GAINESVILLE — They tried all week to convince everyone that Saturday's game against Tennessee was just another on the schedule.
But when Will Muschamp raced to the north end zone after the game, pumping his fist, doing the Gator Chomp and shaking hands with the band director, you, somehow, had the feeling it was a little more than that.
Florida overcame 16 penalties, racked up 347 yards of offense and held Tennessee to minus-9 yards rushing for a 33-23 victory in front of 90,744 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
It was the first SEC victory as a head coach for Muschamp. The Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) now have won seven consecutive games against the Vols (2-1, 0-1) dating to 2005.
"It was an electric atmosphere," Muschamp said. "This atmosphere in this stadium, it's incomparable.
"Our guys understand what's at stake playing in the SEC and playing well in the SEC. It's certainly a different buzz around here. This counts for one, and next week counts for one. We need to wake up (today) and get ready for Kentucky."
But the victory didn't come without cause for concern.
The Gators had 150 yards in penalties. They started strong, rolling up 149 yards of offense in the first quarter but just 17 in the second. And three times in the first half, the Gators had to settle for field goals inside the Tennessee 30.
"Every week, there has to be concern," said Florida quarterback John Brantley, who opened the game 8-for-8 and finished 14-of-23 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. "Even if you did do well in the red zone, you have to concentrate on that. And we're going to do that this week."
Florida senior Chris Rainey had 21 carries for 108 yards and two receptions for 104, including an 83-yard touchdown from Brantley. Rainey, Jeff Demps and Trey Burton combined for 35 carries for 159 yards. Florida's receivers had just three receptions for 27 yards. But Muschamp said he'll take that split any day — if it produces a win.
"We'll line up and run the wishbone if we can win," Muschamp said. "It's all about winning to me. When I first was a coordinator, I'd run and grab the stat sheets right when I'd come off the field and see what our rushing defense was and our pass defense. As I went on as a coordinator, I started to figure it out: It's about winning. Do what you've got to do to win the game. You can't take winning for granted. It's hard. So when you do win, you've got to enjoy it. You've got to look at the film and say, 'Okay, what did we not do well here? What do we need to improve on?' And be realistic with yourself where you are.
"Generally, there's a middle road somewhere. It's never as good as it seems, and it's never as bad as it seems. But we need to do what we need to do to win games. And it's hard for me to sit there and not take the ball and put it in Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Trey Burton's hands at this point."
Tennessee's offense was hampered by the loss of Justin Hunter, who entered as the SEC's leading receiver at 151 yards per game. He sustained a knee injury early and did not return.
"It was clear that it was a break in your spirit when you saw it happen," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.
"The whole team saw it happen. You have to move on. I could tell when he went down that it had an effect on our team."