GAINESVILLE, Fla. - No. 1 Florida didn't embarrass Tennessee and its new coach, just beat them behind Tim Tebow and a stingy defense.
Tebow ran for 76 yards and a touchdown, Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals and the Gators opened Southeastern Conference play with a 23-13 victory over the Volunteers on Saturday.
The Gators (3-0, 1-0) won their fifth straight in the series and set a school record with their 13th consecutive victory.
Florida started counting down the days for this one more than nine months ago, right after Lane Kiffin vowed to sing 'Rocky Top' all night long after being the Gators. Kiffin also riled up Florida with his false allegations of NCAA violations by Florida coach Urban Meyer.
The Gators downplayed Kiffin's comments publicly, but privately vowed to make him pay on the field.
Meyer and Kiffin exchanged a quick handshake when it ended. Meyer then spent more time with several Tennessee players, offering them congratulations on a game well played.
Tebow, return man Brandon James and the defense did most of the damage - no surprise, because all three have given the Vols fits the last three years.
Tebow completed 14 of 19 passes for 115 yards, and had two turnovers that Tennessee (1-2, 0-1) turned into 10 points. James returned three kickoffs for 97 yards, helping set up Florida's first 13 points. The defense harassed Jonathan Crompton and twice held the Vols to short field goals when they were in position for touchdowns.
Ahmad Black also intercepted Crompton on fourth down with about 2 minutes to play, ending Tennessee's last chance at knocking off the defending national champions.
The Gators didn't have a chance to run up the score like many thought they might. They didn't rub it in, either. In fact, the postgame celebration was about as conservative as the game plan.