KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Austin Hardin made a 49-yard field goal with 6:20 remaining Saturday as Florida erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Tennessee 10-9 and continue its decade-long mastery of this rivalry.
Florida (3-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) rallied behind freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who led both of the Gators scoring drives after replacing an ineffective Jeff Driskel.
Matt Jones rushed for 114 yards and had a 32-yard run to set up Hardin’s first successful field-goal attempt of the season, which gave Florida its 10th straight victory over Tennessee (2-3, 0-2).
Tennessee drove into Florida territory before Keanu Neal sealed the victory by intercepting a Justin Worley pass at the Florida 23 with 51 seconds left.
Aaron Medley kicked three field goals for Tennessee, which lost for the third straight time.
Tennessee led 9-0 when Jalen Tabor started Florida’s comeback by sacking Worley, knocking the ball loose and recovering the fumble at Tennessee’s 30. That turnover led to Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run with 13:40 left.
The Vols took the early lead by shutting down Driskel, who was 11-of-23 for 59 yards with three interceptions. Worley was 26-of-39 for 205 yards for Tennessee, but he also threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked six times.
Florida’s comeback stunned a young Tennessee team that had reason to believe it finally would end its history of frustration in this series.
The Vols were favored over the Gators for only the second time since this drought began, and the sense of Tennessee optimism was evident in the pregame fanfare. About 400 former players joined Tennessee’s current roster in running through the “T” before the game. The scoreboard flashed a videotaped pregame pep talk from rapper Lil Jon, who would exhort the crowd again in third-down situations as a remixed version of his song “Turn Down For What” played over the loudspeaker. Entire sections of the early arriving Neyland Stadium sellout crowd wore either white or orange, giving the stands the same checkerboard effect as the end zones.
That crowd stayed in a festive mood for most of the first three quarters as Florida’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way.
Late in the first period, Driskel threw a pass that bounced off Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton’s upper body. Sutton caught the ball off the deflection near the Florida sideline while managing to stay inbounds, giving the Vols possession at their own 47. That turnover set up a Medley 36-yard field goal early in the second quarter that gave Tennessee a 3-0 halftime lead.
Driskel was picked off twice more in the third quarter. Tennessee failed to cash in on the first of the third-quarter turnovers, but Todd Kelly Jr.’s 21-yard interception return later in the period put the Vols at Florida’s 17 to set up a Medley 38-yard field goal that made it 6-0.
Tennessee made it 9-0 on a Medley 39-yard field goal before Tabor’s big play brought Florida back to life.
Immediately after Tabor’s fumble recovery, Florida replaced Driskel with Harris, a freshman who had two career passes — both touchdowns — and three carries before Saturday. With Harris running the offense, Florida cashed in on the turnover and cut Tennessee’s lead to 9-7 on Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run with 13:40 remaining.
After Florida’s defense held the Vols in check again, Jones delivered a 32-yard run that got Florida back into Tennessee territory. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Tennessee 32, Florida coach Will Muschamp turned to Hardin, who had attempted only one field goal all year. Hardin, the Gators’ designated kicker for their longer field-goal attempts, had missed from 52 yards out against Kentucky on his only previous try.
His 49-yarder in this instance split the uprights to put Florida ahead for good.