GAINESVILLE — The first 71 yards of Malik Davis' dash looked brilliant as he burst out of the backfield and hoofed it to the Volunteers' goal line, leaving a train of Tennessee defenders behind him.
Then the Jesuit High graduate learned that the last yard is the longest. Volunteers defensive back Justin Martin swiped and stripped the ball from Davis as the freshman running back fell into the end zone. Roaring Florida fans in the Swamp celebrated what they thought was the team's first offensive touchdown of the season as the ball trickled out of the end zone for a touchback.
Although he was given just four carries, Davis was explosive when he was able to wade past the line of scrimmage. After two handoffs in the first quarter that were stopped as they started, Davis broke out for a 16-yard rush to the Tennessee 24-yard line, setting up a 41-yard field goal by kicker Eddy Pineiro to give the Gators a 6-0 edge.
Davis' fumble came in the fourth quarter on what amounted to a one-play, 72-yard drive. He didn't get another carry after the turnover.
Henderson returns to the end zone
Scoring two touchdowns in your first two college games is usually the sign of a solid playmaker on offense. But Florida freshman C.J. Henderson has been able to do that on defense. The Miami native wasn't in position to defend Quinten Dormady's pass to Volunteers receiver Marquez Callaway. Henderson was, however, in the perfect spot to catch the ball as it tipped of Callaway's finger. A 16-yard stroll into the end zone gave Florida its first home touchdown of the season, which fittingly came on defense, and gave the Gators a 13-3 lead after Pineiro's extra point. Henderson's second career pick-six came two weeks after he ran an interception back 41 yards for a score against Michigan on Sept. 2.
Florida found a new playmaker in Kadarius Toney. After not getting a touch in the first quarter, Florida's utility player juked two Tennessee defenders on his first catch to open up a 19-yard gain. The next play, Toney caught the Volunteers off guard when he lined up at quarterback, faked a handoff and ran straight forward for a 5-yard pickup.
Toney got more attention from both Florida's coaching staff and Tennessee's defense in the second half — at one point getting open enough for a deep would-be touchdown pass before the ball slipped out of his hands as he dove and hit the ground in the end zone. He finished the game with four catches for 40 yards, compared to a two-catch, 27-yard outing against Michigan.