Loss but not lost: Kiffin 'proud' of performance against Gators

UT players take the field against Florida in 'The Swamp' on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

UT players take the field against Florida in "The Swamp" on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Audio slide show of Tennessee-Florida

Audio slideshow UT-UF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Tennessee didn't spend all night singing "Rocky Top," as new coach Lane Kiffin predicted last winter.

On the other hand Florida didn't spend all night celebrating an anticipated rout, either. Because it never happened.

The No. 1-ranked Gators earned their victory, 23-13. But they didn't get the pound of orange flesh from the 29-point-underdog Vols they wanted as well.

"A lot of people said they were supposed to put 62 on us, or whatever else, but we weren't having too much of that,'' said UT defensive end Chris Walker.

"I think a lot of people saw Tennessee for what they really are today.''

That the Vols (1-2, 0-1 SEC) managed to forego the predicted embarrassment disappointed a Florida Field record throng of 90,894 eager to see the Gators (3-0, 1-0) retaliate for several inflammatory remarks from Kiffin in the first months of his tenure at UT.

Instead, the crowd and a national CBS audience saw a pretty competitive game.

"I'm proud of how we played,'' said Kiffin, "very tough, very physical and very smart.

"But all that said, we lost a game that we had a very good chance to win.

"I didn't come down here to cover the spread or have a moral victory.''

Florida's victory was real, not moral.

"I think we could have played better,'' said coach Urban Meyer.

"I don't want to take anything away or disrespect our opponent. They have some talented athletes and this is SEC football.

"But . . . we missed a lot of tackles.''

The Gators never trailed but managed only 323 yards of offense. UT countered with a modest 210 yards.

When Florida appeared to be poised to tack on a comfort-margin score in the fourth quarter, the Vols produced a huge momentum swing.

With the Gators up 23-6 and the crowd sensing the rout might finally be building after all, quarterback Tim Tebow fumbled at the UT 2 when he tried to stretch toward the goal line.

"That was me being selfish,'' he said.

And that was UT's Dennis Rogan being resourceful.

Rogan scooped up the fumble and ripped off a 35-yard return that jump-started Tennessee's stagnant offense.

The Vols had managed only a pair of Daniel Lincoln field goals in the first half and then went flat-line in the second half, scratching out only 9 yards in the third quarter.

But after Rogan's heads-up play, Montario Hardesty capped a 63-yard drive with a hard-charging 17-yard touchdown run.

That left it a very un-routish 23-13 with 8:11 left.

Tennessee's defense then forced Florida's only punt of the day after a three-and-out possession. The Vols took over with 6:01 to play.

But they weren't up to any miracles.

Gator safety Ahmad Black intercepted a Jonathan Crompton pass with 1:51 to play, after which Meyer was content to let the clock run out.

Tebow, who accounted for 115 yards passing and 76 rushing, scored on a 1-yard run in the first half. Jeff Demps got Florida's other TD on a 7-yard dash in the third quarter.

Tebow had nothing but praise for the Vols, who came in with the third-ranked defense in the nation.

"They did so many different things and did them well,'' Tebow said. "Lane did a good job and (defensive coordinator) Monte (Kiffin) did a good job of scheming up the things we do.''

Part of Lane's scheming, he offered, was taking the heat off his team. For sure, he and his infamous oratory were the target of virtually all the media attention.

"I think it worked perfect,'' Kiffin said. "You come in and play the number-one team in the country in your third game together, you don't want the pressure on your players.

"Put the pressure on me.''

If the media had been happy to oblige, so was a hostile crowd.

"There were a lot of 'F' words that weren't 'Florida' being yelled at me on the ride in,'' Kiffin said.

Once the game kicked off, Florida took a 3-0 lead on the first of three Caleb Sturgis field goals.

The Vols answered with an impressive 15-play drive that died at the Florida 7. Lincoln's 24-yard boot tied the score.

Tebow turned battering ram on Florida's next drive, carrying four consecutive times to finish a 72-yard drive with a TD for a 10-3 lead.

The Vols soon caught - or made, rather - a break.

Eric Berry's diving interception off Tebow handed UT a first down at the Florida 20. Hardesty ran it for first-and-goal at the 4.

But, shades of UCLA last week, the Vols couldn't get in the end zone and settled for a second Lincoln field goal.

Sturgis made it 13-6 with another field goal just before the half ended.

UT's third-quarter problems began with a Crompton interception on the third play. Joe Haden picked off the underthrown ball and the Gators drove for another Sturgis field goal.

At that point it seemed the projected beat-down might be fizzling into a kick-down.

But the Gators gave their fans something to chomp about with a 13-play drive that climaxed with Demps' touchdown for a 23-6 lead.

That's where the fourth quarter began. But the Vols would still be heard from.

"A lot of teams,'' said Kiffin, "come in this stadium and eventually the talent gets to you.

"You get to the fourth quarter and they wear you down. Our guys didn't do that.''

"At the end of the day,'' said Florida defensive back Haden, "we got the win.

"They played a lot better than they played on film.''

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 233

mdvol writes:

We'll see 'em next year. Nuff said.

kiffownsfla writes:

Great job guys now we can start the season today was a good day. we may get some recruits out of that ! GO VOLZZZ!

chbradshaw writes:

They didn't seem to have much after Tebow. We have a lot of great recruiting to look forward to. Another great class this year and the tables will turn in Neyland next year.

I like our next 5 years better than Florida's.

Hounddog writes:

The Houndddog does not have to hide under the front porch this week, he is very proud of the VOLS effort. Players and coaches. The future looks good. Witch Doctor, what do the bones say about prospects coming on board?

Let's play football. Hounddog

JohnsonCity_George writes:

I saved this one from this past spring, the guy said to write it down, so I did.
------------
in response to volsgatorbait:
he should be concerned about big plays on September 19th!!!!

UF - 63
UT - 6

Plays over 25 yards: UF - 8, UT - 1

...write it down
-----------
You were sooo, wrong.

VolAlum2003 (Inactive) writes:

Kiffin definitely won the recruiting victory. By doing more with less, he proved that his system and his coaching staff are primed to do great things in the SEC. I also hope that the recruits realize that without Tebow, Florida isn't the perennial juggernaut that the media has made it out to be. If Urban Meyer stays at UF (and you have to wonder if he will w/out Tebow) he will definitely keep the program competitive, but UT will be competitive AND running a pro-style offense and defense. I also thought it was funny that Florida had an almost capacity crowd of a little over 90,000 fans for an important game. UT had 92,000 just to watch little ol' WKU.

dma38256#264746 writes:

I thought they were great....will take an effort like that any day....

kentuckyorange writes:

Defense played a great game. I'm happy Brandon James won't be back next year, he is a game changer. They played hard and competed against the #1 team in the nation on the road. I'm just waiting on the passing game to catch up with the defense and running game. When that happens, in a year or two, we will be tough to beat.

dvols writes:

urban took the gas off early..............geez. cbs paid him to keep t/v land intrest

DennisVols writes:

The off-season conditioning showed today. With a lack of depth at many position and the heat of FL UT still was in this game in the end.
Better things to come as Kiffin rebuilds this team.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

DennisVols writes:

in response to dvols:

urban took the gas off early..............geez. cbs paid him to keep t/v land intrest

You are an idoit. UT took the gas out of UF. Even Meyer had to admit how talented UT was.
Go to bed now. Children like you should already be in bed.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

VolAlum2003 (Inactive) writes:

in response to dvols:

urban took the gas off early..............geez. cbs paid him to keep t/v land intrest

You're an idiot. At no point in time did Meyer take "the gas off early." I suspect that you are either: a) FORMER coach fulmer, or b) a Florida/Bama fan trying to spread negativity. In either case, your opinion obviously lacks the common sense of a lemming.

TommyJack writes:

What must Nick Stephens have done to get this deep in the doghouse?

tennezz writes:

in response to dvols:

urban took the gas off early..............geez. cbs paid him to keep t/v land intrest

Yeah, Thats why Meyer kept Tebow and 1`st team in all of the game!!!

RollTideJoe writes:

I thought the Vols played an inspired game and kept it much closer than anyone expected. Once again, if you had a better QB this might have been a different final result. Crompton was limited and Florida recognized it, and yet they didn't do a very good job of stopping the run. I really thought Tennessee played hard and proved some things in the game.

MD_Vol writes:

One thing I'm liking about this team is much better discipline - not nearly as many stupid penalties or lapses in focus as on the later Fulmer-coached teams.

Txvol57 writes:

I thought they played a great game!! I was very very proud of them and look forward to stomping Florida in the face next year. Just need a QB, receivers, and more linebackers like LaMarcus Thompson...he was every where and made some huge plays!!

CrankE writes:

Had UT's talent level been equal to the heart and intensity shown today, Tennessee could have fulfilled Kiffin's boast.

The game serves notice to rivals and recruits alike. Not just serve it up, if you can. Serve it up while you can.

jabark1982 writes:

It's once again GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!!!

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/25...

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

Berry-1
Tebow-0

Yeah, Tim ran one in, but was held w/o a passing TD for the first time in a loooong while! Very impressive effort by the Vol's D. Offense was good between the 20s, but couldn't punch it in. All in all, very proud of the effort put forth by the Vols today. BTW, anyone see USC's loss to Washington?

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to dvols:

urban took the gas off early..............geez. cbs paid him to keep t/v land intrest

Tell me you're joking.

Vol_in_Atl writes:

in response to TommyJack:

What must Nick Stephens have done to get this deep in the doghouse?

All I know is Crompton must be one helluva practice player...'cuz he is absolutely the worst QB Tennessee has had since the single-wing went out!! Nice guy, but just way over his head in the SEC...

HartfordCTvol writes:

ERIC BERRY FOR HEISTMAN!!! (no that's not a spelling error. been spelling it that way since '97)

ssmith82#219353 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

What must Nick Stephens have done to get this deep in the doghouse?

I think Crompton played well today. The thing that I am concerned about is his up and down preformances, hopefully he will continue on the up side.

barrym writes:

I was proud of the team and the coaching staff today. Yes, I wanted a win, but this is a young team with a new coaching staff. This is going to be a great series over the next few years...until Urban Meyer is run out of town for losing too often to TN.

82cat writes:

summary

last yrs national champs
playing at home
heisman qb
22 returning defensive starters
opponent head coach calls them out
fans media predict beat down
point spread 28 points
talk of head coach calling time outs at end to punish opposing coach

with all that said

tennesse won 13 to 23!!

Did you hear the commentator say something to the effect -"tennesse has the pieces with a great staff and recruiting class in place if you are a 5 star qb how could you not want to come there"

by the way tebow's heisman chances were probably shot today 1 fumble and 1 int no td passes and average at best stats for the day his int lead to 3 points and his fumble lead to a td.

monte had them guessing wrong on passes all day

did you see #15 light james up in the end zone/
dont remeber him doing much after that he got jacked up.

folks the good days are coming sooner than we thought one more good recruiting class 1 qb and we will be right back in the mix

thats all the beat down you florida guys have?

WinkeyVol writes:

Monte makes me proud to be an old white headed man. Go Vols

abnermc writes:

Tebow, That's MR. Kiffin & MR. Kiffin to you , not Lane & Monte.

dvols writes:

i joke ye not!

FWBVol writes:

I like what the Lundquist and Danielson said as the game was winding down about how Lane and the Vols didn't get to sing Rocky Top, but they could sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

I think all of us most of us knew it would take a near perfect game for us to pull off the upset, but we almost got it. Nobody likes to lose, but this is one time a moral victory does feel good.

The future does like bright in deed.

Moesart writes:

Tennessee defeated Florida 13-23.

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootb...

Vol_USArmy_Soldier writes:

Hooray for the the Vols! The fact that few Gators are posting on the site says it all.

The boys played hard until the very end, penalties were light and squad looked well coached and disciplined in a tough environment. How refreshing. QB is questionable, but I hope that Crompton builds on this. At least he's steady, unlike last year.

This team is young, so I expect a few more eggs, but I'm liking what I'm seeing so far.

Keep throwing the bones Witch Doctor.

Go Vols!!!

woodwr#217203 writes:

Close is better than blown out, but....

13 or 15 will not beat any of the remaining SEC opponents. This team needs a QB and receivers to make a few yards. If Crompton were replaced by g-gun all the time, they might have beaten UCLA, and might have won today.

orangepridenation writes:

in response to VolAlum2003:

Kiffin definitely won the recruiting victory. By doing more with less, he proved that his system and his coaching staff are primed to do great things in the SEC. I also hope that the recruits realize that without Tebow, Florida isn't the perennial juggernaut that the media has made it out to be. If Urban Meyer stays at UF (and you have to wonder if he will w/out Tebow) he will definitely keep the program competitive, but UT will be competitive AND running a pro-style offense and defense. I also thought it was funny that Florida had an almost capacity crowd of a little over 90,000 fans for an important game. UT had 92,000 just to watch little ol' WKU.

UT had over 98,000 to watch western KY. we have one of the best home field advantages in sports, one article had UT rated as the 3rd best fanbase/homefield advantage in college football. then again our stadium does hold 102K, thats a good home field advantage for anyone.

RebelVol writes:

I truly think we will be 4-2 heading into Tuscaloosa after what I saw today. Freshmen really came through today. Best part-They will only get better. Anyone catch the UGA game tonight? Their defense did not impress me at all. Hardesty and co. will run all over them.

orangepridenation writes:

in response to woodwr#217203:

Close is better than blown out, but....

13 or 15 will not beat any of the remaining SEC opponents. This team needs a QB and receivers to make a few yards. If Crompton were replaced by g-gun all the time, they might have beaten UCLA, and might have won today.

we probly woulda beat ucla without a quarterback playing at all. but i agree, we've got to get something going in our passing game. luckily we have ohio next week, good chance for us to try some new things.

Joe23649 writes:

The game today by the Vols was absolutely fantastic!! All that's been in the news nonstop for months was how Florida was going to kill Tennessee because of what Kiffin said, and it didn't happen. Didn't happen in the least. At 6:01 in the fourth quarter, UT had the ball and was only ten points behind. A little more offense and we could have actually won this thing!!
The defense wasn't afraid of Florida in the least. They smashed their mouths time and again. The offensive line was back and Hardesty was fantastic.
The Vols looked great.

The game plan was just what it should have been to play our best game.

A little more depth, some quality at quarterback and we've got a major league team here.

Smoke writes:

What about that hit EB put on tebow....he'll feel that one tomorrow...I loved it

orangepridenation writes:

in response to RebelVol:

I truly think we will be 4-2 heading into Tuscaloosa after what I saw today. Freshmen really came through today. Best part-They will only get better. Anyone catch the UGA game tonight? Their defense did not impress me at all. Hardesty and co. will run all over them.

sir, if we had just decent quarterback play, i would agree with you. look i'm proud of what our guys went out and did today, i really am. they played with heart, and fought til the very end. but we cannot continue to put up 13 points a game and expect to make a bowl this year. as much as i hate to say it, even with our performance today, if our qb situation doesn't improve, we're still a carbon copy of last year record wise. i don't think we'll be getting blown out by anyone this year like we did last season simply because of this coaching staff and this new attitude they've got implimented. but we've gotta get some balance on offense before we start knocking off our sec foes. we're perfectly capable of beating anyone if we have a decent quarterback, but as it stands now, we might beat vandy, kentucky, south carolina, and maybe auburn as far as sec play goes. all in all i'm still predicting a 6 or 7 win season for us this year which is still an improvement upon last year, and thats assuming our defense and running game continue playing this well.

bobbytodd writes:

I like the looks next weeks game to get the wheels back on the team before we get back into the conference schedule. Alabama and Ole Miss have looked good and the rest of the teams have all shows weakness this season. If they let Crompton put the ball in the air a little bit to keep 8 out of the box we should do fine. He played well today. Kiffin may have protected him a little too much. Of course we all know that a mistake or two an he can fall apart mentally.

UTultimate writes:

in response to jabark1982:

It's once again GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!!!

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/25...

It's always been GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL! some people just forget when the going gets tough

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

Let me tell you this we are #3 on in Scout in recruiting b4 today... After today..WIth a few more big commits we may land the #1 class.

The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

I laugh at people who don't have a clue of what is coming by looking at clear logic.

when is the last time you have felt so good about a loss..hahahahahahahahahah

GO BIG ORANGE!

BIGORANGE 4 Life baby

jsm67vol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

What must Nick Stephens have done to get this deep in the doghouse?

Good question. JC was better today, but every game in the sec will be very tough when it's obvious we have no deep threat. If competition is ongoing for play-time on this team, I can't believe NS is so far behind that he doesn't deserve equal practice snaps this week as JC's telegraphing continues.

jandrew5 writes:

crompton sucks..the few times we let him pass downfield he threw picks ...jesus man that guy just sucks

VolinVirginia writes:

in response to ssmith82#219353:

I think Crompton played well today. The thing that I am concerned about is his up and down preformances, hopefully he will continue on the up side.

WHAT?
What game were you watching? Crompton was absolutely pathetic. 11 of 19 for 93 yards and TWO interceptions (one of which after taking a timeout - then trying to force a play to someone in double coverage) is a good game? Did you see how many Gators were lining up on the line of scrimmage? The Gators had NO respect for his passing ability, and I guess we can see why.
Hate to pile on, but he most definitely was a factor in the loss today as a result of his inability to play. It's going to be this way as long as he is the quarterback.....

VolAlum2003 (Inactive) writes:

in response to orangepridenation:

UT had over 98,000 to watch western KY. we have one of the best home field advantages in sports, one article had UT rated as the 3rd best fanbase/homefield advantage in college football. then again our stadium does hold 102K, thats a good home field advantage for anyone.

Thanks for the correction!

jbc writes:

in response to TommyJack:

What must Nick Stephens have done to get this deep in the doghouse?

"Began his Vols career by throwing 106 consecutive passes without an interception - best start to a UT career and tied for fifth-best on all-time Tennessee list."

http://www.utsports.com/sports/m-foot...

allvol32 writes:

Cross post but I must say:

Loss by 10 against the National Champs 2 out of the last 3 years in their own back yard????

Yeah buddy...I'll take that considering this is a "rebuilding" year. Not to mention a top 10 recruiting class last year and another one this year? Come on up to Knoxville next year gators..."It's Time".

How many times have the interlopers bragged about how this year was going to be a 60 point beat down - I DON'T THINKS SO!!!!!!

I hate moral victories but man oh man this was definitely a moral victory in the swamp!!!

Gator players and fans will be looking in the mirror a lot after this game not to mention obsessing with next year's trip to Knoxville.

Cldvols1 writes:

Great job guys proving all the analysts wrong, we'll get em next year! Go Vols!!!

sfrye#268517 writes:

It's a rivalry again. Thanks Coach Kiffin. Our offensive line was much improved this week. Defense played really well. Things are looking up for the first time in a while. Go Vols.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features