Tennessee (2-1 | 0-0 SEC) vs. Florida (2-1 | 0-2 SEC)
Saturday, September 25th, 2021 | 6:00pm CT
Gainesville, FL | Ben Hill Griffin Stadium | TV: ESPN
Gainesville, FL – The Tennessee Vols Football team hits the road for the first time this season with a showdown against SEC East rival Florida Gators in primetime on Saturday night in Gainesville.
The UT Vols are coming off a 56-0 shutout of Tennessee Tech last weekend and will look to carry that momentum into Saturday as they look to spring the upset against the 11th-ranked Gators.
Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN with Joe Tessitore (PxP), Greg McElroy (analyst), and Katie George (sideline) on the call. Kickoff is slated for 6:00pm CT.
Fans can listen to Tennessee’s official radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7/WNML-FM 99.1) and satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 99, XM Ch. 192, Internet Ch. 963). A live audio stream of the broadcast will also be available on UTSports.com? and the Official Gameday App.
Bob Kesling (PxP), Pat Ryan (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action, with Kasey Funderburg handling sideline duties. Big Orange Countdown begins at 4:30pm.
Need To Know
Heupel Records Win No. 30
First-year Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel reached the 30-win plateau last Saturday. The 27th head coach in Vol history, Heupel’s 30 victories rank ninth among FBS head coaches dating back to the start of the 2018 season, trailing only Nick Saban (41), Dabo Swinney (41), Brian Kelly (36), Lincoln Riley (36), Luke Fickell (34), Kirby Smart (34), Ed Orgeron (32) and Dan Mullen (31).
Heupel owns the eighth-best winning percentage among active FBS head coaches at .769 (min. two seasons). Heupel became the fourth-quickest active FBS head coach (39 games) to reach 30 career victories, behind only Oklahoma’s Riley (34), Stanford’s David Shaw (35), UCLA’s Chip Kelly (35) and Georgia’s Smart (38).
Tennessee recorded its first shutout since Sept. 2019 with a 56-0 blanking of Tennessee Tech last Saturday in Neyland Stadium. Eight different Vols scored – four rushing, three passing and one interception return (31 yards by Solon Page III) – as UT outgained the Golden Eagles, 417-179. Quarterback Hendon Hooker, making his first UT start in place of an injured Joe Milton III, accounted for 263 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. Hooker became the first Vol QB to throw for at least three touchdowns and rush for at least one touchdown in the same game since Joshua Dobbs threw for three and rushed for two on Nov. 19, 2016, against Missouri. Aubrey Solomon and Byron Young – making his UT debut – led the Vols in tackles with six apiece.
First Quarter Dominance
Tennessee has outscored opponents 38-0 in the first quarter this season. The Vols have scored touchdowns on the first drive in two of their three games so far, including on their first play from scrimmage against Pitt two weeks ago.
Living in the Backfield
Tennessee has racked up 29 tackles for loss through three games under new defensive coordinator Tim Banks. That tally ranks seventh in the nation and third in the SEC behind LSU (40) and Auburn (33). The 29 TFLs are the most through the first three games of a season since at least 2008. A total of 17 different players have 0.5 TFL so far, including six with multiple TFLs. The Vols are averaging 9.67 tackles for loss per game, which ranks sixth in the FBS. Theo Jackson leads the way with 6.0, which is tops among all FBS defensive backs and is tied for the SEC lead overall.
We Wanna Go Fast
A trademark of Heupel’s offenses is tempo. The Vols are averaging 3.08 offensive plays per minute, which is tops in the nation. Utah State is next closest at 2.95. UT is tallying 77.67 plays per game, which is 13th in the FBS. From 2018-20, Heupel’s UCF teams averaged a nation-high 3.04 plays per minute. The next closest was 2.78 by Wake Forest during that span. Heupel’s UCF squads averaged 79.97 plays per game from 2018-20.
Tennessee / Florida Series History
Gators lead series, 30-20
Tennessee and Florida are meeting for the 51st time with the Gators leading the series, 30-20. Florida has won four in a row over the Vols. Tennessee’s last win against the Gators came on September 24th, 2016, in Knoxville by a score of 38-28.
UT is seeking its first win in Gainesville since September 20th, 2003 (24-10). Heupel is seeking to become the first Vol head coach to defeat Florida in his first try since Phillip Fulmer did so on September 19th, 1992, in Knoxville (31-14). Fulmer was serving as interim head coach in that contest. The last UT coach to win in Gainesville in his first game against Florida was Bill Battle on October 24th, 1970.
About the Florida Gators
The Gators are led by fourth-year head coach Dan Mullen, who took over the program prior to the 2018 season after an extremely successful nine-year run as head coach at Mississippi State. Mullen led the Gators to their first SEC East title since 2016 last season. Florida enters Saturday’s game with a 2-1 record following wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida to open the season before dropping a nail bitter at home to top-ranked Alabama last weekend.
Florida boasts the top rushing offense in the SEC, averaging 335.7 yards a game on the ground through three contests. The Gators’ rushing attack is led by two talented running backs in Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce, as well as a pair of talented dual-threat quarterbacks in Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.
Davis and Piece have combined for 332 yards and seven touchdowns, but it has been the QB run game that has been even more effective for UF. Richardson leads the team with 275 rushing yards on just 11 carries (25.0 ypc) while Jones ranks second on the team with 231 yards on the ground.
Jones has gotten the majority of the reps at quarterback, completing 49 of 77 pass attempts for 459 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but has also thrown five interceptions. Jones’ favorite target has been Jacob Copeland, who leads the team with seven receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gators’ defense has been led by a pair of redshirt seniors OLB Jeremiah Moon and DL Zachary Carter. Moon has racked up 16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one PBU and two quarterback hurries while Carter has been a terror for opposing offenses with a team high six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble.