11 Florida downs Tennessee 38-14 in the Swamp.

By Paul Leatherman

Tiyon Evans
Tiyon Evans making his way through defenders.

As many fans may have expected, the Florida Gators took care of business Saturday night in the swamp. However, the score of this game does not depict the effort and intensity that the Vols played with. Furthermore, the Vols actually had a 14-10 lead in the 2nd quarter with the ball. So what happened? Well, it’s a lot to unpack.

The depth problems

Tennessee has the 1st string talent to play with any of the top 25 teams night in and night out, but the Vols do not have the depth to bring in when their best players get exhausted. The Vols only trailed the Gators 17-14 in the swamp and were nearly tied if K Chase McGrath connects on his 39-yard field goal as the first half expired. However, the second half saw the boys in orange outscored 21-0. Now you have to give credit where it is due and tip your cap to Florida, but the Vols lack of depth on offense and defense killed them when Florida continued to repeatedly run the football. This lack of depth caused mental errors as well as physically not being able to make certain plays due to exhaustion. Safe to say, if Tennessee had just a little bit more depth on both sides. I think we are looking at a completely different ball game.

Penalties….. AGAIN

Now, coach Heupel talked all week long about playing a clean game and not shooting yourself in the foot, but it did not look like his team received the same message. Tennessee committed ten penalties for a total of eighty-five yards. On paper this doesn’t look like much, but the times these penalties came were costly for the Vols. Tennessee gave Florida two free first downs on 3rd and short situations for jumping before the snap. On both drives the Gators were able to capitalize and score touchdowns showing just how crucial discipline is to a football team. A clean game is all Vol fans can ask for when playing teams like Florida, Alabama and so on. These aren’t games you necessarily should win, but when your in the game and lose the momentum because of self-inflicted penalties and mistakes. It is extremely frustrating to everyone involved. Moving forward, the Vols are going to have to fix these mistakes as SEC play is just getting underway.

Positives:

Alontae Taylor celebrates after forcing a Florida fumble

On paper the Vols got beat down pretty bad 38-14. Anytime you lose to a rival by 20+ points there is always going to be many negatives. However, Tennessee showed strides being made game by game that we haven’t seen from a Tennessee team in quite sometime. Offensively in the first half, Tennessee hit on the deep balls that they had been missing in the previous weeks. Also, it looks like Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker has emerged as QB1 for the Vols and has eliminated both Joe Millton and Harrison Bailey (if were being honest, he wasn’t really in the race) from contention at taking the spot. Hooker couldn’t get it going in the passing game, but the red-shirt Senior completed 13 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 75-yard bomb to Javonta Payton mid-way through the second quarter. Running back Tiyon Evans also took a screen pass 47 yards to the end-zone to respond to an early touchdown drive from the Gators. Defensively, the Vols held the Gators to 17 points in the first half and Senior CB Alontae Taylor forced a fumble with just over a minute to stop Florida from extending their lead to double digits before the half.

All in all, the Vols played the first half like they were there to win. Big drops on crucial plays and lack of depth killed Tennessee’s chances of pulling off the upset on the road. Tennessee falls to 2-2 and 0-1 in SEC play. The Vols head to Missouri in what will be a crucial game for Heupel and company. This game is very winnable and can add a boost of confidence for the Vols moving forward in SEC play.

Published by

Paul Leatherman 🍊

Writer for the Vols

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