Gators benefit from turnovers in blowout of Volunteers

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Florida wide receiver running back Dameon Pierce (27) is congratulated by wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (89) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Tennessee. [Wade Payne/Associated Press]

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As the HBC might quip, you can’t spell turnover without UT.

The Florida Gators, along with some help from the erring Vols, turned the school on Rocky Top into the University of Turnover on Saturday night before 100,027 stunned fans at Neyland Stadium.

Benefiting from six turnovers — four that led directly to 24 points for the Gators and a fifth that basically took seven points off the scoreboard for UT — Florida silenced the big crowd, rolling to a 47-21 victory that generates some momentum as UF (3-1, 1-1 SEC) heads into the heart of its league schedule.

UT falls to 2-2 and 0-1.

“Six turnovers,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “That’s unbelievable. You get that huge turnover advantage.

“I love the big plays. You come on the road and create turnovers and create big plays.”

The 47 points are the most ever scored by the Gators in Neyland Stadium.

The point total ballooned thanks to the turnovers, which came fast and furious early in the game and set the tone again on the opening kickoff in the second half.

“When you get that many possessions from the defense, it puts us in good field position to get touchdowns,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “You’ve got to capitalize.”

That’s exactly what the Gators did.

“They gave us some different looks (on defense) that created negative plays,” UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Turnovers, just too much to overcome. It’s something we focus on every day, not giving them up.

“Not to take anything away from Florida because they had an excellent game plan. They executed better than we did and that’s on me and our coaching staff. You’ve got to give Florida credit for outplaying us for 60 minutes tonight.”

UF could not have gotten off to a better start — or the Vols a worse one.

A fumble and an interception on the Vols’ first two possessions led to two quick touchdowns — a 1-yard pass from Franks to tight end R.J. Raymond and a 1-yard run by Franks that put the Gators up 14-0 with 4:52 left in the first quarter.

The fumble came when rush end Jachai Polite hit UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano from behind in the pocket, knocking out the ball, which fell into the arms of middle linebacker David Reese II on the Vols 21.

On the next possession, defensive tackle Luke Ancrum intercepted a screen pass and returned it to the UT 7.

“We turned the ball over in our own territory a lot,” Pruitt said. “And we didn’t hold them to field goals.”

The Vols’ third fumble of the half, and fourth turnover of the first half, was recovered by defensive tackle Khairi Clark and eventually led to a field goal in the closing seconds that gave the Gators’ a commanding 26-3 halftime lead.

Before that, two other critical plays went in Florida’s favor.

Early in the second quarter, rush end Cece Jefferson tackled running back Tim Jordan in the end zone for a safety and two points.

Later in the quarter, with UF leading 23-3, wide open UT tight end Austin Pope caught a pass deep down the sideline on fourth down and appeared headed for a touchdown. But he was tracked down by cornerback CJ Henderson, who forced a fumble inside the 5-yard line that rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

“That to me was the play of the game,” Mullen said. “It was a huge play.”

It was clearly a forced fumble on Henderson’s part. He sprinted all the way from the other side of the field to nail Pope when it appeared he was going to score.

“I thought he had the ball high and tight,” Pruitt said of Pope. “He’s got to finish down here on the goal line.”

The Pope fumble was demoralizing. The next turnover was pretty much a game-ender, and it came on the opening kickoff of the second half.

UT returner Shawn Shamburger was hit by safety Brad Stewart, who dislodged the ball, and cornerback Brian Edwards recovered it on the UT 19.

On the next play, tailback Jordan Scarlett bulled his way through the UT defense for a 19-yard TD run that put the Gators in complete control, 33-3.

UT went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 33-13, but Franks answered with a 38-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland.

Jeremy Banks scored on a 2-yard run to cut the UF lead to 40-21 with 5:04 left to play.

But, again, the Gators had an emphatic answer — a 47-yard TD run by true freshman Dameon Pierce with 4:54 to close out the victory.

The Gators, who seemed to be possibly heading in the wrong direction two weeks ago after the home loss to Kentucky, now have some momentum heading deeper into SEC play.

“We have some solid potential here,” Mullen said. “We have to take advantage of it quickly.”


Up next

Who: Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) vs. No. 14 Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Starkville, Miss.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

69 COMMENTS

  1. Robbie, Florida benefited by forcing those turnovers. They were not gifted to the Gators. Great hustle and tackle by Henderson. Great pass rush and hit on the Vols GB by Polithe. A great line read and INT by Ancrum. A good hit by Stewart on the kickoff coverage. And a remarkable INT by Stewart as well. Give some credit for hard play and effort by the Gators D, my man.

  2. Long night for Robbie. Liked his opening line… thought I read it somewhere else as well but could be me. I don’t worry about newspaper predictions this time of year…it’s still early to me. I suppose you could argue that the turnovers hid some flaws and we aren’t ready for a more powerful opponent, but that’s for a later day. Right now we have gotten better in several areas since the season started. And I see more improvement coming.

  3. Very Happy for Coach Mullen and our players. It is too early to label the season. Let’s play em one at a time and keep showing signs of improvement. It could add up to a decent season. We should all be able to agree that the team has given us a very obvious greater effort in the last last two games. Effort will take you farther on less most every time. By the end of the season, we may not be dealing with less! Work ‘em silly Gators!!

  4. Back when Georgia used to beat us pretty regularly under Vince Dooley I was always annoyed at how lucky they were to constantly be getting turnovers from us. I later realized that what I was viewing was not luck but hustle. One of this team’s biggest problems had been lack of hustle, so to see them come out this game and play fast and hard and finish was awesome.

    Go Gators!

    • ”Truth-teller”, good points! And I would quote Stephen Leacock to illustrate it, as he said, ”I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
      And for the plays that some of us Gator fans would like to see more of (for me at least), like more speed sweeps, and quick slants to Toney, and more flats’ passing to playmakers. So for Coach Mullen, ”He that will use ALL THE WIND must shift his sail.” -Beaumont and Fletcher.
      But I am a happy & proud Gator. And they’re improving! I just want to see… ”MORE, MORE, MORE!” I think Brittany Spears had a song like that, 10 years ago. LOL!
      GO GATORS!

  5. How did I know you write a CYA piece after the trash you and Dooley talked about this team. Why don’t you happily just admitt you were wrong. This staff is outstanding and every week this team gets better. Enough with the negativity, you see the MSU – UK score maybe that loss wasn’t so bad.

  6. Almost everyone on here yesterday was so incredibly negative. How are all of you experts feeling this morning? Guess that’s why you have to play the game!! Franks still has a ways to go yet but continues to show flashes and right now we just have to be satisfied with that. Leave all the negativity at home And give our guys a chance. Go Gators!!

    • Oh they’re still out in full force finding something negative to say about the game. Oh the offense still sucks, Franks still sucks, oh we don’t really know how good they are cause Tennessee played so bad blah blah blah. It’s like man just shut up and enjoy the dominant win no one expected.

  7. Robbie, I can be a hard and critical fan. Like the rest of gator nation. But the gators earned most if those turnovers today. Great hits and aggressive play. It’s not fair to act as if this win was “gifted” to the Gators. They went into rocky top and took care of business.

  8. No doubt hustle created the majority of the turnovers and they were not “gifted”. More importantly, the Gators capitalized on them! (Although I must say that for a while in the second half I thought the game plan was to build a big lead and then eat up the clock for about a half with Gator 3 and Outs, counting on Tennessee to be less ept)

    We’re not out of the woods yet, but we are improving week to week and a good transition season is not out of the question at all. Kentucky exposed MSU last night, so that is good. I’m feeling much better after reading yesterday how we didn’t stand a chance. One game at a time!

    • Well said ‘6’, as usual. And I do think Mullen was trying to run out the clock, and work on the run offense. And with a lead, in a hostile environment like Whaa-land, I mean, Neyland Stadium, it made sense. I do think ”there is improvement to be made.” But whether you played at the Gainesville Rec. Dept. Little league, or Gainesville High Varsity Football, you have to ”improve each week.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that in my amateur football life. And the Gators will IMPROVE! But for now, they just SILENCED one of the BIGGEST STADIUMS in the U.S. CHOMP-CHOMP! Now going into this week, the ”storyline” will be Coach Mullen going to his old school, and FLA. and M.S.U. only having ‘1’ loss, and to the SAME TEAM. Damn Wildcats, not so tame this year. But, GO GATORS! I’m a very happy Gator on the Good Lord’s Sunday morning! GO GATORS!

    • I agree about the third quarter offense. On the other hand, one first down run was taken away by a hold charged to Lewis, and the refs gave the Gators a really bad spot on a completion to Cleveland that pretty clearly should have been a first down. The offense is currently not good enough to overcome such things. Still, they finally started to look better after a poor start to the half.

      • GI & 67 — I said that half tongue in cheek, but remembering where our offensive development is from week to week, I think one of the things we can look forward to is the ability to NOT take our feet off our opponent’s necks too early. Many factors at work here, of course, but I’m just going to bask in the great win — I say again, GREAT win — and think about next Saturday later. Great day to be a Gator!

  9. Let’s face reality-Without the turnovers, how good was our offense? Franks still doesn’t see his receivers until too late and then takes too much time to get rid of the ball. Even when his line gives him enough time, he still has happy feet and leaves the pocket. And then, even when he has an open receiver, two high a percentage of the time, he misses by throwing high or wide. Mullen keeps saying that he is a work in progress and still favors him over Trask, but even in a lop-sided victory, he never gave Trask a chance to throw, just kept the clock running by running. The one time that I can remember that Trask was allowed to throw, he threw a beautiful pass, leading his man for a reception. Accurate and timely. I don’t know whether Trask is the answer, but when the score is lop-sided he should be tested even if that means piling it on.

    • How about let’s just enjoy the win? It really is amazing how anyone can be negative after scoring the most points in Neyland ever and dominating a team everyone expected win. I don’t care if we win by 26, we should’ve had 500 yards of offense. Unreal!

    • I hear you George, but that’s part of the game though hoss…they were forced and when all phases contribute…it’s hard to lose. We had a lot of short fields but we put up 7s for the most part which is what you are suppose to do. A bunch of 3s, and I would tend to agree, but I thought they did their job on offense based on the way the game went. Usually big scores equal turnovers to points.

      I am okay with Franks so far…as this truly is his first year of solid coaching. I thought overall he did some good things.

  10. Very few of us saw this outcome coming. I have no problem with Robbie picking Tennessee. I remember reading many posts on here after Kentucky where there were predictions that we would lose the rest of our season, go 1-7 in the SEC, etc. This team is full of surprises and yesterday’s victory was a pleasant one. The offense still needs a lot of work but things are starting to get a little better. Luckily we have a defense that appears to be good enough (especially with the recent personnel changes) to create turnovers and shorter fields which our offense absolutely needs. I will take a victory no matter how we get it this season. The team needs time to be molded into what Mullen wants. This game gives us all hope not only for next week, but for the season. Here is to playing with consistency, fire, and discipline. Go Gators!

    • All that negativity after the KY game was largely due to a failure to respect what the Wildcats are this year, a good team that may be the second-best in the SEC East. Of course, the Gators did not play well in that game, especially in their failure to be a disciplined defense, but my take away from that game was that the Gators are not so bad since they were in the game to the end.

      • I’m kind of thinking that the continued negativity is still counter-reaction to all the Kool Aid we fed ourselves before the Kentucky game. OK, fair enough, there’s some pearls of wisdom in there still……but let’s not get too down in the dirt until Monday or Tuesday, and maybe Cody Alan will post about that time and get the conversation going. Let’s enjoy it while the taste is still sweet!

        • What all the negative Nancy’s need to focus on is the fact that this team is far better than it was last year in every aspect of the game. The offense is in double digit rankings, of course we’d like it to be much higher, but it’s not in the 112 range its been the last 3 years. The defense and special teams are far better than they’ve been. The fact of the matter is this team is right where everyone predicted it’d be in the preseason and progressing, which is all we can ask for without Mullen having a full recruiting class and less than a year on the job. He had them focused and ready to play in a very hostile environment against a team many predicted would win and some felt needed the win more than the Gators. Everything is pointing towards progress and signs of a bright future. People need to just stop being so negative and accept the fact that it’s going to be a bumpy ride and the wins may not be pretty, but winning is all that matters. This game will certainly go a long way towards helping recruiting.

  11. Wow what a game! Best I’ve seen us play against a power 5 school in a while. That’s what happens when you control both lines of scrimmage. Reese was the beast that we’ve been missing at LB. Franks played about as good as I’ve seen him play. 110% hustle is what we saw all game, especially Henderson running down a sure touchdown. Great game plan from the coaching staff. GO GATORS!

  12. Joe. Fact is. Florida still needs a much better offense and way better QB play to win or compete with most of the quality teams left on the schedule. I doubt MSU, LSU, SC, and Georgia are going to turn the ball over six times. If the Gators do not execute better offensively and with far more consistency, the Gators will not beat or even come close vs. those teams. But a good win last night.

    • That’s a given and goes without saying. Anyone who expected the offense to take a huge step this season was fooling themselves. You’re going to need new personnel at the most important position in Mullen’s offense before you see big strides in that area. Franks is clearly not that player and obviously in Mullen’s eyes, neither is Trask. So just live with what we got and focus on the positives until the right personnel takes over. Hell even Smart’s offense struggled his first season and he had the best QB recruit in the nation running it. Year 2 is where you expect to see big strides taken. The fans who expect to see it this early in the first season are out of their minds, and for some reason far too many are expecting the impossible and only focusing on that. The offense is clearly better than it was and Franks is definitely managing the game better than he was last season. He’s certainly not causing us to lose games like he was in almost every game last season. To me that’s progress.

      • Joe,
        Im still hoping Franks can develop under Mullen, but im starting to think Franks job may end up being just good enough to keep UF in the hunt for quality recruits until Mullen can get his guys. Del Rio was in a similar situation. He wasnt necessarily recruited for Muschamp’s offense, more an experienced, stabilizing player and was never going to be the franchise qb for that staff. He was only our best option to try to win some games and keep the UF name relevant enough for the new coach to recruit and develop the players for his system. Of course that didnt happen(not because of Del Rio). Mullen may see Franks as the best option for the transition period, maybe his big arm is the best way to show future recruits what the offense could be with the right personnel.

      • Joe, I dont think anyone disagrees with that. people are just pointing out what they see as areas that need improvement, they are all glad with the wins. This isnt a rah rah site. If hearing anything but praise bothers you then this isnt the place for you. I for one am glad to read what FANS are saying whether I agree or not.

  13. Robbie, how about “Gators relentless pass rush forces turnovers!” Line reads like those were gifts. Even the fumble when the backup qb was in was caused by the defense. Beat up that gitmo, or whatever his name is, so bad he had to come out, forcing the backup in the game in a tough spot. Really proud of the effort. GO GATORS!

  14. Great win yes but you have to admit, the Vols are one gawd awful team as are the CSUs the Gators have thumped. With UK win last night over MSU, next week’s game is pivot point for season. A win and 8, possibly 9 wins possible.
    On Franks? He’s not the answer and has deficiencies that are near impossible to reverse, no matter how much “teaching.” Trask worth a shot.

  15. It was a great effort, a defensive win, and an uneven offensive performance, but I will take it all day long. Franks is Franks with his beautiful passes at times, but please, can he work with the running backs coach a little bit!

    CDM only asks that his QB be a willing runner. Franks is obviously ‘willing’ to run the play that is called, but once on his wheels, he looks like a fish out of water. I do not expect him to be Tebow who loved contact, but instead at least come to grips with the fact that contact is going to happen when you run. You cannot always run out of bounds untouched.

    Its not just that his jump attempt over a UT linebacker was embarrassingly bad, its that it shows he has no idea of how to run the ball. Slide, duck, spin, or even lower your shoulders like a gladiator were all better choices at that juncture. Maybe listening to Tebow about the fact that in hitting someone you are in control, and it is much better than being hit like a victim. With all Tebow’s contact, his only concussion came on a sack he didn’t see coming.

    Better running won’t make Franks’ passing judgement or timing any better, but if the defense has no real fear of the “running quarterback” actually running, you take away one of the aspects that make a spread offense work. At least teach him how to bring a running play to an close to his advantage, and we might be surprised that he could become an advantage instead of a liability.

  16. Great win, we’re not in the upper tier yet but have greatly improved since the UK disaster. O-line better but not good yet, D-line dominated the Vols last night. Franks will always be Franks, making some nice plays and blowing others because he can’t read a D or see the open man. He should be the backup QB – we still haven’t found our star QB yet. Props to Mullen and his staff for preparing the Gators to play with lights-out effort in Neyland last night. So great to see those orange-clad lugs with heads down heading for the exits in the 3rd quarter! And the Gators partying on the checkerboard after the game – OH YEAH!!

  17. Ahhhh, another morning of relaxation and a time to reflect on last nights game. So, for the simple analysis of last night: one has to wonder what happens when Florida plays a team that does not turn the ball over, plays aggressively yet conservatively, and makes Florida beat them with offense. Again, this win is good, but, Tennessee is a dumpster fire of a football program with really only 2 players on offense that can contribute. You cannot rely on defense creating turnovers and special teams blocking kicks or kicking field goals to win games. You have to move the football and generate points. To that end, Florida did not do well last night. So, what does happen when the other team doesn’t turn the ball over, and is as good as Florida in the kicking game? What does happen when Florida needs to score some points? And yet, when you look at last nights performance by Franks, is he being coached to make plays, or coached not to make mistakes? If you’re coaching a kid not to make mistakes, you’re coaching a kid to lose.

    • Playing not to lose, versus playing to win. I get it, and it’s a forthright observation depending on where we’re at in the season. But we’re still correcting liabilities and building a team attitude, and I trust that CDM knows what he’s doing at each stage in our progress.

    • Solid analysis….but I believe some other aspects should be considered.

      I counter with the turnovers being forced by the defense and the offense turning those into points. I just don’t get that argument as if that takes away from the effort..defensively we forced turnovers. If Franks did not convert those turnovers to points, then I would have more to worry about. Give the man credit for that. Recall…in the 1996 UT game, Tennessee had what 6 turnovers in the first half to go down 35-0 at one point and the score got out of hand. Franks also moved the ball, I thought pretty well, given the circumstances. Remember…this is Franks first year of solid QB coaching…so perhaps managing the game for now and not being asked to throw the ball say 38 times (see UK game), is the recipe for success. I am sure that once he continues, the play book will open up…but I am not sure how not losing is losing.

      The 2006 team was not a juggernaut on offense during the reg season, and Leak was sort of a game manager. We really did not score points until the Arkansas SEC chip game, and then the 41-14 beatdown of the Suckeyes. For that team, opportunistic defense led the way and we won the title. The 2008 then team blew the doors off everyone with Urban’s prototype QB.

      There are different ways to skin a cat, and at 3-1 of CDMs tenure…we definitely don’t have ALL of the answers, but after seeing UK this past Saturday…maybe just maybe he is on the right trajectory as there has been improvement…and UK is a good team.

  18. I really am beginning to feel bad for Vols fans – just when you think their situation can’t get worse, somehow, someway it does. Their players seem to be at odds with coaches and fans aren’t happy. Man it’s gonna be bad up there.

    The biggest difference I’ve seen since UK is the gator defense has toughened up and have started to tackle. If they tackle in the UK game Florida probably wins that one too. Would like to have that one back for sure. Tougher road game next week big nothing they can’t handle if they keep doing the right things. The q.b. at MSU is kinda overrated imo. Must stop the run and be careful with the ball- if so UF can win this!

  19. Have to agree with Grumpy Gator. It apears that the best one can expect from Franks is that he limits his mistakes. That is not a winning formula. Franks seems to lack the intangible sense for the game that quality players have at this stage in their development. As soon as he imagines the OL protection breaking down he looks for an exit and then there is the obvious – poor reads, waiting too long to deliver the ball, inconsistent accuracy, etc. Trask is worth a shot and should have been in the game sooner last night. Give the kid a full quarter in a blowout. Mullen has made his bet and is sticking to it no matter what. Hope I’m wrong but it’s not a winning bet if we are to reach full potential this year.

  20. I was at Neyland last night and I gotta say it was an incredible experience. The crowd was into it early and the place was as packed as I’ve seen it in several years. So beyond what you all saw and beyond the comments already on this forum I’d just add two things. One, we all saw “improvement”. As I’ve been saying, I personally am not interested in wins and a great record as much as I am in seeing a better team and product each week. We’ve seen that in both of the last two weeks. Last night was actually fun to watch. How often have you been able to say that in the past few years?

    The second thing is I really liked the way the team handled themselves in what will probably be the toughest environment they’ll be in all year. That place was LOUD. And there were precious few Gator fans in attendance compared to the 100,000 UT fans. And they didn’t get rattled. Did they play and respond perfectly? No. But, they came out from the opening kick and went about their business. It sort of reminded me of the way Nick Saban’s teams handle themselves. Take care of business. They didn’t let the environment get them off of their game. I haven’t seen that in awhile.

  21. If this is the Gator offense for the next 8 games, better keep the D fired up and ready to grab those turnovers.Probable possible winners: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Idaho and FSU. Probable no chance: Georgia and LSU. The schedule looks tight to get 8 wins. Coming down to FSU game. And I have seen nothing to change my mind that Franks is only average at best,

    • I dont know how you say SC, until they play UK this week we really dont know how they stack up to us. Otherwise i agree. You didnt mention MSSt which got exposed yesterday in their 1st real opponent so i see that as a win. Mo didnt do so well but it was against Ga who can make many teams look bad and they did score 29 so Im not sure on them. 7 wins for sure, 8 or 9 if Mo and or SC.

  22. Glad to see players stepping up and making plays. Too bad for Jefferson as they were double teaming him. This meant someone was going to be open and Franks found Swain on a big play. Swains ability to create and get open put a smile on my face because that would have been an incomplete or pick last year. Just need Franks to be more consistent with his vision because several times he tried to go deep and a rb was wide open in the flats. This will kill us down the stretch if he can’t take his eyes off the deep ball and look short. Just keep working Offense!

  23. So, our Kentucky loss was not so much on us as it was a very much improved Cat team, and increased talk of Snell being a Heisman consideration. They have South Carolina and A&M back to back, and Ga. later in the year, so we will see. LSU looks good, but not that good. Let’s see if the Ole Miss air attack lights them up any before we hide under the porch. I’m thinking if we come out of Starkville with a win, then The Swamp is going to be a VERY TOUGH place to play on Oct. 6th!

  24. Robbie, I said last week Tenn was a cursed team still. The battle of good v. evil. Bad Karma. Bad luck. Turnovers were caused by hard hits , all over the field, but were still strange. Like someone had a voodoo doll with a coon skinned cap. We saw signs of that last year when we won on the desperation pass that looked like something from Angels in the Outfield. Tenn put a mojo on themselves by hiring Kiffen and then acting like fools last year during the first annual Tenn Coaching Marathon. They even put a mojo on John Gruden. The Raiders look like the NFL version of Tenn. By the way, 100,000 people were at the game Sat night because half their fans had to bring their probation officers with them! The good guys win!