Turnovers aid Florida’s defense at Tennessee

By Katie Agostin

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyler Bray’s throw might have been intended for Zach Rogers, but it was Lerentee McCray who caught the pass.

The redshirt senior got things started for the No. 18 Gators (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) with his first career interception to help Florida on its way to a 37-20 victory over No. 23 Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC).

“We definitely knew coming in that Tyler Bray was an accurate quarterback that can fit the ball into tight places,” McCray said. “We just had to frustrate him a little bit and make him hurry up more than he wanted to.”

After intercepting Bray’s pass, McCray returned it for 25 yards to set the Gators up on Tennessee’s 35 yard-line. From there, Florida only needed three plays to find the end zone and put the first points of the game on the board.

McCray’s interception wasn’t the only one of the night. Late in the third quarter with the score tied at 20, junior Matt Elam came up with Florida’s second interception off a pass intended for Justin Hunter.

“Turnovers are always very important to give the offense another chance to put points on the board,” Elam said. “So on defense that’s our job and our objective, to put the ball back in the offense’s hands.”

Elam’s pick added to the Gators’ momentum as they tacked on 10 more unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Just prior to Elam’s interception, he got the lone sack of the game for 10 yards in the middle of the second half. Elam wrapped up Bray, who committed an intentional grounding penalty trying to avoid a sack.

While Elam’s pick was Bray’s last, the 6-foot-6 signal caller never recovered. In the fourth quarter, Bray completed only 1 of 10 passing attempts, including seven straight incompletions to end the game.

Florida’s defense held Bray to a 50 percent completion rate after the junior made 71 percent of his passes during Tennessee’s first two games of the season without a single interception.

The pressure the Gators put on Bray was too much for him to handle as they nearly tripled their quarterback hurries total with seven against the Volunteers. McCray and Dominique Easley led UF with two hurries each. The seven hurries were the most Florida has totaled in a single game since recording seven against Auburn oTun Oct. 15, 2011.

“They put a couple of new things together, it was almost too much to block,” Tennessee’s tailback Rajion Neal said. “It was almost like Tyler Bray had his own set blitz. They brought a lot and more than we could block at a time.”

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