Saturday’s loss in Gainesville continued an 11-game losing streak for the Tennessee Volunteers against the Florida Gators and marked the fifth time the Vols have blown a fourth-quarter lead under head coach Butch Jones.
Tennessee’s defense simply couldn’t get off the field on fourth down and the offense became stagnant after going up 13, which allowed Florida to take a one-point lead with under a minute remaining. The Vols had a chance to save face on the last possession, but a 55-yard miss by kicker Aaron Medley ended any hope of ending the streak.
Here are a few takeaways from the Vols’ SEC-opening loss:
The passing game is non-existent.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs finished the game as Tennessee’s leading passer, rusher and receiver, but the passing game was absent in the second half. Dobbs, who was once considered a Hesiman candidate before the season, only completed passes to two wide receivers for a total of seven yards. As a program that defines itself as ‘Wide Receiver U’, the Vols need to air it out more to their play makers on the edge and in the slot. Tennessee’s running game success should have set up the play action, but the Vols only finished the game with 165 yard passing with 82 of those yards coming from Alvin Kamara and Jauan Jennings on trick plays.
Jones’ decision making is questionable.
There are some ‘fans’ wanting Jones to be fired for his coaching decisions in not only this game, but in years previous as well. After going ahead, 26-14, in Saturday’s game, Jones elected to kick the extra point to go up 13 instead of going for the two-point conversion to put his team up an even two touchdowns. The play calling on both sides of the ball got conservative after this point in the game. On offense, Jones elected to chew the clock, which led to a three-and-out, giving the Gators the opportunity to win the game with their two-minute offense. On defense, the Vols gave the Florida receivers cushion room off the line of scrimmage all game. This was highlighted on the Gators’ last possession as they drove 59 yards with the Vols giving up a 63-yard touchdown on fourth down. The Vols defense didn’t rush the Gators’ quarterback at the appropriate times, as they blitzed only three men on all the fourth downs in the fourth quarter.
The Vols don’t know how to win… yet.
As mentioned earlier, this is the fifth time the Vols have blown a fourth-quarter lead since 2013 and it is the second fourth-quarter collapse in as many years to the Gators. Whether it is play calling or execution, the Vols simply have to be better and this rests on the shoulders of Jones. Will Grier was a perfect five-for-five on fourth down, with three of those conversions coming in the fourth quarter. If the Vols had made at least one of those stops, it would have been a different ball game.
Though the loss hurts on Rocky Top, it doesn’t define the season for Team 119. If they can learn how to close football games, improve upon coaching decisions and get ‘WRU’ involved in the offense again, they can still have a chance to play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
Edited by Cody McClure