Florida running back Dameon Pierce, left, celebrates his touchdown run against Alabama with offensive lineman Jean Delance (56) and offensive lineman Stewart Reese, right, during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Gators seek redemption against Vols

The Florida Gator football team returns to The Swamp just one week removed from the emotionally taxing defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Last week, the team was within two points of the highest-ranked team in the land. Now, the team is tasked with avoiding a let-down game against the lowly Tennessee Volunteers.

In new Tennessee head coach Josh Huepel’s first game in Gainesville, the Gators will hope to bury their rival and assert the team as one of the country’s best after a nail-biting loss last week.

Evaluating the Vols

Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. (1) escapes the grasp go Tennessee Tech linebacker Xavier Washington (3) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 56-0. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

After firing former head coach Jeremy Pruitt last offseason, Tennessee underwent a full overhaul of the athletic department. Athletic director Danny White took over as the AD in Rocky Top after leaving the same position at UCF, and he brought familiar faces with him. Shortly after taking the job, White hired former UCF head coach Josh Heupel as the new head coach for the Vols. Heupel, known as an offensive guru, was tasked with revamping the Tennessee attack that had grown stale under Pruitt. So far, the early returns are positive.

Tennessee has scored over 30 points in each of its three games this season. Despite the scoreboard-filling performances, it is hard to evaluate these showings based on the lack of competition. Tennessee has beaten bottom-dwelling Tennessee Tech and Bowling Green, and lost to Pittsburgh. Florida will undoubtedly be the best offense and defense the team has seen; how Tennessee reacts to the heightened level of competition could tell the story of the game.

The Vols are still trying to decide on their long-term starting quarterback. Senior Hendon Hooker and junior Joe Milton have both played plenty of snaps, and neither played well enough to secure the job. While fans praise Milton for his arm strength but criticize him for his accuracy, Hooker is know as a steady, accurate passer. Whoever he goes with, Heupel will have a tough decision to make on Saturday in the Swamp.

Gators look to rebound

Florida quarterback Emory Jones scrambles as he looks for a receiver against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida played in the biggest home game in years last week in a losing effort to the Crimson Tide. Now, the onus is on the Gators to avoid letting their guard down against a perceived lesser opponent. Florida coach Dan Mullen asked the fans to return to the Swamp on Saturday with the same energy they brought last week.

One player to watch on Saturday is backup quarterback Anthony Richardson. After injuring his hamstring against USF, the redshirt freshman will likely return to the field against the Vols. Mullen said that he expects Richardson to be ready, so fans should be on the lookout for No. 15.

Where to Watch

The bout between the Gators and Volunteers can be watched on ESPN at 7:00 and heard here on ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF.

About Carson Cashion

Carson Cashion is a second-year student at the University of Florida, and has a major in journalism with a specialization in sports and media. Originally from the Orlando area, Cashion has covered the UF Gymnastics team as well as Oak Hall athletics for ESPN Gainesville.

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