First-year Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said Monday he wished the Vols could play Florida again this year.
If that were the case, the animosity level might be even higher for the rematch.
The war of words continues, two days after Florida’s 23-13 victory over UT in The Swamp.
On Sunday, Florida coach Urban Meyer told his teleconference audience that he sensed Kiffin and the Vols were playing to keep the margin of defeat down rather than to actually win.
No. 1-ranked Florida was a 29-point favorite.
“You didn’t feel like they were going for the win,’’ Meyer said. “They wanted to shorten the game.’’
Meyer pointed out there was “no urgency’’ on UT’s part even when Florida led 23-6 in the fourth quarter.
Asked about Meyer’s comments, Kiffin chose his words carefully:
“I’d say this. This offseason the (SEC) commissioner (Mike Slive) made a big deal about our renewal of vows about what we’re supposed to say about other teams, other coaches, other players.
“Obviously, Urban feels he doesn’t need to follow that. I won’t say anything else.’’
Asked if he’d ever say an opponent didn’t play to win, Kiffin said, “No, I would never say that.’’
Kiffin did say something else, though, indirectly taking a swipe at Meyer.
Meyer said a flu outbreak among several key players adversely affected Florida’s performance against UT.
Asked if he was concerned about flu striking Tennessee, Kiffin said:
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll wait and see, and after we’re not excited about our performance, we’ll tell you that everybody was sick.’’
Kiffin was pleased with the Vols’ game plan, especially the manner in which the defense went after Florida’s All-America quarterback Tim Tebow.
“We had ’em bottled up,’’ Kiffin said. “We’ve got to tackle Tebow. That’s the story of the game. On third down he made a bunch of plays. I thought our plan was great, but we’ve got to do a better job of tackling.
“I wish it was like basketball, where you got another chance to play ’em, where you played ’em two times in a year.’’
Elaborating on the lack of urgency in his offensive strategy, Kiffin repeated his comments from Saturday after the game: That he was doing what he thought gave UT its best chance to win.
“If we put three wides (receivers) on the field, which is what our no-huddle is, you get into their two-down line where they stand everybody up and move ’em around.
“And that’s very difficult to protect. Especially in that stadium with the crowd. You have to change all your protections.
“So that was the best thing, in order to put us in position to win. And we moved the ball doing that. That’s the style we needed to play at that time.’’