Tennessee took over down 28-27 to Florida in Gainesville last September at its own 32-yard line with 1 minute, 21 seconds to play and two timeouts remaining.
Ethan Wolf runs a square-in, shows great concentration and catches a pass from Joshua Dobbs that was deflected by Von Pearson. Wolf’s knee hits the ground with 1:17 showing, however, referees don’t immediately stop the clock on the first down. Someone on Tennessee’s sideline should have had an aneurism while making sure the clock came to a halt. Precious seconds ticked away. It’s 10 seconds before the signal is given to stop the clock and another tick before it actually does.
Nevertheless, Tennessee gets time to get re-aligned and coming off a productive Down 1.
Coleman Thomas snaps the ball for the second time of the series at 56 seconds. However, before doing so, fifth-year senior Kyler Kerbyson rocks back in his stance, causing the Vols to lose 5 yards and to keep the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd energized. Net-wise, Tennessee has gone 5 yards in 25 seconds. Not good.
The clock stops to reset the line of scrimmage with the penalty. Butch Jones uses one of his two remaining timeouts.
The following playcall by offensive coordinator Mike DeBord gives the Vols exactly what they want and that’s a complete mismatch with Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis sprinting to cover Alvin Kamara. Davis is both late to the assignment and Kamara quickly creates 5 yards of separation. Dobbs makes the right read and hits Kamara on the rail route. Kamara cradles in the pass and his knee hits in Florida territory inside its 45-yard line and with 52 seconds showing. It’s a gain of 19 yards.
The first down stops the clock but it’s another 12 seconds before Tennessee gets a play off. That cannot happen. The gift of college offenses running 2-minute is the stoppage on first downs. That’s enough time to get the playcall, which should be half-known already through practice reps and situational scrimmage work, especially just one play after a timeout.
On first down, Dobbs doesn't have anywhere to go with the football, athletically steps out of a sack, flees the pocket but Gators defensive back Marcus Maye punches the football free for Dobbs' third fumble of the afternoon. The football hits out of bounds with 31 seconds showing. Referees spot it where the fumble occurred but the Vols don’t snap it on second-and-two until the 17-second mark. That’s a precious 14 seconds. Ordinarily that would be an excusable amount of time to get lined back up without a stoppage but officials blew the clock dead at 29 seconds for the spot. Tennessee had several seconds to get a call, get lined up and be ready for the clock to be wound.
At the Florida 36, Wolf catches a quick hitch from Dobbs for the first down and is tackled in bounds with 12 seconds showing. Wolf needs to be more athletic and get to the sideline before being tackled. Clock stops at 10 seconds.
Back-up tight end Joe Stocstill runs onto the field just before Dobbs calls for the snap. Illegal substitution. Tennessee has to use its final timeout to avoid a game-ending 10-second run-off. Instead of having enough time to run another play, the Vols are forced to send out their field-goal unit and lose another 5 yards.
To make Stocstill’s decision that much worse, Dobbs couldn’t ground the ball because he saw Stocstill come onto the field. An official also had to step in to prevent the snap because of the potential substitution. Again, invaluable seconds ticked away in spite of being afforded a stoppage. That means the pass to Wolf was the final advancement.
If Tennessee is to get over another hump and return to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference championship for a sixth time, it must learn from the mistakes in Gainesville. Getting off two plays in roughly 40 seconds cannot happen.
A four-year starter at quarterback being part of nine returning offensive starters and all but one offensive coach returning from a season ago should aid in lessening mistakes.
Tennessee kicks off against Appalachian State at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville in 40 days at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.