While Tennessee fumbled and stumbled in the rain, Florida swamped its SEC rival and revived Gator Nation
Ron Zook accepted the job as Florida coach last January. Only after the gators' 30-13 humiliation of fourth-ranked Tennessee before 108,722 in a sodden Neyland Stadium last Saturday did the Gator Nation accept him. "To come in here and win says a lot," Zook said. "But it's one win."
Coachspeak aside, Florida's victory over its SEC East rival means the Gators have returned to the national elite only two weeks after a 41-16 home loss to No. 1 Miami that made the Steve Spurrier era seem like a distant memory. "We needed this game as a program," said junior quarterback Rex Grossman, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. "We needed this game for a lot of different reasons. It was extremely satisfying."
After the loss to the Hurricanes, Florida fans wondered aloud whether Zook was the right person for the job and some doubted that Grossman would master the complex one-back offense new coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher had installed. "[Early on] we were doing dumb stuff," says Zaunbrecher.
Grossman, never a scrambler under Spurrier, constantly created room for himself to make throws against a blitzing Volunteers defense. Sometimes he rolled out. Other times he simply sidestepped the onrushing defenders, who couldn't change direction on the wet grass. Grossman said he hadn't run that much since his days at Bloomington ( Ind.) South High. "I'm not exactly Michael Vick," Grossman said, "but I can move."
Though the rain seemed like it would favor Tennessee's powerful ground game on Saturday, the Vols tied a school record by fumbling eight times, including seven times in the second quarter, when a squall seemed to settle right over the stadium. At one point Tennessee fumbled on four consecutive plays. On two of those, quarterback Casey Clausen dropped the exchange from the center. "If I can't get the snap," says Clausen, "we can't run the play."
The Gators didn't have a problem running—and making-plays against the Vols. It was a far cry from their offensive performance against Miami. Before Saturday's game, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley reflected on the Gators' loss to the Hurricanes. "The bottom line is that Miami is a pretty good football team," Foley said. "Of course, if Ron wins today, he's a genius."
Zook's genius in the eyes of Gators fans may be short-lived. Florida's next five opponents are a combined 15-3.
Rushing Leader Tears ACL
End of the Run For Hollings
Until late in Georgia Tech's 28-19 victory over BYU last Saturday, there had been no better story in college football outside South Bend than Yellow Jackets junior tailback Tony Hollings. The former defensive back, who last winter asked for a chance to play tailback, leads the nation in rushing (158.3 yards per game) and scoring (11 touchdowns). However, on his 36th carry against the Cougars, Hollings tore his right ACL and is likely out for the season.