Final: Florida Gators beat Tennessee Volunteers for SEC East title

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun

Florida clinched the SEC East title Saturday by beating Tennessee 31-19 in Knoxville in coach Dan Mullen's third season at the helm.

The win earns the Gators a berth in the SEC Championship Game. The expected opponent in Atlanta? Top-ranked Alabama. UF to return to SEC title game in Atlanta for the first time since 2016.

The Gators (8-1, No. 6 CFP) have won 15 of 16 games against the Vols (2-6) in the series.

Another solid game from quarterback Kyle Trask boosted his Heisman Trophy chances. He completed 35 of 49 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns.

GatorsWire:How did USA Today's staff pick today's game?

Five takeaways:Gators win SEC East as Florida, Kyle Trask beat Tennessee Vols

Trask leads the nation with 38 touchdown passes.

UF hosts LSU next Saturday.

No. 6 Florida 31, Tennessee 19

Florida           3     14    7      7 — 31

Tennessee     0      7     0    12 — 19

First Quarter

FLA_FG McPherson 30, 9:19.

Second Quarter

TEN_Gray 15 pass from H.Bailey (Cimaglia kick), 9:59.

FLA_Grimes 4 pass from Trask (McPherson kick), 7:53.

FLA_Toney 2 pass from Trask (McPherson kick), :33.

Third Quarter

FLA_Grimes 8 pass from Trask (McPherson kick), 13:31.

Fourth Quarter

FLA_Copeland 12 pass from Trask (McPherson kick), 11:21.

TEN_Chandler 7 run (run failed), 5:33.

TEN_Jones Jr. 22 pass from Shrout (kick failed), :27.

                                                 FLA           TEN

First downs                                 24             24

Rushes-yards                              17-19     39-94

Passing                                       433          240

Comp-Att-Int                         35-49-0          27-37-0

Return Yards                                0              69

Punts-Avg.                                  4-40.8       7-40.9

Fumbles-Lost                                0-0         0-0

Penalties-Yards                           8-85        5-40

Time of Possession                  26:15        33:45

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING_Florida, Copeland 1-17, Toney 1-7, D.Pierce 5-5, N.Wright 4-2, M.Davis 2-0, (Team) 1-(minus 2), Trask 3-(minus 10). Tennessee, Chandler 12-49, Gray 12-47, Shrout 4-12, Jones Jr. 1-4, Maurer 1-1, H.Bailey 9-(minus 19).

PASSING_Florida, Trask 35-49-0-433. Tennessee, P.Brooks 0-1-0-0, Maurer 1-1-0-8, H.Bailey 14-21-0-111, Shrout 12-14-0-121.

RECEIVING_Florida, Toney 8-108, K.Pitts 7-128, Grimes 6-55, Copeland 3-57, Shorter 3-25, M.Davis 3-23, Henderson 2-27, D.Pierce 2-3, Wells 1-7. Tennessee, Gray 7-46, Jones Jr. 4-70, B.Johnson 4-40, Palmer 4-36, Hyatt 4-10, Fant 3-23, Chandler 1-15.

MISSED FIELD GOALS_Florida, McPherson 53.

First half highlights:Kyle Trask, Kadarius Toney giving Vols defense a hard time

Unavailable:Starting safety out against Tennessee

More:Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson reportedly interviews at South Carolina

7:09 p.m. | Gators win SEC East

FOURTH QUARTER

What went right: Jacob Copeland, who had an unjustifiable drop earlier in the second half, bounced back on a 12-yard touchdown reception in the back of the endzone to put UF up 31-7. Much to the delight of those rooting for Kyle Trask’s Heisman hopes, it all happened with the redshirt senior quarterback in the game as he’d finish with 433 passing yards and four touchdowns in the 31-19 victory. 

What went wrong: The Gators’ defense gave up their second and third touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter, with the first one coming on another Volunteers drive that saw UT go more than 90 yards for the score. Against a freshman quarterback with the SEC’s lowest-ranked offense when it comes to third-down efficiency, it was another reminder there’s still work to be done for the Gators. 

Play of the quarter: Once again, it’s Kyle Pitts, this time on a grab that showcased his professional potential. The junior tight end hauled in a 21-yard reception prior to Copeland’s 12-yard touchdown that looked to be nearly indefensible – it was even CBS’ play of the game. Although I must admit Kyle Trask’s first-career punt attempt, which was downed at Tennessee’s four-yard line, was seriously up for consideration. 

— Graham Hall

7:04 p.m. | Vols make it respectable

Vols QB J.T. Shrout passes to Velus Jones Jr. for 22-yard TD with 27 seconds remaining. UT missed the PAT kick.

Florida           3     14    7      7 — 31

Tennessee     0      7     0    12 — 19

Adding to his Heisman resume, Trask pooch punts for 32 yards and it's downed at the Tennessee 4 with 3:09 remaining.

6:43 p.m. | Vols score

Ty Chandler runs for 7 yards for a Vols TD at the 5:33 mark. The try for two failed. It caps an 11-play, 94-yard drive and cut the UT deficit to 31-13.

6:29 p.m. |Trask's 4th TD

Pitts has seven catches for team-high 128 yards, his third 100-yard receiving game of career, a school record among tight ends. Kirk Kirkpatrick and Ben Troupe each had two.

Trask's third 400-yard performance of the year.

Trask completes 12-yard scoring pass to Copeland at back of end zone to put UF up 31-7 at the 11:21 mark. Score capped a six-play, 86-yard drive. Four TD passes for Trask for the seventh game this season.

Trask has 38 touchdown passes now. He's alone in second place for a season on UF history books, one behind Danny Wuerffel's single-season record.

Trask passes to Pitts for 21 to the UT 12 

Trask completes to Trevon Grimes for 14 yards to the UF 47.

THIRD QUARTER

What went right: The Gators scored quickly in the third quarter on a five-play drive, limited Tennessee to just 67 yards and zero points and finally established the run, albeit only slightly. 

What went wrong: Florida couldn’t convert on 4th-and-2 deep in Tennessee territory with a chance to extend the lead, and the Gators would go three-and-out on their next drive. UF’s taken pride in dominating the third quarter this season, and they didn’t fully capitalize Saturday. 

Play of the quarter: Kyle Pitts’ 42-yard reception at the beginning of the third quarter set up an easy Florida touchdown two plays later to extend UF’s lead. 

Trending: Harrison Bailey has the Volunteers moving just inside UF territory as the fourth quarter gets underway.

Graham Hall

6:12 p.m. | Gators lead 24-7

On fourth-and-2, Bailey passes to Josh Palmer for 20 yards to the UF 35.

UF doesn't do much with a possession.

Bailey sacked by UF end Zachary Carter for a loss of 9 yards to the Tennessee 32.

UF may have been lucky that wasn't a pick-6. Call me crazy, but those are the scenarios where I'd like to see Emory Jones under center.. — Graham Hall

On fourth and 2, Trask's pass is incomplete to Malik Davis.

Florida           3     14    7

Tennessee     0      7     0

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask drops back to pass Saturday against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

5:34 p.m. | Swing score for UF

Trask completes to Grimes for 8-yard TD to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive to give UF a 24-7 lead at the 13:31 mark. Gators continue the score before half and first drive in the second half trend.

 Copeland runs 17 yards to the UT 8.

Trask passes to Pitts for 42 yards to the Tennessee 25.

Florida           3     14    7

Tennessee     0      7     0

SECOND QUARTER

5:19 p.m. | Gators take charge

What went right: The Gators’ first and last drive of the quarter. After falling behind 7-3, Kyle Trask and the offense marched 75 yards in six plays and regained the lead on Trevon Grimes’ four-yard touchdown reception. Trask then executed a two-minute drive before the half to perfection, moving the chains with three third-down completions and putting UF in front 17-7 with his two-yard touchdown toss to Kadarius Toney. Trask finished the half with 251 yards and two scores on 21 of 28 passing, while Toney led the team with six catches for 89 yards. 

What went wrong: Florida’s first defensive series of the second period. After allowing just 24 yards in the first, the Gators gave up an 11-play, 96-yard touchdown drive and found themselves facing a second-quarter deficit for the third straight week to a team with a losing record. Tennessee's scoring possession included a 19-yard completion on third-and-8 from its own 6 and a 15-yard penalty on linebacker Andrew Chatfield for throwing Bailey to the ground late. UF also came up empty handed after the Vols’ failed fake punt, as kicker Evan McPherson missed wide right from 53 yards out.

Play of the quarter: Trask’s 15-yard sideline completion to Kyle Pitts on third down, putting the Gators inside the red zone. They scored two plays later. 

Trending: Trask, who now ranks No. 2 in school history for most touchdown passes in a season (36). He surpassed Rex Grossman (34) and Danny Wuerffel (35), who is the record-holder with 39 scores.

— Zach Abolverdi

Florida           3     14

Tennessee     0      7

Florida's Kadarius Toney (1) tries to evade Tennesse defenders Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

5:07 p.m. | Trask on roll

Trask now ranks No. 2 in school history for most touchdown passes in a season (36). Trask is 21 of 28 for 251 yards, 2 TDs in the first half. Toney has 89 yards receiving and a TD on six catches.

Trask completes 2-yard TD pass to Toney to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 33 seconds remaining, as Gators take control 17-7

Pass interference on UT. First down UF at the 2.

Trask finds Kyle Pitts for 15 to the UF 16 .

Trask on a screen pass to Grimes for 17 yards to the Tennessee 38.

Trask sacked by Tyler Baron for a loss of 6 yards to the Florida 41.

On third-and-11, Trask passes to Jacob Copeland for 28 yards to the UF 47. 

Gators start at their own 20 following a UT punt.

Khris Bogle sacks Bailey for a loss of 7 yards to the Tennessee 43.

Announced attendance at Neyland Stadium is 22,943 (or capacity at reduced attendance)

McPherson misses a 53-yard field goal attempt with 5:01 remaining.

Trask is saced for just ninth time this season at the Vols' 35.

UT tries a fake from punt formation. Receiver drops pass. Gators take over at the UT 30.

4:40 p.m. | Gators back up

Trask passes four yards to Trevon Grimes for a touchdown at the 7:53 p.m. mark to cap a six-play, 75-yard drive. 

Trask has 35 TD throws this season, tying Danny Wuerffel (35 in 1995) for second on the school's single-season list. Wuerffel's 39 in 1996 is school record.

 4:31 p.m. | Vols take lead

 Bailey passes complete to Eric Gray for a 15-yard TD that caps an 11-play, 96-yard drive for a 7-3 Vols lead with 9:59 left.

QB Harrison Bailey runs for 15 yards to the UF 15.

Roughing the passer on UF end Andrew Chatfield Jr. gives UT a first down at the Gators 45.

Florida           3     0

Tennessee     0     7

FIRST QUARTER

What went right: Florida’s first defensive drive. Todd Grantham’s unit forced a three-and-out on the opening possession against Tennessee and true freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, who made his first career start in place of senior Jarrett Guarantano. The Gators defense gave up a 13-yard pass on third-and-12 on the ensuing drive, but forced another punt three plays later.

What went wrong: UF’s red-zone offense, which is ranked first in the SEC. The Gators made some great plays on their first series, but stalled in the red zone and had to take the three points. They also settled for field-goal attempts last Saturday on three trips inside Kentucky’s 30. Florida’s second series Saturday produced a 46-yard touchdown by running back Malik Davis on a wheel route, but receiver Xzavier Henderson was flagged for offensive pass interference. 

Play of the quarter: It’s a tie between Kadarius Toney’s catches of 22 and 23 yards, both on third down to bring the Gators inside Tennessee territory. 

Trending: Toney. In addition to his two first-down receptions, he caught an eight-yard pass on Florida’s first offensive play and had a seven-yard run on the same drive.

— Zach Abolverdi

Florida           3

Tennessee     0

4:14 p.m. | Finn on the boot

Jacob Finn punts one 37 yards that is downed at the Vols' 4.

Gators can't overcome first-and-25 at their 39-yard line after the penalty.

Pass interference on UF denies the Gators a long touchdown on a pass plaby Malik Davis.

On third-and-10, Trask passes to Toney for 22 yards to the UT46.

UF defense gets off the field on third down this time. Toney deep to receive and he fair catches it at the 10-yard line at 5:40 mark.

3:50 p.m. | UF up 3-0

Evan McPherson gives UF a 3-0 lead with a 9:19 left in the quarter with a 30-yard field goal. The drive capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive.

On third-and-7, Kyle Trask passes to Kadarius Toney for 23 yards.

UF starting safety Shawn Davis is unavailable today at Tennessee. The other six scholarship players have been on the list for weeks: David Reese, Jeremiah Moon, Ethan Pouncey, Lamar Goods, Jaelin Humphries and Trent Whittemore

Weather at kickoff is 51 degrees, mostly clear, 7 mph winds.

2:25 p.m. | Fresh starts for UT

The Vols have two true freshman making their first career starts at quarterback (Harrison Bailey) and center (Cooper Mays) today against the Gators.

More:Harrison Bailey in line to start for Tennessee football vs. Florida Gators

1:30 p.m. | Before the game

If you want to catch the game on TV or live stream, it's going to be on CBS at 3:30 p.m. You can also see it on the CBS All-Access app, if you subscribe.

More:How to watch Florida Gators football vs. Tennessee Volunteers on TV, live stream

The final line as of Saturday afternoon had the Gators favored by 18 points over the Volunteers, according to BetMGM.

More:What's the betting line, over-under for No. 5 Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers?

Here's a look at some of the Gator fans on Twitter today, including a very familiar face, Mr. Brandon Spikes!

More Gators coverage