September 16, 2017
The Gators are taking on the Volunteers in the home opener and Southeastern Conference debut for both teams.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Cornerback CJ Henderson has played two games of college football.
He has two touchdowns, which makes him the leader in TDs for the 24th-ranked Florida Gators, who are leading No. 23 Tennessee 13-10 in the fourth quarter after the true freshman returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the period at the “Swamp.”
Henderson was covering UT stud wideout Marquez Callaway on a third-and-11 from the Volunteers’ 7. Quarterback Quinten Dormandy, who has struggled all game, threw a high pass for Callaway that skippped off his outreaching hands and fell to Henderson, who walked into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Two weeks ago, in the season-opening loss to Michigan in Texas, Henderson scored on a 41-yard interception return in his collegiate debut.
Up to Henderson touchdown, the two ranked Southeastern Conference teams appeared to be doing their best to stay out of the end zone in their league opener.
The Gators have two field goals. The Volunteers have made one and missed three, including a 34-yarder by Aaron Medley four minutes into the fourth period. UT coach Butch Jones sent Medley out after Brent Cimaglia missed back-to-back field-goal tries.
On UF’s first play after the errant field goal, true freshman tailback went 74 yards for an apparent touchdown. Replays, however, showed Davis was stripped of the ball just before the UT 1 by safety Justin Martin, so the Gators’ offense remained touchdown-less for the young season.
So, again, the Florida defense had go right back out on the field. This time, the Vols ran down the Gators’ throats, going 80 yards in just five plays and just over two minutes, with tailback John Kelly breaking tackles on a 34-yard touchdown run to make it 13-10 with 8:36 remaining.
Florida tailback Lamical Perine broke off a 21-yard run on his team’s opening play of the second half, but fumbled at the end, with the Volunteers recovering at the UF 49. The Vols faced a third-and-18 and converted when quarterback Quentin Dormady hit wideout Marquez Callaway for 19 yards to the Gators’ 1. A holding penalty set UT back and Dormidy was picked off by senior cornerback Duke Dawson on third-and-goal from the 7.
Backed up against its goa line, UF went three-and-out and had to punt, with Callaway returning the kick 29 yards to the Florida 36. UT had a first down and the 25 and third at the 17, but a holding penalty and sack sent the Vols backward — enough for Brent Cimaglia to miss his second field goal of the day, a 51-yarder with 3:13 to go in the third quarter.
The Gators grabbed their lead thanks to a pair of Eddy Pineiro field goals. On both scoring drives, UF undercut itself with miscues — namely, penalties and a huge sack — and had to settle for three points and is still without an offensive touchdown this season.
Tennessee got on the board late in the second quarter when Brent Cimaglia nailed a 51-yard field goal at the 2:58 mark that cut UF’s six-point lead in half.
The Vols had a chance to tie it up on the final play of the half, but Cimaglia pushed a 48-yard field goal to the left.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks making his first home start, the Gators chipped away for 15-play, 65-yard drive on the opening series, converting four third-down opportunities along the way, before settling for a 27-yard field goal from Pineiro and 3-0 lead at the 7:39 mark. A 22-yard wide screen to slotback Brandon Powell got Florida into Tennessee territory, then Perine barrelled for an eight yards on a third-and-3 to give the Gators a first down at the UT 15. But a delay-of-game penalty was followed by an illegal procedure penalty and put the Gators in a first-and-20 hole that Franks could not convert from.
On Tennessee’s first drive, the Vols converted a trio of third downs and worked to the UF 34, but on third-and-10 quarterback Dormady’s checkdown pass intended for tailback Ty Chandler was thrown behind the receiver and intercepted by UF linebacker David Reese.
The Gators’ other scoring drive was set up by a shanked punt that started UF at its 44. Florida worked to the UT 28, thanks to a 19-yard catch-and-run by freshman utility man Kadarius Toney, but on second-and-8, Franks was sacked for a 15-yard loss. A third-down run off a draw for 16 yards from true freshman Malik Davis put Pineiro in position to hammer home a 41-yard field goal for the 6-0 margin at the 8:11 mark of the second period.
Tennessee’s points came on a 12-play, 42-yard drive, with the key plays an 11-yard completion to Josh Palmer on a third-and-6 and 15-yard screen from Dormady to Chandler to the Florida 43.
The Vols seemed content to run out the clock after UF punted with 23 seconds to play in the half. In just trying to run out the period, Kelly broke through the UF defense for a 38-yard run to the Gators’ 36. UT crept to the Florida 29, but Cimaglia missed his attempt.
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