No. 11 Tennessee made its fans sweat a little bit before finally closing out No. 20 Florida, 38-33.
The Vols went up by 17 with less than eight minutes to go but Florida scored 12 points and recovered an onside kick with less than 20 seconds left to make UT fans nervous before Anthony Richardson threw an interception as time expired.
The score may be closer than the game actually was. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was 22-of-28 passing for 349 yards and two TDs and ran 13 times for 112 yards and a TD. WR Bru McCoy had the breakout game that Tennessee fans (and Texas fans and USC fans) were hoping for with five catches for 102 yards and a TD.
Tennessee scored 28 points across the second and third quarters and took control in the second half after Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright had rushing TDs 10 minutes apart. Wright’s TD with 7:55 to go came after a 10-play, 87-yard drive following a Richardson fumble.
Both teams had nearly 600 yards of offense and Tennessee had four TD drives of over 70 yards.
The victory is just Tennessee’s second win over Florida over the past 18 seasons. Until Saturday, the only win Tennessee had gotten over Florida since 2004 was a 38-28 win over the Gators in 2016. That game, like this one, featured both teams ranked in the top 25 and the Vols ahead of the Gators in the rankings.
Tennessee is now well ahead of Florida in the SEC East standings a week before October arrives. After losing to Kentucky in Week 2, Florida is 0-2 in the SEC while Tennessee is now 1-0.
The Vols also look like the clear No. 2 team in the East to Georgia unless you’re a strong believer in Kentucky. After an off week in Week 5, Tennessee heads to LSU before its annual rivalry game in Knoxville against Alabama on Oct. 15. If Tennessee beats the Tigers, that game against the Crimson Tide will very likely be a matchup of top-10 teams and again summon ESPN’s “College GameDay” to town.
Florida, meanwhile, got an uneven performance from Richardson again. But he showed much more than he had in the previous two weeks. While he turned the ball over twice, Richardson threw for 453 yards and his first two TD passes of the year. He also rushed for 62 yards and two scores.
Over the first four games of the season it’s become apparent that Florida will go as far as Richardson can take them.