Tennessee football: Top 5 Vols individual performances vs. Florida

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Joshua Dobbs /
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Andy Lyons /Allsport
Andy Lyons /Allsport /

Linebacker. 1998. 1. 839. Scouting Report. Al Wilson. player. Pick Analysis

Was there any doubt that this would be the top performance on the list? Al Wilson‘s antics in this game single-handedly delivered the Vols the victory and set them up for their national championship run.

At the time, Tennessee football was on a five-game losing streak to Florida. They had just broken in a new quarterback in Tee Martin, who barely helped them escape Syracuse two weeks earlier.

Ranked No. 6 in the country with Florida ranked No. 2, it didn’t seem possible for the Vols to win this game.

John Chavis had still not yet figured out the Fun-n-Gun offense, and with Martin there instead of Peyton Manning, Tennessee would not be able to generate any offense against Florida’s elite defense.

Al Wilson, however, stepped up and made sure Tennessee did its part.

The Vols did indeed struggle to get any offense going. They also could not stop the Gators through the air.

Wilson single-handedly stopped them. After the Vols punted on their opening drive, Florida drove right to the Tennessee five.

It looked like another fast start for the Gators like the last two years en route to dominance. But Wilson made sure this year was different by forcing a fumble on Terry Jackson, which Raynoch Thompson recovered in the end zone.

After a Tennessee turnover, Wilson went back to work and held the Gators to a field goal. Two times in the five-yard line, they only got three points thanks to Wilson.

Then, the Vols finally got an offensive touchdown.

And Wilson kept playing. He stopped another Florida drive at midfield by forcing a fumble in open space.

Towards the end of the half, he sacked Doug Johnson to force a third fumble and set up a Tennessee field goal.

Florida tied the game with a late first-half touchdown, but Wilson was responsible for 10 points. He stopped one Florida touchdown and set up a Vols field goal because he forced three fumbles.

He still played hard in the second half as the Vols battled to a tie.

Then he made the play of the game in overtime. Tennessee football got a field goal and needed the defense to win. With Florida driving, Wilson rocked Jesse Palmer on a second down to blow up a play and force an incompletion.

That was enough to get inside Florida’s head. they couldn’t get the first on third down, tried a game-tying field goal, missed, and the Vols celebrated a victory.

Florida had way better stats than the Vols that day, significantly out-gaining them. However, they lost the rushing battle and committed five turnovers.

Next. Vols' 25 greatest single-game performances in history. dark

Wilson was huge in both of those, stopping the run for the Gators and forcing three of those turnovers. It’s the greatest individual defensive performance many Vols fans still have witnessed. And that’s why it’s No. 1 on this list.