The Florida Gators didn’t look very good the last two weeks, but they looked like a legitimate top 25 team against the Tennessee Vols on Saturday in Knoxville.
Some detractors of the Vols are already suggesting that Tennessee’s defense made Florida look better than they really are in UT’s 38-33 win.
But I don’t think that’s the case at all.
The reason the Gators nearly beat the Vols on Saturday was because Florida head coach Billy Napier dramatically changed his approach.
Napier told his players the week before the game that the plan was to try to keep the ball away from the Vols’ high-scoring offense.
So to do that, Napier informed his players that Florida was going to play more aggressively than usual.
The Gators went for it on fourth down six times against the Vols. They were successful five times.
If they punt on just half of those attempts, the Vols win the game by multiple scores.
In Florida’s first five games of the season, the Gators went for it on fourth down five times total. They didn’t go for it on fourth down at all last week against South Florida.
Napier told Richardson that the gameplan was to be aggressive and keep the ball out of Tennessee's hands, which led to UF's frequent fourth-down conversion attempts.— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) September 25, 2022
Tennessee made Florida completely change their approach — that’s the kind of impact the Vols’ offense has on opposing defenses.
It almost worked for the Gators — Tennessee didn’t have quite as many opportunities as normal.
But the Vols’ defense, while not perfect, was able to step up and get a few key stops — just enough to clinch the win.
Tennessee has won a couple of games this season (the Florida game and the Pittsburgh game) where the game probably didn’t go as Josh Heupel and his staff expected. But the Vols were able to find a way to get the win. That’s something that doesn’t happen with previous Vols teams.
UT is proving in Heupel’s second season that they’re not a one-trick pony. They can win games when opponents have a great game plan. And that’s what separates good teams from great teams.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports