KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — His voice was hoarse, and Florida QB John Brantley was barely able to speak by the time he made it to the postgame interviews. It's tough to audible and call plays in front of 102,000 hostile fans. But even in the midst of much criticism about his team's lackluster offensive performance for the third consecutive week, Brantley said the Gators achieved their most important goal.
"We got the win, that's all that matters to me, really," he said.
The Gators fell in the polls the first two weeks of the season, and it's possible they could drop again after the way they played the first half Saturday. One voter was overheard saying, "That's not a top 10 team."
"I think we're a great team," the redshirt junior said. "Our offensive line, they stayed and battled the entire game. We've got some of the best running backs in (Emmanuel) Moody, (Mike) Gillislee and Jeff (Demps). We showed today that our receivers can make a lot of plays. … We're winning, that's all that matters to us. It's not about stats, it's not about anything like that. As long as we get the W."
HILL'S RETURN: Junior S Will Hill's much-anticipated return came after a two-game suspension for unspecified reasons.
"It felt good to be back out there, competing with Janoris (Jenkins) and (Ahmad) Black and the rest of the secondary, just trying to help this team get better," said Hill, who had six tackles and one forced fumble. "It felt natural to be back out there."
Hill adamantly denied reports that he was suspended for failed drug tests. "I just wasn't ready to play," he said. "Urb (UF coach Urban Meyer) didn't think I was ready to play so he sat me out."
WR Frankie Hammond also returned from a two-game suspension after his arrest in June on a DUI charge. Hammond had one reception for a 7-yard touchdown.
"It was nice; Frankie deserved it," Demps said of Hammond's TD. "He's a hard-working kid and plays hard for our team."
YOUTH ON DISPLAY: Meyer said he was concerned all week about how his team would respond to its first road trip, and much of that concern had to do with personnel. In all, 43 of 70 UF players who made the trip are underclassmen, 21 made their first road trip and 18 saw their first action in a road game.
TOUGH TO TAKE: For former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who spent more than two decades with the Vols as a player and coach, seeing the program struggle so badly is difficult.
"It's terrible," Fulmer said. "It's hard to watch something that you put most of your adult life into, and then all of a sudden you're watching what's transpiring now to the program. It (hiring former UT coach Lane Kiffin) was an obvious attempt to change the culture of Tennessee football that failed. I'm for Derek (Dooley), and I'm always pulling for Tennessee from a personal standpoint. And from a professional standpoint, I'm going to be very open-minded and do my job for (as an analyst) CBS. But from a personal standpoint, like most people that follow Tennessee, it's hard."