beat Tennessee in his first two tries since Galen Hall. And Meyer joins Spurrier, Georgia's Mark Richt and Tommy Tuberville as the only coaches to beat Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer in back-to-back seasons. The Gators won last year at The Swamp 16-7.
After Spurrier left in 2001, Tennessee went 2-1 against the Gators and coach Ron Zook.
Meyer has lectured his team about being tougher on the road and the Gators responded with a gutty win.
"We challenged them, we criticized them and put them in situations where only tough people could survive and I'm awfully proud of them," Meyer said.
Florida stuffed the Vols' running game and pressured Erik Ainge all night. Not even an emotional final game by defensive tackle Justin Harrell could provide the lift Tennessee needed to beat its bitter rivals.
Harrell started and played most of the game with a ruptured tendon in his left biceps, an injury suffered last week. Team officials had said he would miss the rest of the season. But after he was cleared by doctors, Harrell said he would play one more game.
"Obviously a very disappointing loss for our football team, but I told our team afterward I'm proud of the effort they gave and they way they came out and fought," Fulmer said. "A lot of plays in the ball game that should and could have been made offensively obviously we had a struggle. Florida has a fine defensive football team."
Leak played in his final game in Neyland, where he often came to watch his older brother C.J. play, and managed the game well while his freshman backup Tim Tebow provided a lift all seven times he entered the game. Leak finished 15-of-25 for 199 yards with one interception.
Tennessee was held to minus-11 yards rushing, and Ainge struggled in going 17-of-32 for 183 yards.
The loss for Tennessee is sure to get the negative talk going again about Fulmer's future. The Vols finished last year 5-6, and had fans temporarily happy with two wins to open the season. Now Tennessee is in catch-up mode in the SEC East.
Florida fans stayed to celebrate after the game ended while Tennessee fans -- very accustomed to seeing this result -- filed out silently.
Trailing by six, Florida regained the lead with 6:30 to go on Leak's 21-yard pass to Baker. The drive was kept alive by Tebow's running ability. After Leak slid a yard short of the first down on the previous play, Tebow ran for 2 yards to the Tennessee 26.
Tebow ran seven times for 29 yards, getting four first downs.
The Vols went up 20-14 with 10:49 to go in the fourth quarter when James Wilhoit made a 51-yard field goal, tying his career long.
Florida scored first when Jemalle Cornelius caught a 21-yard pass from Leak and then dove toward the cone at the front corner of the end zone. The officials reviewed it, but upheld the score.
A 36-yard field goal by Wilhoit and a trick play for a 48-yard touchdown pass put the Vols ahead 10-7. Ainge handed off to Lucas Taylor, who passed the ball to LaMarcus Corker as he was streaking uncovered to the end zone.
Tennessee extended its lead to 17-7 on Montario Hardesty's 1-yard plunge. But the Vols' lead never seemed solid.
Leak connected with Baker for a 4-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to cut it to 17-14. The Gators started the possession when Tennessee could not convert a first down after Ainge made a dangerous toss from his own end zone to avoid a sack and safety.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... WR Dallas Baker scored a 21-yard TD with 6:30 left to put Florida up 21-20.
Gameball goes to... Chris Leak. The Florida QB was 15 of 25 for 199 yards and 3 TDs (1 INT).
Stat of the game... -11: The Vols were limited to -11 yards rushing by the Gators defense.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-13||6-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-1|
|TD||6:35||JEMALLE CORNELIUS 21 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (CHRIS HETLAND KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 63 yards.
|FG||2:36||JAMES WILHOIT II 36 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 30 yards.
|TD||7:57||LAMARCUS COKER 48 YD PASS FROM LUCAS TAYLOR (JAMES WILHOIT II KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||8:40||MONTARIO HARDESTY 1 YD RUN (JAMES WILHOIT II KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 61 yards.
|TD||1:16||DALLAS BAKER 4 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (CHRIS HETLAND KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 72 yards.
|FG||10:49||JAMES WILHOIT II 51 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 43 yards.
|TD||6:30||DALLAS BAKER 21 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (CHRIS HETLAND KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 65 yards.