Danny Parker's thoughtsThe Tennessee defense held it up its side of the bargain in an attempt to take down rival Florida in front of a sellout, checkered crowd at Neyland Stadium.
Factoring in a lost fumble, two interceptions, an average of 3.4 yards per play and zero touchdowns, the Volunteers offense did not.
The loss reminds me of the 2005 version in which the Gators won 16-7. While this 10-9 loss was closer score-wise, it was another case of spectacular Big Orange defense being left hanging by an inept offense, which was rather surprising after the bright spots shown in hostile territory in both Athens and Norman.
While A.J. Johnson and Brian Randolph split 26 tackles evenly between them, Jalen Reeves-Maybin (nine tackles, one tackle for loss, interception) and Cameron Sutton (three pass break-ups, tackle for loss, interception) were both extremely impressive and bright spots to be counted upon the rest of the way this year and at least one more year.
The net rushing numbers were completely lopsided in Florida's favor, especially with quarterback Justin Worley being sacked six times and netting minus-45 yards. The stat rears its head year-in, year-out when these two face off. Florida ran it 48 times for 156. Tennessee attempted 29 rushes for a net of 28. Until the Vols can get back to playing their brand of football, which includes winning the line of scrimmage along the offensive front, this team won't turn the corner.
Major issues on the defensive side have already been addressed with the 2015 recruiting class. The same can't be said for the offensive end. Venzell Boulware and Jack Jones figure to be nice players as guards on The Hill. Chance Hall could be nice once he's able to walk and play, again. What's missing? A Chad Clifton or Arron Sears type of tackle that takes away even the most elite pass rushers and drives people backward when you absolutely have to run the ball.
Tip of the hat to Aaron Medley. In a tight game with an entire Vol Nation depending on him, the Lewisburg native owned up to the situations and nailed all three field goal attempts. Backed up at its own 22, needing a Colquitt-esque punt following a three-and-out, fifth-year senior Matt Darr's boot went just 35 yards. Tennessee must flip the field in that spot. Tommy Townsend was in attendance as a committed punter set to arrive in the summer. Vols fans will want to hope he can be the leg to get the job done in similar spots down the road.
Heart-breaking loss for Tennessee. Big Orange Country did its job and then some with the purchasing of every expensive ticket, checkering the insides in beautiful fashion and being rowdy when it must. But, they must fight traffic now knowing that arguably the top rival just got their boys for the 10th time in a row in spite of having one of the Gators' worst teams this century.
Defense — A-
Special teams —C
Randy Moore's thoughts
A crowd of 102,455 showed up to watch Saturday’s Tennessee-Florida game. If Tennessee’s offense had shown up, as well, the Vols would’ve ended the Gators’ series winning streak at nine games. As it was, a strong defensive performance was wasted as Florida turned a 0-9 fourth-quarter deficit into a 10-9 victory. Tennessee’s attack was utterly inept against a Gator defense that was shredded for 645 yards in a 42-21 loss to Alabama last time out. The Vols managed just 28 yards on 29 rushing attempts, finishing the afternoon with 233 total yards and zero touchdowns. If not for field goals of 36, 38 and 39 yards by freshman Aaron Medley Tennessee would’ve been shut out.
Frankly, this was the worst I’ve seen a Vol offense perform since Dave Clawson left town following the 2008 season. Tennessee surrendered six sacks, most a critical times. When Justin Worley wasn’t lying on his back he completed 26 of 39 passes for 205 yards. Alton Howard caught six of the completions for 79 yards … and this concludes the positive portion of today’s program. The run game saw Jalen Hurd carry 10 times for 39 yards, Marlin Lane 10 times for 23 yards. So, even if you ignore the lost yardage due to sacks the rushers averaged a paltry 3.0 yards per carry.
Florida won’t make anyone forget the Seattle Seahawks offensively but I give Tennessee’s defense a lot of credit for allowing a mere 232 total yards. Quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris combined to complete just 13 of 27 passes for 76 yards. Cam Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Todd Kelly registered interceptions for the Vols.
I thought Tennessee’s special-teams play was good enough to win, as well. As previously noted, Medley was 3 for 3 on field goals, ranging from 36 to 39 yards. Matt Darr averaged 40.5 yards per punt and the coverage units were solid – allowing zero punt returns and 21.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
If the offense had shown up Big Orange Country would be celebrating the end of The Streak instead of bemoaning yet another discouraging loss to Florida.
Defense — A-
Special teams —B
Josh Woodward's thoughts
You could feel it in the crowd as the game went on, the doubt of 9 years creeping back in. This is one of the worst offensive performances I have seen from two SEC teams in a long time. Both stunk, Florida got the spark when changing quarterbacks.
Offensively this team took some steps back against Florida, which to me wasn't as good as Georgia. The offensive line continues to struggle and this is something that we will continue to see all year. It seemed to me that the offense was playing with to much pressure on their backs. This game was built up so much that when things didn't go right they went into a shell.
Defensively, Tennessee is one good pass rusher from being a great defense. Any time you hold an SEC team to ten points you should win. Florida had a good game plan with the quarterback runs, but at the end of the day Tennessee on defense did what it had to do to win. I will add that Cameron Sutton is stud and you will see quarterbacks in games in the future not throwing his way.
Aaron Medley was the MVP of the game today for me, the Lewisburg native was 3-3 on field goals an is kicking with a lot of confidence. IF Tennessee hadn't turned the ball over on that last interception he was likely going to get a shot to win it for the Vols. I would still put someone besides Devrin Young deep on kick offs, I think they need more speed there. Matt Darr had a spectacular day with his punting with a 43 yard average on eight punts.
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