Down 18, Tennessee needed more than just a spark in the second half against Florida.
The Vols needed a fire.
Derek Barnett lit the flame.
The junior from Nashville recorded two sacks in the second half. He hurried the quarterback twice and broke up one pass as well. Barnett attributed the defense’s success to discipline.
“We just came into halftime, rallied together and started playing more disciplined football,” Barnett said.
That disciplined football caused five three-and-outs and a pick on Florida’s first six drives of the second half. Barnett makes it sound simple. But if you ask his coaches, what he did in the second half was extraordinary.
His stats were impressive, but Barnett’s impact on the players around him was pivotal, according to Butch Jones.
“I thought Derek Barnett took the game over,” Jones said. “I thought Derek Barnett was outstanding in his leadership and his energy that he brought to our sideline and to the defense. I thought our entire football team fed off of him.”
Tennessee’s defense was dominant early in the second half. The Vols allowed six yards of offense in the third.
Florida coach Jim McElwain didn’t mention Barnett by name, but mentioned how Tennessee’s pass rush changed the Gators’ game plan.
“With the way they had flipped the field on us, we were a little nervous with pass protection,” McElwain said. “They have a couple of guys off the edges who are pretty good.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said Barnett took over the game.
“It was just Derek saying, ‘Climb on my back, I got this,'” Shoop told Fox Sports. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a player take over a game quite like he did.”
As Tennessee approaches three difficult games in its SEC schedule, the Vols will need Barnett to continue his dominant play.