KNOXVILLE — It's over.
After 11 painful football seasons spanning four University of Tennessee head coaches, four Florida head coaches and 11 straight defeats to the Gators, the Volunteers' long reptilian nightmare has finally ended.
Rallying from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit, the No. 14 Vols defeated No. 19 Florida 38-28 before 102,455 delirious Big Orange fans inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"I can't say enough about our players," said winning coach Butch Jones after excitedly pumping his right fist three times as the clock struck zero on Tennessee's fourth win of the season in as many games. "We didn't play our best football early. But I told them at halftime, 'Just one play at a time.' We just needed one momentum-turning play, and we got a few of those in the second half."
The biggest of those was no doubt quarterback Josh Dobbs' 67-yard strike to sophomore wideout Jauan Jennings that gave the Vols their first lead of the game at 24-21 early in the fourth quarter and made the Great Smoky Mountains come alive with the seismic rounds of "Rocky Top."
Tennessee's 38 consecutive points were the most allowed by a Florida team since losing 44-0 to a Georgia squad paced by running back Herschel Walker in 1982.
So dominant was Tennessee throughout the final half after trailing 21-3 at intermission that the Vols had amassed 269 second-half yards to but 3 for the Gators early in the final period. After trailing the Gators in total yards 300-162 at halftime, the Vols ultimately won the yardage battle 498-402 for the game, which meant a final-half margin of 336-102.
Most of those second-half yards were accumulated by Dobbs, the senior quarterback who had a hand in all 35 of the Vols' second-half points, passing for four touchdowns and running for a fifth.
He finished the game with 319 passing yards and 80 rushing yards after completing just one of his first eight passes.
"We weren't ourselves at the beginning of the game," said Dobbs, though some would argue the Vols looked very much like they had in the opener against Appalachian State and the second game against Virginia Tech, when they fell into 13-3 and 14-0 holes, respectively, before rallying to win.
"It's pretty good," he told CBS when asked how it felt to beat the Gators for the first time since 2004. "It's pretty good."
The reporter then asked if he'd like to say anything else.
Said Dobbs with a big grin, no doubt mindful that a road trip to Georgia is next on the schedule: "Let's keep it going."
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.