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No. 6 Florida Gators capture SEC East title with 31-19 win over Vols

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The Gators beat the Vols...again.

Florida vs Tennessee Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The Tennessee Volunteers (2-6) hosted the No. 6 Florida Gators (8-1) in hopes of not only earning Jeremy Pruitt a signature win, but also denying the Gators a SEC East title.

They instead found another disappointing loss to the Gators. Harrison Bailey was able to rally the team to a 7-3 lead early, but the Gators were just too much in the end.


Harrison Bailey started the game, marking the first start of his collegiate career. Tennessee also received the opening kick, so the coaching staff and fans didn’t have to wait long to see what the Tennessee offense looks like with Bailey behind center.

Like most of Tennessee’s 2020 offensive output, it was underwhelming. Two straight runs gained five yards and Bailey couldn’t hit his guy on the 3rd and 5. The Vols went three-and-out and punted the ball away.

Things were a bit different for the Gators on their first possession. Kyle Trask hit Kadarius Toney across the middle for a 23-yard gain on 3rd and 6 that took the Gators down to the UT36. Florida was able to get a little bit closer to the end zone, but couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a 30-yard Evan McPherson field goal attempt. The kick went straight through the uprights and the Gators led, 3-0, with 9:19 to go in the first quarter.

Neither team could really do anything on the next couple of possessions and Tennessee caught a major break when the Gators were flagged for an illegal pick on what would’ve been a 46-yard touchdown pass to Malik Davis. Instead, the Gators were forced into a 1st and 25 that they couldn’t overcome.

Tennessee was able to put a nice drive together in the second quarter. Bailey led the way, completing all three of his passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. He also added a 15-yard scramble, as well. Eric Gray added 25 rushing yards on six carries and also caught three passes for 30 yards, including the 15-yard touchdown pass from Bailey. A roughing the passer call also tacked on 15 yards as the Vols drove 96 yards for the touchdown to go up, 7-3, with 9:59 to go in the second quarter.

It didn’t take long for Florida to answer. Trask led the offense right down the field on the next drive and capped off the six-play 75-yard drive with a four-yard screen pass to Trevon Grimes to put the Gators back up, 10-3, with 7:53 left in the second quarter. Four of Trask’s five completions on that drive went for at least 11 yards.

Tennessee went three-and-out on its next drive but the situation became worse after Jeremy Pruitt decided to try a fake punt on 4th and 5 inside his own territory. Paxton Brooks had Jimmy Holiday open, but Holiday couldn’t pull in the pass. Florida would take over at the UT30 looking to extend its lead.

But the Tennessee defense held up and forced the Gators into a three-and-out of their own that featured a sack on Trask on third down. McPherson lined up to attempt a 53-yard field goal, but he couldn’t connect and the Vols were bailed out for the second time so far in this game.

Florida’s final drive of the first half was extremely frustrating for the Vols and the fans. Tennessee had Florida in two very advantageous situations —a 3rd and 11 and a 3rd and 12— but the Gators were able to convert both plays. A DPI call in the end zone on Alontae Taylor gave the Gators the ball at the UT2 and Trask found Toney on the very next play to go up 17-7, with just :33 seconds left in the first half. In all, Florida converted three third downs on the 80-yard touchdown drive.

Tennessee played a tough half, but Florida was starting to find its groove. The Vols had to get a stop coming out of halftime or else they could easily find themselves down three scores.

The exact opposite of that happened. A 42-yard pass to Kyle Pitts sparked a 5-play, 75-yard drive that ended in another Grimes receiving touchdown to put the Gators up, 24-7. The scoring drive took less than 1:30 off the clock and officially put the Vols in dangerous waters.

Tennessee went three-and-out on the next drive and things began to look even more dire when Florida started its next drive in Tennessee territory, but the defense held tough and forced a punt.

Both defenses settled down until Trask found Jacob Copeland for his third passing touchdown of the game to put the Gators up, 31-7, with 11:21 left in the game.

Bailey was benched for J.T Shrout in the fourth quarter. Ty Chandler scored his third rushing touchdown of the year as he ran it in from seven yards out to make it a 31-13 game, but there was only about 5:30 left in the game. The Vols decided to go attempt the two point conversion, but couldn’t get it done.

The Vols were able to sneak one more touchdown in when Shrout hit Velus Jones Jr. in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass with :27 seconds left in the game. Brent Cimaglia missed the PAT but it didn’t really matter at this point because the game was basically out of reach.

The Gators would go on to win, 31-19. The win marks their 15th division title and they will try and win their 15th SEC Championship in a couple weeks against either the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Aggies. The Vols are scheduled to play the Texas A&M Aggies next Saturday, December 19. The time is currently to be determined.

You can check out the final score and stats here.