Notebook: Silver linings

Former Tennessee football coach John Majors likes to say, "Things are never as good as they seem on your best day and never as bad as they seem on your worst day."

Those are words to live by as Vol fans bemoan yet another disappointing loss to the Florida Gators. The Swamp Swine have won seven meetings in a row and 16 of 22 since the SEC rivals began playing annually in 1990, with each loss seeming to grate on Big Orange nerves more than the one before.

So, here are some positives to be taken from Saturday's 33-23 setback at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium:

- Tennessee's defense did a magnificent job of keeping the Vols in the game during the second quarter. Already leading 10-0, Florida took over at the Vol 13-yard line after blocking a Michael Palardy punt. Three plays produced zero yards, however, and the Gators settled for a 30-yard field goal and a 13-0 lead. Florida's next possession began at the Vol 34-yard line. Four plays netted just six yards, however, and the Gators settled for another field goal and a 16-0 lead. Florida's next possession began at the Vol 47-yard line but resulted in one net yard and a punt. The Gators' final possession of the quarter netted just six yards. Bottom line: After allowing 148 yards on 21 plays in the first quarter, the Vols allowed just 13 yards on 14 snaps in the second ... and at a time when the hosts were threatening to put the game out of reach.

- Matt Darr, whose longest punt in Games 1 and 2 covered 37 yards, finally showed the leg strength in Game 3 that made him the top-ranked punting prospect in America two years ago. After opening with a 37-yarder, the redshirt freshman boomed a 52-yarder and a 43-yarder, with the latter resulting in a fair catch.

- Tyler Bray did a good job of spreading the ball around, completing passes to nine players ... eight in the first half alone. Three Vol wideouts recorded their first career catch on Saturday. Freshman DeAnthony Arnett finished with 59 yards on eight grabs. Fellow freshman Vincent Dallas and sophomore Matt Milton recorded one reception each.

- Tight end Mychal Rivera is coming on strong. On the heels of a six-catch, 54-yard performance in Game 2 vs. Cincinnati, he followed up with a five-catch, 71-yard effort at Florida. The 6-3, 254-pound junior has posted career highs for receptions and yards the past two weekends.


Despite losing go-to receiver Justin Hunter on Tennessee's first series, Tyler Bray extended two passing streaks. He finished with three touchdown passes, giving him nine games in a row with multiple-TD throws. Moreover, Bray is the only active SEC quarterback who has thrown at least one TD pass nine games in a row.


Counting sack yardage, Tennessee finished with minus-9 net rushing yards on 21 attempts. The Vols also finished with a negative rushing total in 2006, when they produced minus-11 yards in a 21-20 loss to Florida at Neyland Stadium.


Linebackers Austin and A.J. Johnson led Tennessee with seven tackles each. A.J., a true freshman, also got credit for a fumble caused and a fumble recovery. Austin, a senior was credited with one tackle for loss.


Florida won the pre-game coin toss Saturday, elected to receive and promptly drove 80 yards to a touchdown. Tennessee now has lost the coin toss in two of three games this season and stands 3-13 in that endeavor under Derek Dooley.


Sophomore Marlon Walls made his first career start at defensive end vs. the Gators, stepping in for gimpy senior Ben Martin (ankle sprain). Senior Art Evans, a Florida native from Lakeland, made his first start of the year at cornerback. He started 12 games in 2009 and six in 2010.

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