3:30 PM ET, September 20, 2008
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
No. 4 Gators continue turning rivalry vs. Vols into one-sided affair
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida took control on the opening kickoff and it didn't take long for Tennessee to become Gator Bait again.
No. 4 Florida beat its SEC East rival for the fourth consecutive year, a 30-6 rout of the self-destructive Volunteers on Saturday.
"We just came out and played relentless," said linebacker Brandon Spikes, who earlier in the week had accused the Vols of quitting in last season's 59-20 blowout. "If we come out every week and do that it's going to be tough on opponents."
• Florida took advantage of three turnovers by Tennessee, and Brandon James had his fourth career punt return for a TD as
No. 4 Florida beat rival Tennessee for the fourth straight time.
• Tennessee fumbled at the 2-yard line and had a pass intercepted in the end zone in the first half.
• Tim Tebow was held to 122 total yards, but had two TD passes.
• James returned a punt 78 yards for a TD, scoring on a punt vs. Tennessee for the second straight season.
• Florida won the rushing battle, marking the 17th time in their last 19 meetings the team that wins the rushing battle wins the game.
-- ESPN Research
The Gators (3-0, 1-0) haven't lost to the Vols since Urban Meyer became coach in 2005. Meyer also improved to 8-1 against Florida's three biggest rivals -- Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State, while joining former top Gator Steve Spurrier as the only coach to defeat a Phillip Fulmer-lead Tennessee team in four straight seasons.
Brandon James went 52 yards for Florida with the opening kickoff and soon after the Gators were in the end zone. Tim Tebow flipped a 2-yard pass over the top of the line of scrimmage to Aaron Hernandez for a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
James, who's had four career punt returns for touchdowns, returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to put Florida up 17-0 with 4:42 in the first quarter. At least five Vols defenders missed James as he blew by them.
"I thought the one against Hawaii was the best one I'd seen," Meyer said of James, who also had a TD punt return last season against the Vols. "He topped it with this one. He even said to me that might have been his best."
Tennessee (1-2, 0-1) responded with nothing but mistakes, and Fulmer fell to 5-12 against Florida.
Vols fans showered their team with boos and started exiting en masse in the third quarter.
"There's probably not anybody happy with me right now," Fulmer said. "There's probably not anybody happy with the quarterback right now. In this case, I said from the beginning, it's my responsibility and I'll take that.
"A couple of things I'd probably boo too," he said.
Including the fourth quarter of last season's game, Florida shut out Tennessee for four-straight quarters and hung 58 straight points on the Vols.
It's the second year in a row that Tennessee has started the season 1-2, but the Vols regrouped last season to win the SEC East.
"It seems like we've got to learn the hard way sometimes. As a coach, last year that football team was one of those," Fulmer said. "We won't give up. We've got a chance to be there yet, just a little bit harder road."
On the Vols' first drive, Arian Foster was charged a 15-yard penalty for shoving a Florida player. Montario Hardesty fumbled the ball when hit after a 1-yard catch. Florida's Ryan Stamper recovered the fumble, and Jonathan Phillips kicked a 39-yard field goal.
Twice Tennessee drove to the Florida 1 and fell apart. In the second quarter, Jonathan Crompton simply dropped the ball drooping back to pass and Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap fell on it.
The next time down, Crompton was picked off in the end zone by Janoris Jenkins right before halftime.
"We are shooting ourselves in the foot especially down there where we need points," Crompton said.
The interception prompted a loud chorus of boos from the Tennessee fans.
They started leaving after Tebow connected with Percy Harvin on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 4:42 in the third quarter.
It was another quiet day for the Heisman Trophy winner Tebow. He completed eight of 15 passes for 96 yards and no interceptions and ran 12 times for 26 yards -- but it hardly mattered as the Gators kept taking advantage of Tennessee's mistakes.
Harvin finished with 49 yards on two catches. Emmanuel Moody ran nine times for 55 yards, mostly in the second half. Florida ran for 147 yards compared to Tennessee's 96.
"For the last 12 to 15 years, the winner of this game had had a lot of success in the SEC, and it gives you a lot of momentum," Tebow said. "That surge going into SEC play you can really feed off of and get focused on and make some big plays."
Tennessee narrowly missed being shut out for the first time since 1994 when Crompton pushed into the end zone on a 1-yard run with 14:18 left in the game.
Crompton finished 18-for-28 for 162 yards.
The Vols were also penalized nine times for 95 yards. The Gators were also flagged nine times as the game had its chippy moments. Twice the teams received offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties twice when players tangled or verbally sparred.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Brandon James returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to give the Gators a 17-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter.
Gameball goes to... James, who returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to set up Florida's first touchdown and took a punt return 78 yards for a touchdown.
Stat of the game... 8-for-13. The Gators converted on 61.5 percent of their third-down situations.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-13||4-11|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-2|
|TD||10:15||Aaron Hernandez 2 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||7||0|
|FG||07:35||Jonathan Phillips 39 Yd||10||0|
|TD||04:42||Brandon James 78 Yd Punt Return (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||17||0|
|FG||04:43||Jonathan Phillips 40 Yd||20||0|
|TD||04:29||Percy Harvin 15 Yd Pass From Tim Tebow (Jonathan Phillips Kick)||27||0|
|TD||14:18||Jonathan Crompton 1 Yd Run (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||27||6|
|FG||09:29||Jonathan Phillips 27 Yd||30||6|