Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) throws a pass over Tennessee linebacker Byron Young (6) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Jones’ Strong Performance Lifts Gators Past Tennessee

Emory Jones had himself a historic night, as he and the Gators routed the Tennesee Volunteers, 38-14, in the Swamp.

The Gators came into the annual matchup looking for their 16th win in 17 years against the Vols. They got it.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen said he thought his team played well, especially coming off Alabama.

Linebacker Mohamoud Diabate said the defense really feed off the energy of the crowd, and said it helped their performance.

An Unpreffered First Half

After holding the Vols to three and out on the first drive of the game, the Gators opened the scoring with a touchdown pass by Emory Jones to Malik Davis. This would be Davis’ first touchdown reception with the Gators.

The Volunteers answered back quickly. On the following drive, quarterback Hendon Hooker found running back Tiyon Evans for a 47-yard touchdown reception.

It appeared keeping up with Tennessee’s quick tempo could be a bigger challenge than expected.

The early, back-and-forth scoring continued with a 47-yard Gator field goal by kicker Jace Christmann, making the score 10-7.

The Gators’ defense struggled to contain the Vols offense as the game moved into the second quarter. Hooker threw deep to his left and found Javonta Payton, who flew down the field for a 75-yard touchdown pass. The Vols found themselves with a 14-10 lead.

Fortunately, for the Gators, the offense kept pace–especially on the ground. Nay’Quan wright found a hole in the Tennessee defense to carry the ball 23 yards into the endzone for a Florida touchdown. Gators go up by three–score is 17-14.

Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) tries to get past Tennessee defensive back Jaylen McCollough, left, during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Gators appeared to be in a good spot to extend their lead after a targeting call and punter inference allowed the Gators to start on the Tennessee 40. Receiver Jacob Copland even made a nice 17-yard catch. The problem was he lost the ball on a fumble and Tennessee recovered it.

The Vols followed up the fumble recovery by marching down the field to set themselves up for a game-tying field goal. But the attempt would be no good, send the game to halftime with the score remaining at 17-14.

That Just Happened

The Gators extended their lead on the opening drive of the second half on the surprise of the night. Closing in on the end zone, Jones made a pass to Trent Whittemore who then too passed the ball to Kemore Gamble for a touchdown.

Yes, this is indeed Whittemore’s first career touchdown pass, and yes, the score is 24-14 in favor of the Gators. This was the first touchdown pass by a Gator receiver since Kadarius Toney connected with Moral Stephens back on Sept. 29, 2018, against Mississippi State.

The March Continues

The Gators dominated the run game, taking the ball almost all the way downfield on the ground. But as soon Tennessee thought they could get them from the ground, Jones took to the air and found Rick Wells wide open for a nine-yard touchdown, to make it 31-14.

Florida wide receiver Rick Wells (12) runs past Tennessee defensive back Jaylen McCollough (22) on his way to a touchdown off a 9-yard pass play during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Malik Davis picked up a touchdown run that wrapped up scoring, 38-14.

Jones’ Jaw-Dropping Night

Perhaps being the only quarterback in the game is helping Jones find his stride. He certainly found his form on the ground and in the air. Jones became the second Gator quarterback ever–the other being Tim Tebow–to have more than 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game.

Mullen had nothing but praise for Emory after his performance.

Jones’ efforts included a run of 49 yards. This was longer than any longest carry by a Gator running back by more than 10 yards. Jones had more rushing yards than all the running backs combined (144 vs. 139).

Next, the Gators will travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky. The Gators look to win their third game in a row, and the 34th out of the last 35 against the Wildcats.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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