Napier: Distressed of Vols ‘validates’ plan at Florida
- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Citizen WriterSep 17, 2023, 02:07 AM ET Close College football reporter Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of the University of Tennessee
GAINESVILLE, Fla.– Billy Napier sat in his office Friday on the eve of what would end up being his biggest win yet as Florida’s head football coach.He talked
about investment, about belief, about constructing something the right way.
“Now we require that spark, that’s all, something that permits our players to taste a bit of the fruits of their labor,” Napier told ESPN.The Gators did
n’t simply taste those fruits Saturday night with the Swamp rocking the method it performed in the old days under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. They squeezed every bit of juice they could out of the Big Orange, aka No. 11 Tennessee, in a 29-16 success that Napier called confirming in more methods than one.
“It confirms your plan. It verifies what you’re selling to some degree, the important things that you continue to harp on,” said Napier, who had actually been on the proverbial spot (at least the perceived spot) after losing 5 of his last 7 games a year ago in only his first season.Editor’s Picks
1 Associated Then to open this season, that heat just ratcheted up amongst lots of in the fan base after an unsightly, mistake-filled 24-11 loss to Utah.
“Success is a dirty process and eventually it’s fulfilling,” Napier said. “You need to go through some ups and downs along the way.”
As verifying as Saturday’s win was for Florida, it was equally total. The Gators (2-1) were dominant in the line of scrimmage. They blended the pass with the work on offense, and quarterback Graham Mertz was consistently able to make crucial throws on the move. When the Gators surged ahead 26-7 late in the second quarter, they had actually outgained the Vols 282 to 98 yards.Sophomore running back Trevor Etienne hurried for a career-high 172 yards. His 62-yard goal romp answered a Tennessee goal in the very first quarter, sparking a 26-0 spree for the Gators that kept the Vols on their heels the remainder of the game.” Much like I said previously in the week,
it was going to be a physical game, and my offensive line came out and controlled for 60 minutes,”Etienne said.In the season-opening loss to Utah, no Florida running back managed a run of longer than 9 backyards. Etienne’s 62-yarder versus the Vols came versus a Tennessee defense that had a hard time to deal with outdoors field for much of the night. “We needed a huge play to get the offense going, and it just happened to
be me,”Etienne said.After developing the big first-half lead, Napier said he might have gotten a bit
conservative in the second half, however he wanted to limit Tennessee’s ownerships on offense. The 16 points marked the third-lowest output for the Vols considering that Josh Heupel showed up in 2021. And the location for Napier’s first signature win was fitting.
It has been 20 years given that the Vols last won at the Swamp, a 24-10 win in 2003 in Ron Zook’s next-to-last season as Florida coach.”It’s just everything about if we’re going to come together or
we’re going to separate,” said Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III, who threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns but likewise had an interception that led to Florida’s third touchdown.Milton, who is from Pahokee, Florida, stired the fires in the competition this offseason when he was quoted as stating, “I don’t lose in Florida. “The Florida players filed those remarks away and required to social networks late Saturday to poke back at Milton.Told that a person of his teammates had actually already posted something about it, Florida linebacker Scooby Williams quipped,” He beat me to it.” When Florida was
n’t beating Tennessee up in the line of scrimmage, the Vols were doing an excellent job of beating themselves. They had 10 charges for 79 backyards, eight of those on offense. A lot of came from their failure to handle the crowd noise, similar to the loss last season at Georgia.The game ended in a near-brawl after a couple of timeouts in the last 15 seconds, the very first one by Napier and after that one by Heupel. On fourth down, Mertz delayed downing the ball out of the”success formation”while trying to run out the clock and was then struck by Tennessee defensive lineman Omari Thomas just as his knee touched, prompting the authorities to toss a flag for targeting and players from both sides going after each other in front of the Florida sideline.Finally, after order was brought back and the athletic directors for both schools consulted with the officials and coaches on the field, the players were called out of the locker space to finish the last seconds. The targeting penalty on Thomas was reversed, and Milton kneeled the ball down, setting off a Swamp-sized celebration.”That was the weirdest ending to a game I have actually ever had,”Mertz stated.” But I guess that’s just Florida-Tennessee. Sort of the method it goes.” Heupel stated he would choose that his team be more made up in such situations, but added, “Their man is dancing, and you need to go tackle him.
“As sweet as the win was for the Gators, the very first for Napier over a nationally ranked SEC team, it was all too familiar for the Vols, who have actually lost 17
of the past 19 conferences in the series. For point of view, Heupel was simply three years removed from playing quarterback at Oklahoma when Tennessee last won in Gainesville.The Vols ‘drought in the Swamp covers 6 coaches: Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, Jeremy Pruitt and Heupel. “A loss like this will light a fire under any person, “Tennessee receiver Bru McCoy said.”Me, personally, I’m not going to take it gently. I think the remainder of the offense will have the exact same frame of mind.”For Napier and Florida, that mindset is that this is just the start. The Gators have the No. 3 recruiting class in ESPN’s 2024 rankings, and Napier was out on the field talking with employees an hour after the game Saturday.”Undoubtedly, we still have a great deal of work to do, but you wish to see your individuals have success, right? “Napier said.Or as Williams stated,”It’s what we do from here that counts.”