This one hurt.
Tennessee had everything in their favor with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. The Vols had momentum, possession of the ball and were clinging to a nine-point lead with just over fifteen minutes to play – the streak was in serious trouble.
Then it happened…again.
Justin Worley fumbled the ball while being sacked and Florida was able to ride the legs of their backup quarterback to a another win over the Vols. The broken record for Tennessee continued skipping on the same tune for the tenth straight year.
While it is hard to find many positives from this game, there are some things that stood out amidst one of the toughest losses in recent memory that are worth mentioning. We will have all week to hash out what went wrong in this one, so these five observations will be focused on the positives.
Checker Neyland: After only a week of promotion, Vol Nation pulled off one of the coolest in-stadium fan experiences that the country has ever seen. Checker Neyland was executed flawlessly and looked remarkable given the short turnaround. It is unfortunate that such an outstanding atmosphere will forever be tainted by the outcome of today’s game, but that shouldn’t negate what was an incredible showing by Tennessee fans in this one..
#23: It seems like I write about him every week, but here it is again. Cam Sutton may truly be the best cornerback in the SEC. He added another interception today and was probably a combined four inches away from adding two more. He was solid in run-support and again locked down his side of the field when Florida chose to pass. He did muff a punt, but was able to recover it with little trouble. There simply is nobody playing better football for this team right now than Cam Sutton. Through five games he has played near-perfect football for the Vols and today may have been his best performance yet.
Defense: This defense has improved each and every week and I thought they had another excellent gameplan today. They took away Florida’s ability to pass the football and made the Gators one-dimensional for most of the afternoon. If not for a Justin Worley turnover that gave Florida the ball deep in Vol territory, Tennessee probably wins this game. The defense played well enough to win, surrendering an exceptional 232 yards on 75 plays and only allowing 10 points – three of which were questionable at best. Florida should have been penalized for a delay of game on their field goal, which was made from 49-yards out, but the referees didn’t see that the play clock had expired. Florida may have elected to punt had the penalty been enforced, but at the very least would have been forced to retry the kick after a five-yard penalty.
Aaron Medley: The freshman kicker from Lewisburg, Tennessee was flawless today. His kickoffs were perfectly placed near the sideline and he went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts. Medley is now 8-for 10 on field goal attempts this year and didn’t show any “freshman-nerves” in today’s game whatsoever. Tennessee fans everywhere would have loved to see the Vols work the ball into field goal range on that final drive to give Medley the shot at his fourth attempt of the day, but even in the loss Medley proved that he can make kicks in pressure situations. Medley is going to be a good one.
The Future: Over 150 recruits were on campus today to witness college football pageantry at its finest. The atmosphere of today’s game was absolutely electric and recruit responses are already trickling in about how impressed they were by the overall environment today. A win may have helped, but this weekend will ultimately go down as a success from a recruiting standpoint regardless of the final score. It doesn’t take away the sting of defeat, but the talent that Tennessee brought to campus this weekend is the type that can win these games in the future.