Fri, 22 Sep 2023

No. 20 Florida treks to No. 11 Tennessee in early SEC test

Field Level Media
21 Sep 2022, 03:40 GMT+10

No. 20 Florida aims to continue its recent dominance of No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon when the Southeastern Conference rivals meet in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Gators (2-1, 0-1) have won five in a row and 16 of their last 17 encounters against the Volunteers (3-0, 0-0), including a decisive 38-14 decision last season.

Florida enters Saturday's contest as an early 10.5-point underdog (BetMGM).

The Gators tackle their first road game of the season after squeezing out a 31-28 victory over South Florida last Saturday.

Anthony Richardson authored his second straight uneven performance after completing 10 of 18 passes for 112 yards and two interceptions against the Bulls. He was also picked off twice in Florida's 26-16 loss to SEC-rival Kentucky on Sept. 10.

Richardson resides last among the 14 SEC starting quarterbacks in passing yards (423), completion percentage (53.2) and touchdown passes (zero).

"It's an area of our team where we need to improve. There's no question about that," Gators coach Billy Napier said Monday of his club's play at quarterback. "You can tell that. The average fan can tell that. My wife can. She's informed me of that. So, we need to get better."

Richardson said he listened to another woman -- his mother -- as a means to mentally move past his recent miscues.

"She started bringing up all these great quarterbacks and how many interceptions they've thrown and stuff," Richardson said. "So, she kind of got on me about that."

Richardson sat out Florida's 38-14 victory over Tennessee last season with a strained right hamstring.

The Volunteers likely have no qualms about their quarterback Hendon Hooker, who completed 14 of 18 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-6 romp over visiting Akron last Saturday.

Hooker, who received an early exit versus the Zips due to the lopsided score, also threw for two touchdowns in last season's setback to the Gators.

Hooker and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel each dismissed the notion that their team finds itself at a disadvantage this Saturday given the one-sided nature of the rivalry of late.

"We are going to approach it the same way we approach every other game," Hooker said Monday. "All the outside noise doesn't really matter to us. We are going to come in, we are going to gameplan how we do in a normal week, and we're going to come in and work hard."

"Each week is different, each day is different, each season is," Heupel said. "For us, we're however many months into our program, right here right now, and our kids are extremely confident, as they should be. They prepare the right way, they work hard, we have continued to grow. They know that the preparation is going to be the most important thing."

Jalin Hyatt reeled in both scoring strikes and rolled up a career-high 166 receiving yards for the Volunteers, who have started the season 3-0 for the first time since winning their first five games in 2016.

--Field Level Media

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