Even without dominating, Florida finds ways to win
The Florida Gators may not be dominating games the way they're expected to under coach Urban Meyer. They're still finding ways to win.
Florida overcame another sloppy start in a 31-17 win over SEC rival Tennessee on Saturday.
Now the Gators (3-0, 1-0), who moved up one spot to ninth in the AP Top 25, must figure out how to keep winning with a visit from Kentucky, a trip to top-ranked Alabama and a visit from No. 15 LSU up next.
''We're 3-0. Somehow we've got to beat Kentucky to get to 4-0. We were good enough to win at Neyland Stadium. Now we've got to find a way (against Kentucky),'' Meyer said.
It hasn't been a pretty path to 3-0. The Gators, who have scored first in 46 games under Meyer, have been comatose in the first quarter. Miami (Ohio), South Florida and Tennessee each scored in the first 15 minutes while Florida has yet to put up points of its own.
The Gators' snapping issues resurfaced several times against the Volunteers (1-2, 0-1). Mike Pouncey overshot John Brantley in the shotgun and resulted in fourth-and-28, after Brantley fell on the ball 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
By halftime, speedster Jeff Demps, who had helped rescue his team after lackluster starts against Miami (Ohio) and South Florida, had only 17 yards rushing, and Florida had picked up 94 yards of offense.
Tennessee tied the game at 10 with 8:59 in the third quarter when Denarius Moore blew by a confused Will Hill down the right side of the field and caught a 49-yard toss by Matt Simms.
With the momentum in the Vols' hands, Florida appeared beat again on the next drive. That's when Meyer got creative in hopes of finding a little life from his young offense.
On fourth-and-6 at the Florida 39, Meyer called for a fake punt. Omarius Hines took the ball and ran 36 yards to keep the drive alive. Brantley hit Carl Moore on a 14-yard pass on third down and then found Frankie Hammond Jr. on a 7-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to take a 17-10 lead with 4:31 in the third quarter.
''Until we get a little better, we're going to have to do things like that and find a way to win a game,'' Meyer said.
It was just the spark the Gators needed.
Jeremy Brown picked off Simms on the next drive at the Tennessee 44, and Florida got a 5-yard touchdown run by Mike Gillislee, his second score of the game.
The defense twice sacked Simms, one which was initially ruled a safety until an official review found he was dropped at the 1-yard line. The Vols were forced to punt from their own 10-yard line, and the Gators took over at the 50.
Hill was caught off guard again when Simms hit Justin Hunter on a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-6 to cut Florida's lead to a touchdown with 11:24 left. He made up for it by forcing a fumble by Tauren Poole on the Gators 39, which was recovered by teammate Matt Elam.
The Gators managed to limit Poole, who entered the game as the SEC's leading rusher, to only 23 yards.
Meyer acknowledges the effort may not be good enough to beat a Kentucky team that's outscoring its opponents by an average 26.3 points. It will only be tougher against the Crimson Tide, which is leading the SEC in total offense (542 ypg), scoring (44.7 ppg) and total defense (253.3 ypg).
Hines isn't worried.
''It's all going to come together soon,'' he said.