KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Might as well give Urban Meyer a visor.
Dallas Baker caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chris Leak
that gave Florida the lead in the fourth quarter and the Gators
held on to beat No. 13 Tennessee 21-20 on Saturday to make Meyer
2-for-2 against the Vols.
Meyer's first trip to Neyland Stadium as Florida's head coach
was a success. Not even Steve Spurrier, who made Vols fans cringe
at the sight of his visor while going 8-4 against UT, started 2-0
against the Vols as the Florida coach.
No. 7 Florida (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) preserved the
victory when Reggie Nelson got his second interception of the game
after Tennessee (2-1, 0-1) went for it on fourth down at the
Then all the Gators needed was another first down, and they got
it by inches on third down with 1:22 remaining.
"That was one of the finest team efforts I've ever seen -- to
get down 17-7 in that type of environment against that type of
talent and no one panicked," Meyer said.
Meyer became the first Florida coach to beat Tennessee in his
first two tries since Galen Hall. And Meyer joins Spurrier,
Georgia's Mark Richt and Tommy Tuberville as the only coaches to
beat Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer in back-to-back seasons. The Gators
won last year at The Swamp 16-7.
After Spurrier left in 2001, Tennessee went 2-1 against the
Gators and coach Ron Zook.
Meyer has lectured his team about being tougher on the road and
the Gators responded with a gutty win.
"We challenged them, we criticized them and put them in
situations where only tough people could survive and I'm awfully
proud of them," Meyer said.
Florida stuffed the Vols' running game and pressured Erik Ainge
all night. Not even an emotional final game by defensive tackle
Justin Harrell could provide the lift Tennessee needed to beat its
Harrell started and played most of the game with a ruptured
tendon in his left biceps, an injury suffered last week. Team
officials had said he would miss the rest of the season. But after
he was cleared by doctors, Harrell said he would play one more
"Obviously a very disappointing loss for our football team, but
I told our team afterward I'm proud of the effort they gave and
they way they came out and fought," Fulmer said. "A lot of plays
in the ball game that should and could have been made offensively
obviously we had a struggle. Florida has a fine defensive football
Leak played in his final game in Neyland, where he often came to
watch his older brother C.J. play, and managed the game well while
his freshman backup Tim Tebow provided a lift all seven times he
entered the game. Leak finished 15-of-25 for 199 yards with one
Tennessee was held to minus-11 yards rushing, and Ainge
struggled in going 17-of-32 for 183 yards.
The loss for Tennessee is sure to get the negative talk going
again about Fulmer's future. The Vols finished last year 5-6, and
had fans temporarily happy with two wins to open the season. Now
Tennessee is in catch-up mode in the SEC East.
Florida fans stayed to celebrate after the game ended while
Tennessee fans -- very accustomed to seeing this result -- filed out
Trailing by six, Florida regained the lead with 6:30 to go on
Leak's 21-yard pass to Baker. The drive was kept alive by Tebow's
running ability. After Leak slid a yard short of the first down on
the previous play, Tebow ran for 2 yards to the Tennessee 26.
Tebow ran seven times for 29 yards, getting four first downs.
The Vols went up 20-14 with 10:49 to go in the fourth quarter
when James Wilhoit made a 51-yard field goal, tying his career
Florida scored first when Jemalle Cornelius caught a 21-yard
pass from Leak and then dove toward the cone at the front corner of
the end zone. The officials reviewed it, but upheld the score.
A 36-yard field goal by Wilhoit and a trick play for a 48-yard
touchdown pass put the Vols ahead 10-7. Ainge handed off to Lucas
Taylor, who passed the ball to LaMarcus Corker as he was streaking
uncovered to the end zone.
Tennessee extended its lead to 17-7 on Montario Hardesty's
1-yard plunge. But the Vols' lead never seemed solid.
Leak connected with Baker for a 4-yard touchdown pass in the
third quarter to cut it to 17-14. The Gators started the possession
when Tennessee could not convert a first down after Ainge made a
dangerous toss from his own end zone to avoid a sack and safety.