Having listened to, read (and written) enough about Tennessee’s 10-year losing streak to Florida, I offer a chance to revisit some better memories. Since the Vols and Gators became annual rivals in 1990, Tennessee has six victories. Here is a review of each one.
1990: TENNESSEE 45, FLORIDA 3
Rankings: UT No. 5; Florida No. 9
The winning plays: The Vols eked out a 7-3 lead at halftime in Neyland Stadium against Steve Spurrier’s first Florida team. Receiving the second-half kickoff, Dale Carter weaved his way 91 yards for a touchdown. The Gators never recovered. Before the third quarter ended, tight end Von Reeves threw a perfect spiral to Carl Pickens for a 47-yard touchdown and linebacker Reggie Ingram returned an interception 23 yards for a score.
The upshot: The Vols went on to be SEC champions and beat Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.
The quote: Spurrier: “There’s not much to say. We got whipped in every phase of the game.”
1992: TENNESSEE 31, FLORIDA 14
Rankings: UT No. 14; Florida No. 4.
The winning plays: Tennessee was protecting a 17-7 lead in the third quarter when the sky opened and a deluge of biblical proportions swamped Neyland Stadium. Rather than rein in the offense, Heath Shuler threw a short flare pass to Moses Phillips and Phillips splashed 66 yards to the end zone. In short order, the Vols stuffed a Florida fake punt and scored again to go up 31-7. Then the rain gave way. The sun was peaking through by the final horn.
Upshot: The next morning Johnny Majors returned from medical leave after a second consecutive surprising SEC victory by interim head coach Phillip Fulmer.
The quote: UT defensive lineman Jeff Tullis on the downpour: “It was a gift from God.”
1998: TENNESSEE 20, FLORIDA 17
Rankings: UT No. 6, Florida No. 2.
The winning plays: Al Wilson caused three Gator fumbles in the first half to thwart the Gators in what turned out to be the first overtime game in UT history. Tee Martin’s 14-yard scramble in overtime made up lost ground from a holding penalty and put Jeff Hall in range for a 41-yard field goal. When Florida’s Collins Cooper missed wide left from 32 yards, pandemonium reigned.
Upshot: The Neyland Stadium goal posts came down. By ending a five-year losing streak to Florida, the Vols cleared a huge hurdle on the road to a surprise national championship.
The quote: Phillip Fulmer: “I don’t know who played good and who didn’t play good, but we got the win. I don’t know what monkey everybody’s been talking about. I got that off my back.”
2001: TENNESSEE 32, FLORIDA 30
Rankings: UT No. 5, Florida No. 2.
The winning plays: Travis Stephens rushed for 226 yards as the 17-point underdog Vols stunned Florida in The Swamp. The game was played on Dec. 1, rescheduled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Stephens broke a 68-yard run to the Florida 9, after which Jabari Davis scored to put UT up 34-26 with 8:30 to play. Florida scored with 1:10 left, but when the Gators went for two points, Buck Fitzgerald defended a pass in the end zone to save the victory.
Upshot: Tennessee won the SEC East and headed to Atlanta to face LSU in position to advance to the BCS national title game in Pasadena.
The quote: UT quarterback Casey Clausen, a Californian: “One more game to win then it’s home to the Rose Bowl.” Not exactly.
2003: TENNESSEE 24, FLORIDA 10
Rankings: UT No. 12; Florida No. 17.
The winning plays: Trailing 3-0 as the first half played out, Casey Clausen lofted a Hail Mary pass to the Florida end zone as time expired. Mark Jones and a posse of Gators leaped for the ball. The deflection went to James Banks for a 48-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
Upshot: A second consecutive victory in The Swamp helped the Vols finish the East in a three-way tie at 6-2 with Florida and Georgia. The Bulldogs held the tiebreaker and went to the SEC Championship Game. The Vols went to the Peach Bowl.
The Quote: James Banks: “We practice that play every day in practice and it never works in practice. Never.”
2004: TENNESSEE 30, FLORIDA 28
Rankings: UT No. 13, Florida No. 11.
The winning plays: UT scored with 3:25 left but kicker James Wilhoit missed the extra point for the first time in his career — he was 50-of-50 — to leave Florida clinging to a 28-27 lead. Neyland Stadium sat in shocked disbelief. But the defense forced a punt, Erik Ainge completed a couple of passes to Chris Hannon and spiked the ball with 6 seconds on the clock. Wilhoit went back on the field to attempt a 50-yard field goal. He made it. Vols win.
Upshot: Tennessee, losing only to Auburn, made the SEC Championship Game … where it lost again to Auburn.
The Quote: Phillip Fulmer: “I asked him, ‘James where are you good from?’ And he said, ‘I’m good from here.”’