GAINESVILLE, Florida – Emory Jones had two touchdown passes to make with a career-high 144 rushing yards, leading Florida No.11 to a 38-14 victory over Tennessee on Saturday night and extending nearly two decades of dominance in the series .
The Gators (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) won their fifth in a row and their 16th in 17 years in a series that was instrumental in deciding the Eastern Division. Tennessee freshman coach Josh Heupel is trying to get him back there.
The second half showed he still had some way to go. The Gators, who rebounded from a heartbreaking loss to top Alabama in the Swamps a week ago, scored on back-to-back third-quarter practices to turn a three-point game into a comfortable lead. Jones was at his best during these possessions.
With dynamic save Anthony Richardson still healing a tight right hamstring, Jones completed three straight passes that set up a rigged touchdown. Jones walked over to Trent Whittemore, who found Kemore Gamble in the end zone for 13 yards. It was Florida’s first rigged TD in three years.
Jones ran 43 yards on Florida’s next drive and capped it with a 9-yard pass to Rick Wells.
Jones completed 21 of 27 passes for 209 yards on the night and ran 15 times, with a length of 49 yards. He became the first Florida QB to exceed 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards since Tim Tebow in 2009 against Florida State. Tebow has accomplished the feat four times in four seasons.
It was the first time Jones had no turnover this season.
The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) played much better in the first half, with Herndon Hooker and a big play offense that knocked the Gators off balance. Hooker connected with Tiyon Evans for 47 yards and with JaVonta Payton on a 75 yards.
But Hooker was mostly ineffective the rest of the way. He was sacked at the start of the fourth and eliminated from the match. He tried to leave the pitch without any assistance after coaches helped him up, but fell to his knees before reaching the sideline. Joe Milton replaced him.
Hooker completed 13 of 23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He and the Vols seemed repeatedly shaken by the crowd of 88,478 people.
Florida, who entered the game as the nation’s second running team, finished with 283 rushing yards. Coach Dan Mullen had his most balanced offense of the season, with 222 passing yards and 505 total yards.
Tennessee entered the game allowing just 54.3 rushing yards. Florida got past that in the first quarter.
Take it away
Tennessee: The Volunteers seem to be going in the right direction under Heupel. His quick offense gave the Gators trouble early on, and Tennessee had a chance to equalize or take the lead just before halftime. Being close is progress for a program that has lost the last three games by a combined score of 112-46.
Florida: The Gators gave up too many big plays early on. If they want to lead the SEC table and return to the league title game, they will need to consolidate that part of their defense. Bringing back cornerback Kaiir Elam would be a start.
Florida is expected to make the Associated Press’s Top 25, especially with No.9 Clemson and Texas A&M losing to seventh.
DEFENDER ALL-SEC OUT
Elam, an SEC defenseman, missed the game with a sprained right knee. Elam twisted his knee at the end of last week’s loss to Alabama. He was on the sidelines on Saturday with a knee sleeve and limped around.
Freshman Jason Marshall, a five-star rookie from Miami, started in his place and played well.
Tennessee plays Missouri next Saturday. The Vols have won two in a row and four of six.
Florida plays Kentucky next Saturday. The Wildcats last beat the Gators in Lexington, Ky., In 1986. Florida won 16 straight wins there.
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