KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Gator fans have spent the better part of September wondering if junior LB David Reese ever would get on the field.
They spent the better part of Saturday hoping he'd never come off.
Reese, whose 2018 debut was postponed by a high-ankle sprain, started and made an immediate impact. By halftime, he had five tackles (including half a tackle for loss) and a fumble recovery.
He finished with a game-high 11 tackles.
"He's a really good leader, one of the biggest leaders on our team," QB Feleipe Franks said. "Having him back out there I think brings a spark to the defense."
On the Vols' fifth offensive play of the night, Reese scooped up a Jarrett Guarantano fumble, caused by a devastating Jachai Polite hit, at the Tennessee 22 to set up Florida's first touchdown.
The appearance was Reese's first since his 14-tackle effort against FSU last year. He now has eight career games of double-digit tackles.
"I'll watch on film with him, but I do think it was (huge getting him back)," Coach Dan Mullen said. "I think we're starting to get a little bit more physical. Those guys are getting harder, they're growing up, they're getting tougher."
Another Swain sighting
A week after his 85-yard touchdown on a punt return, junior wideout Freddie Swain delivered an encore of sorts.
Swain snagged a Feleipe Franks rollout pass near midfield, dodged a pair of defenders, then dashed down the right side for a 65-yard touchdown to give Florida a 23-3 first-half lead.
"I think it was just a good job by Freddie just getting open," Franks said.
"We talk all the time about just scramble rules, when I roll out to the right just kind of working with me, whether you're taking a deeper angle or shorter angle coming back toward me…just a really great job by Freddie trying to find the open lane."
For those keeping track, that gave Swain three touchdowns (two receiving, one return) in a five-quarter span. He finished with two catches for 88 yards.
Shy of a sellout
A Knoxville-based sports radio station reported earlier this week Florida took only 2,600 of potential 7,500 visiting tickets for Saturday's game, but UF officials said that figure is misleading.
Though 7,500 were available, UF spokesman Steve McClain said the school requested only 2,600 or so — at a cost of $105 each — earlier this summer.
The Gators contingent (and band) formed a modest pocket of blue in the lower level's northeast corner.
Elsewhere, the south side's upper bowl featured some barren patches. The announced attendance was 100,027, a couple thousand shy of capacity (102,455).
Odds and ends
The Gators' 47 points were the most they've ever scored in Knoxville. … With six takeaways, Florida increased its season turnover margin to plus-10. Entering the weekend, only Kansas (plus-12) had a margin of plus-nine or better. … Franks' 1-yard scoring toss to tight end R.J. Raymond early in the first quarter was the first touchdown allowed by Tennessee at home in eight-plus quarters this season. … Franks had two scoring passes in the first half Saturday, giving him 11 on the season. He had nine in all of 2017. … Credit running back Lamical Perine with the onside-kick recovery following Tennessee's first-half field goal. "It was actually really well-executed by them, (Perine) just made a great play," Mullen said.