With 3:31 left in the game and the Gators holding on to a one point lead, the Vols had a first down at the 39 yard line. James Wilhoit had just nailed a 52-yard field goal, and so Tennessee just needed about five more yards to get into his range. He might have even been able to hit it from there.
But when the ball was snapped, the Tennessee center blocked air and Florida linebacker Brandon Silar came roaring through both the defensive and offensive lines and had Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge running backwards. Ainge was sacked back on the other side of the field at the 47. A loss of 14 yards. In the process of being sacked, Ainge threw the ball into the ground and was called for intentional grounding. He'd gotten away with it earlier in the game when he avoided a safety by barely getting the ball off toward the scrimmage line while being taken down by a defender. A dangerous tendency first displayed in the Death Valley end zone a year earlier with horrible repurcussions. And a tough habit to break, apparently.
No real harm this time, though. Had Ainge been merely sacked, he would still have been down at the 47, where he now found himself after the penalty.
Ainge completed a pass to Bret Smith, who took it to the 45 yard line on the other side of the field before being tackled.
It was now third down and 16 with two minutes and 57 seconds left. One incompletion and one interception later, and the Gators had the ball and the game.
This was a tough, close-fought game. It cannot be said that there is a vast difference between the Vols and the Gators, and the race for the SEC East is not over.
Expect a post tomorrow or Monday on how things must shake out for the Vols to still be in contention for the SEC East title.