For Billy Napier, it was one of the biggest wins of his short tenure in Gainesville. It was also one of the most impressive atmospheres in over the last year-plus.
More than 90,700 fans filled the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to watch Florida contain Tennessee’s high-powered offense en route to the 29-16 victory. Two days later, during his weekly press conference, Napier made sure to give them the credit they deserve for making it a tough environment for the Volunteers.
“Got to start off by thanking — just a really unique experience in The Swamp Saturday night, relative to our fans,” Napier said Monday. “They put on a show for the entire country to see. And it impacted our team. Brought a lot of energy to our players, created momentum in the game and certainly made it very difficult for Tennessee. Caused procedure penalties, ultimately they were a part of the plan and certainly did their part. So can’t compliment them enough.”
Billy Napier on the environment vs. Tennessee: That’s what Florida football can be
Florida has now beaten two top-15 teams on its home turf since Napier took over. Last year, the Gators defeated then-No. 7 Utah in Gainesville in Napier’s memorable debut. But last week’s game against Tennessee was different. The fans were loud and made their presence known throughout the night, and Napier heard about it afterward from a few people.
As he continues to build the program, he saw Saturday’s atmosphere as one he’s striving for over the next few years.
“When you get texts from people that have been around here for a long time and they tell you that’s the best it’s been in 15 years, I think you’re probably doing something right,” Napier said. “So our fan base was incredible. That’s what the University of Florida football can be. We need to do that more consistently. Certainly, as a staff and as a team, we can do our part.”
After dropping this year’s opener to Utah on the road, Florida now finds itself with a 2-1 record heading into this week’s matchup with Charlotte to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Gators will then kick off SEC play Sept. 30 with a road matchup against Kentucky as they look to build momentum after the victory over Tennessee last week.