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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 3

Tennessee Gets a Kick Out of Victory

College football: Volunteers defeat No. 2 Florida, 20-17, on field goal in overtime for first win over Gators in six years.

September 20, 1998| From Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer admitted it wasn't a pretty game all the time. To the fans who swarmed around him and his team, No. 6 Tennessee's long-awaited victory over No. 2 Florida was a thing of beauty.

Jeff Hall's 41-yard field goal in overtime gave Tennessee a 20-17 Southeastern Conference victory, its first over Florida in six years.

"We didn't hurt ourselves tonight, and obviously the turnovers were the difference in a game like this," Fulmer said.

"Any time you beat a team like Florida it's a great win. It's a great time for this team."

Florida (2-1, 0-1 in the SEC) failed to extend the overtime when Collins Cooper was wide left on a 32-yard field-goal attempt, sending a Neyland Stadium-record crowd of 107,653 streaming onto the field to tear down the goal posts and celebrate.

"Our defensive kids deserved to win. They played super," Florida Coach Steve Spurrier said. "They stopped Tennessee except for two plays.

"Offensively we've got to learn how to take care of the ball. That cost us."

The Gators turned the ball over four times and were held to minus-13 yards rushing by a defense that sacked Florida quarterbacks five times for 54 yards.

Florida won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first in overtime.

The Volunteers couldn't move on their possession and had to rely on Hall's leg for the second game in a row. His last-second field goal beat Syracuse two weeks ago.

On Florida's overtime possession, the Gators got a first down at the Tennessee 15, but three incomplete passes forced a field-goal attempt to push the game into a second overtime.

Spurrier rotated quarterbacks Jesse Palmer and Doug Johnson on every play throughout the game, a tactic he also used at times last year.

Jamal Lewis gained 82 yards for Tennessee. Tee Martin completed only seven of 20 passes for 64 yards.

The Gators tied it, 17-17, with 5:18 left in the third quarter on Palmer's 70-yard touchdown pass to Travis McGriff, who beat cornerback Dwayne Goodrich down the left sideline on third and 11. McGriff had a big night with nine catches for 176 yards.

Tennessee had taken a 17-10 lead two minutes earlier on Martin's 29-yard pass to Peerless Price, who outjumped Florida cornerback Dock Pollard for the ball in the end zone.

The touchdown was set up when David Leaverton's punt was downed at the Gator four. Florida couldn't move, punted from its end zone and committed a personal foul on the return. Tennessee started the possession from the Florida 28.

Florida dominated the first half with 213 yards to the Volunteers' 99, but fumbled the ball away three times.

With no timeouts and 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Gators drove 67 yards in 10 plays, tying it, 10-10, on Palmer's eight-yard scoring pass to Travis Taylor with 20 seconds left.

The big plays were a 23-yard pass from Johnson to Darrell Jackson on third and 22 and an 18-yard completion from Palmer to McGriff.

Tennessee took its first lead in the series since 1995 when fullback Shawn Bryson broke through a mass at the line of scrimmage and sped untouched 57 yards for a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.

Tennessee made it 10-3 on Hall's 39-yard field goal in the second quarter after Florida's third lost fumble of the half at the Gator 35.

Tennessee linebacker Al Wilson was credited with causing the three first-half fumbles, including one by Florida's Terry Jackson just as he was about to score on the Gators' first possession.

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