Big win over Vols show Gators are hungry

Florida Gators defensive back Matt Elam celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Gators defeated the Volunteers 37-20.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 11:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 11:07 p.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — So much for winning ugly.

So much for taking baby steps.

So much for Tennessee being back.

This was Florida's night, but not the Florida we thought we'd be seeing all season. This harkened back to the days when Gator teams used to have big plays and big wins. Florida may not be all the way back, but Saturday night was a big step in that direction.

To be honest, you can't talk about this game without last week's. They will be forever joined at the hip, two come-from-behind wins on the road in wild environments.

Because to truly understand how ready Tennessee was for this game, you had to spend some time on Rocky Top. I don't know that I have ever heard a Tennessee fan base so confident before a game against Florida.

There was a lot of chatter about storming the field in the week leading up to the game. The young lady who checked us into our hotel Friday night told us about the plans for the fans — despite warnings from the police during the week — to take the turf once the Vols rolled the Gators.

Instead, they stormed the exits.

“They're front-runners,” said Trey Burton, one of Saturday night's heroes. “They talk a lot and as soon as we got up a little their fans starting leaving.”

Last week's win was big, this was bigger. This was a rivalry game against a team that had the same hopes and dreams when the first kickoff of the night sailed through the warm night.

Because this wasn't a battle for SEC East supremacy the way it used to be in the old days. But it was a battle to see who would have a chance. It was a set-up game, a game that sets you up to have a nice season. What Florida does with it is up to these Gators, but after these two games, hey, you're feeling it.

The noise in the system after the opener has been told to shut up and take a hike. The offense that was being criticized more than it deserved was being praised as innovative and edgy.

Funny how things can change so drastically in eight days.

All of a sudden, Florida has a big-time quarterback. Jeff Driskel had one of those games for the ages, a 300-yards-of-offense performance in a game where the other quarterback was supposed to be the star.

“Zero sacks, I bet you guys are happy,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “The game is going to keep slowing down for him.”

All of a sudden, Florida has weapons. Florida has an offense. Florida is a pretty darned good football team.

“We're not where we need to be,” said Muschamp, “but we're better than we've been.”

I said before this season that this September would be a better indication of how good this team might be than the last several seasons for two reasons — 1. The Gators had to play two quality conference opponents on the road; and 2. Tennessee was going to be better than it had been in four years.

Florida is 3-0 and if it can handle Kentucky next week it will be a September to remember. It doesn't mean these guys are ready to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC or even Georgia and South Carolina in the East.

But they're a lot closer.

“This is a different 3-0 (from last year),” Muschamp said. “They're better teams (we're playing.)”

One of those teams went home with a familiar feeling Saturday night. That's eight in a row over Tennessee for the Gators and the Big Orange fans must be wondering if it'll ever end.

Meanwhile, the victorious team flew home with a new feeling that it's getting used to.

That's what winning will do for you. The more you get it, the more you want it. And the more you want it, the more you are willing to do to get it.

That's where this program is right now.

The more it eats, the hungrier it gets.

And its last two meals have been delicious.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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