A grinding Florida offense controlled the ball and wore down the clock as the No. 11/9 Tennessee Volunteers fell to the Gators, 29-16, on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC) held a 37:34 to 22:17 edge in time of possession as it shortened the game and kept Tennessee’s offense from finding its rhythm.
Quarterback Joe Milton III finished the night 20-of-34 for 287 passing yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception. He found wideout Ramel Keyton in the first stanza for an 11-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring as UT took an early 7-0 lead after going six plays for 71 yards.
The Gators responded by scoring on four consecutive drives in the first half as they built up a 26-7 halftime lead. Florida quarterback Graham Mertz was 19-of-24 with 166 yards through the air and one touchdown pass on the night. He added one score on the ground.
Gator tailback Trevor Etienne played a large role in controlling the ball as he churned up 172 yards on the ground on 23 carries. He found the endzone once on a 62-yard rush in the first quarter. Running back Montrell Johnson Jr. rushed for a score in the second frame before hauling in a touchdown pass late in the quarter. He finished the night with 23 yards on the ground and 18 through the air.
The Vols (2-1, 0-1 SEC) were able to find success on the ground as running backs Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small combined for 98 yards on 23 carries, while Milton rushed for six yards.
Placekicker Charles Campbell connected on a 42-yard field goal on the Vols’ first drive of the second half. Florida’s final score of the night came off the foot of kicker Trey Smack who converted a 27-yard field goal.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Milton connected with McCoy deep down the sideline for a 55-yard scoring strike, trimming the Gator’s advantage to 29-16. McCoy hauled in five passes for 94 yards.
The Vols outgained UF, 393-349, but the first half deficit proved to be too much to overcome.
Linebacker Aaron Beasley was Tennessee’s leading tackler with eight, while edge rusher James Pearce Jr. tallied a pair of tackles for loss.
The Vols return home next week to face UTSA on Saturday, Sept. 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on SEC Network.