Tennessee football: Top 5 Vols individual performances vs. Florida

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Joshua Dobbs /
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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images /

Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Travis Stephens. 2. Running back. 2001. player. 839

Tennessee beats Florida 34-32

Let’s go back 15 years before Josh Dobbs ended Tennessee football’s 11-game losing streak to the Florida Gators for this one. Travis Stephens helped the Vols end another losing streak: a seven-game losing streak to the Gators in The Swamp that dated back to 1971 at the time.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that year forced the game to be moved to Dec. 1. Tennessee and Florida both entered the game at 9-1. The winner would win the East to play for the SEC title and be in control of their own destiny for the national title.

You couldn’t ask for more excitement.

However, somehow, despite two Top 5 teams playing each other, Vegas decided to set an 18-point line in Florida’s favor.

Tennessee’s response? Turn to an undersized running back that was doubted all year. Stephens’ story was amazing.

He redshirted in 1999 since he knew he would sit behind Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry. He waited his turn until he was a fifth-year senior in 2001 to start.

And projected to be the weakness of the unit, he became the SEC’s leading rusher. And he saved his best performance for the final regular season game.

Stephens ran consistently well for most of the night, and in the first half he had a 10-yard touchdown run on a draw.

But the second half was when he broke things open. It started with a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Vols a 21-20 lead.

Then, in the fourth quarter, he had a long run to the one-yard line to set up the Vols for another touchdown that put them ahead 27-23.

But the highlight run of the night came after Florida had cut it to 27-26. Their fans were back in it, and Tennessee was backed up on 1st and 10. Phillip Fulmer and Randy Sanders gave it to Stephens, and he broke off a 68-yard run, breaking two tacklers at once in the process.

Stephens finished the day with a historic performance: 19 carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns. And he led the Vols to one of their most elating victories in school history.

As a result, it belongs on this list of greatest individual Tennessee football performances against the Florida Gators.