IT's Take: Deciphering Vols' rally vs. Gators

InsideTennessee staff members offer up grades and opinions on how No. 14 Tennessee looked versus No. 19 Florida on Saturday.

Danny Parker's Take

Trailing by three touchdowns. Missing half the team captains. Expectation-laden fan base losing its temper.

Tennessee coaches and players brushed it all off, attacked Florida one snap at a time, completed a comeback that was tied for third largest in the 120-year history of the program and rejoiced with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band in a frenzied Neyland Stadium with a 38-28 victory.

All that was with MIKE linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. playing zero snaps, cornerback/punt returner Cameron Sutton playing zero snaps and All-SEC WILL linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin playing maybe 10 snaps.

“A lot of defenses can’t recover from that, and they recovered,” Butch Jones said.

Predicted Tennessee to win before the game, during the second quarter and at halftime. It just seemed apparent that the Vols had the better football team, plain and simple. It also was uncanny how much the game resembled the 21-point rally versus Georgia last year where the Orange & White moved the ball rather well but just needed to clean up mistakes in order to take off. Once Jones’ guys did that on both afternoons, they lit up the scoreboard and shut down the opposing offenses.

We still haven’t seen Team 120 play a complete four quarters of complimentary football. So, there’s plenty left in the tank.

Program “CEO” Joshua Dobbs showed his worth and, like Jones, shut up a lot of people. No, he’s not going to light up the skies week-in and week-out but he personally sets up windows in the passing game with the threat of his legs. For the third time in his orange career, Dobbs threw for over 300 yards. He also added a net of 80 rushing yards versus the team that entered as the second-best run defense in the United States of America, allowing 42.3 yards per game in the Gators’ 3-0 start.

Junior offensive lineman Coleman Thomas took on a ton of heat from naysayers for his performance in recent weeks. What many didn’t realize is that he was playing with not one, but two jacked up ankles. On top of that he was playing out of position, moving from center to tackle, for the betterment of the team. Thomas got a well-deserved game off as sophomore Chance Hall quickly came back from a minor knee surgery. Florida was No. 1 in the nation in sacks (16) but Don Mahoney’s group — paired with Dobbs’ athleticism — allowed just one sack.

Jauan Jennings picked a solid afternoon to have a breakout performance with a pair of acrobatic grabs and a 67-yard juggling touchdown catch that put Tennessee ahead. He totaled 111 receiving yards.

Josh Malone showed a burst on his 42-yard TD reception from Dobbs on a key third down that we’ve been waiting to see from him since deeming him a three-and-done type of wideout when the Vols held off Clemson and Georgia to keep him in state.

Derek Barnett was a manimal from his defensive end spot for the Vols, registering a pair of sacks and is now fifth all-time in that stat for Tennessee. He wasn’t alone up front. Fifth-year senior Danny O’Brien made a key play seemingly behind the line of scrimmage and then had to leave the field with a bad wing that looked like a separated shoulder. To his credit, O’Brien returned later. Gamer.

The start of Florida’s second half: punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt.

Vols linebacker Colton Jumper deserves some props, filling in for Kirkland and playing solid football, including an impressive pass break-up in the end zone that would have been six otherwise.

Tennessee punter Trevor Daniel had a day, averaging 43.2 yards per punt, which isn’t just sexy, but all five of his boots left the Gators backed up inside their own 20. Can’t ask for anything more.

Florida’s kickoff and punt return yielded a total of 14 yards. Credit Daniel and Aaron Medley as well as coverage teams.

For those that can’t stand the thought of an alternate uniform (or checkered stadium), Tennessee has now overcome deficits totaling 42 points in rivalry wins over Georgia last year and Florida this year.

Once saw video of a coach explaining to his team that it’s the trademark of his program to go out, dominate the man across from you and make his ass quit.

On Saturday, Tennessee made Florida quit.

Grades

Offense: A

Defense: B-

Special teams: A-

Scott Hall's Take

Anyone that says they can accurately explain what just happened in Neyland Stadium is mistaken.

There is no way to explain how a team can go from trailing 21-0 and completely having their manhood taken from them to a team that looked like a serious contender for the College Football Playoff, winning 38-28 over Florida in a matter of a halftime break.

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs simply put his team on his back after a rough first half and the group of players receiving those passes wouldn't be denied after playing poorly in the first half.

Butch Jones uses the word resiliency a lot but that is certainly the word to describe the performance by the Vols.

Tennessee sophomore Jauan Jennings came up large even before the 67-yard TD and is emerging as a nice compliment to Josh Malone, who is becoming a star in the SEC. Ethan Wolf made an outstanding grab that seemed to really jump-start the team and crowd with the 20-yard touchdown to cut the Florida lead to 21-17.

Defensively it was another game where Bob Shoop made exceptional adjustments after a slow start. Colton Jumper showed his value and led the team in tackles and in many other ways.

This victory can certainly be described as a team win with so many injuries, especially on defense. Jalen Reeves Maybin wasn't able to play much at all nursing the shoulder injury and the Volunteer defense kept its eyes on the prize and kept making plays without so many key pieces.

Grades

Offense: A-

Defense: C

Special teams: B


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