May 27, 2024

Position group grades for the Vols’ 38-28 win over Florida

Despite an awful start to the game, Tennessee managed to come back and end its 11-game losing streak to Florida. With the two halves being vastly different, what overall grades did each position group receive for the game?

Tennessee's defensive line swarms Florida during the Vols' 38-28 win on Sept. 24, 2016.

Tennessee had a terrible first half against Florida on Saturday, resulting in an 18-point deficit at the break. However, the Vols were able to storm back and score 38 unanswered points, ending their 11-game losing streak to the Gators with a 38-28 win.

Quarterback

It was the biggest game of Josh Dobbs’ career at Tennessee, and he responded with a great performance. He threw for a career-high 319 yards and four touchdowns. He was not particularly efficient, though, completing only 16 of his 32 passes and throwing two interceptions. His receivers struggled to catch the ball, which made his passing numbers look worse than they could have. He also did some damage on the ground, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He had a rough start but on a night when the Vols needed a leader, he came through in a big way.

Grade: B+

Running backs

The offensive line let the running backs down in the first half — Jalen Hurd was hit within a few yards of the line of scrimmage nearly every time he touched the ball. As Hurd has shown time and time again, however, he was able to fight forward for positive yards the majority of the time. His 95 yards on 26 carries wasn’t particularly impressive, especially when 19 of those yards came on one carry late in the fourth quarter. Alvin Kamara only carried the ball twice, which continues the trend of the Vols utilizing his abilities inconsistently. Hurd also caught a 23-yard touchdown pass that brought the score to 21-10. The running game was not incredible, but it did the job and helped the team get a win.

Grade: C

Wide receivers and tight ends

The first half was downright abysmal for this group. A lack of pass protection made it difficult to pass downfield, but even when they were given chances, the receivers and tight ends didn’t make the most of it. There were five dropped passes in the first half, several of which would have been big gains. Just as it was for the rest of the team, however, the second half was a completely different story. No passes were dropped after halftime, and there were passing touchdowns of 23, 20, 67 and 42 yards. Jauan Jennings made a pair of incredible catches, including the 67-yard go-ahead touchdown, which he bobbled several times before securing the catch.

Grade: B-

Offensive line

Nowhere was the difference in performance between the two halves more evident than across the offensive line. During the first half, despite Chance Hall’s return, there was constant, unceasing pressure from Florida’s talented defensive line. The running backs were hit immediately and Dobbs had no time to pick out passes. In short, the offensive line’s struggles made the entire offense grind to a halt. As with everything else, though, things changed in the second. Suddenly, Dobbs had time to make passes longer than five yards. The successful passing unlocked the running game, and everything came together.

Grade: C

Defensive line

In the first half, the Vols might as well have played without a defensive line. There was virtually no pressure getting to Florida quarterback Austin Appleby, and all of the Gators running backs were able to pick up handfuls of yards before getting hit. Derek Barnett had both of the team’s sacks in the second half, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Appleby’s mobility allowed him to escape a number of sacks, but the pressure definitely affected his ability to throw the ball. During Tennessee’s 35-0 run in the second half, they outgained Florida 314 yards to -9. The entire defense deserves credit for that, but the defensive line in particular was incredible during that stretch.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin played a gutsy game — fighting a shoulder injury to take the field — but he missed large portions of the game. With Darrin Kirkland Jr. missing the game due to injury, backups Colton Jumper and Cortez McDowell suddenly became key members of the group. Though they are technically backups, the pair has seen a greater amount of time than the Vols would like, and that added experience paid off. The pair didn’t really stand out, but for backups pushed into a tough spot, that might be all a team really wants.

Grade: B+

Secondary

Senior cornerback Cam Sutton’s absence proved to be a huge blow for the Vols. Throughout the first half, Appleby was able to repeatedly torch his direct backup, Justin Martin. The deep completions helped Appleby get into a rhythm and begin to feel comfortable despite being in such a hostile atmosphere. When the defensive line managed to get pressure in the second half, however, the secondary held up much better. Florida star receiver Antonio Callaway dominated in the first half, with four receptions for 134 yards. He was held without a catch in the second half.

Grade: B-

Special teams

The lone bright spot for the Vols in the first half was punter Trevor Daniel. The team punted three times before the break, and Daniel managed to pin the Gators within their own 10-yard line each time. Kicker Aaron Medley was successful in his only appearance in the first half — he made a 28-yard field goal just before halftime. Daniel punted twice in the second half — the first was fair caught at the Florida 13-yard line and the second was caught just two yards from the Gators’ own end zone. Medley was a perfect five-for-five on extra points in the second half. Tennessee’s return game was solid, too. The only kick brought out of the end zone was a 43-yard return by Evan Berry. Alvin Kamara returned six punts for a total of 61 yards.

Grade: A+

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam

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Quinn is an assistant sports editor for TNJN and a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennesse. When he's not writing, he's probably doing something else. You can follow him on Twitter (@QuinnNotCook) or e-mail him at qpilkey@vols.utk.edu.