The Tennessee Volunteers played absolutely terrible in the first half of their comeback victory against the Florida Gators on Saturday. But as bad as their first half was, their second half performance was the exact opposite and a lot more. The Vols went in to halftime trailing the Gators 21-3 and the Volunteer faithful had all but written off the game as another disappointing loss. But Butch Jones and company were far from finished as his team went on a 38-point run. And several people deserve credit for their role in ending the streak. Here are our game balls for Tennessee’s big win against the Gators.
Game Ball: Derek Barnett
Let’s just start this off by saying no one is getting a game ball based on their performance in the first half. No one really had a great first half so these awards are going to somewhat ignore the first 30 minutes of play. That being said, we have to start with Derek Barnett. The defense came out in the second half on fire and Barnett led the way. He played like a man possessed, specifically in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with three tackles for loss including two sacks and a pass breakup. He consistently found himself in the backfield forcing Austin Appleby out of the pocket and made it very difficult for the Gators to get anything going on offense.
Game Ball: Colton Jumper
Am I the only one who calls Colton Jumper the Ginger Ninja? Look, I know the guy has been harped on. But the fact of the matter is, Jumper was a leader and anything but a liability on defense against the Gators. He finished the game with just four tackles and a pass breakup but don’t let the low numbers fool you. He was part of the reason this defense was so successful. He made sure his teammates were lined up properly, sometimes forcefully, and had one of the best hits of the season on top of it all. Kudos Ginger Ninja.
Game Ball: Chance Hall
Boy did the Vols offensive line miss this guy. Florida came in to the game as the nation’s sack leader but were held to just one with Hall back in the line up after returning from an injury. There was also clear progress made in the overall amount of pressure allowed by the offensive line with Hall in the game. Obviously he only plays one position, but he clearly solidifies the offensive line. With him and Jack Jones holding down the right side of the line, Tennessee may have finally found their “best five” as the coaching staff always says.
Game Ball: Jauan Jennings
Jennings became Tennessee’s first 100-yard receiver in nearly a year after the sophomore finished with three catches for 111 yards and a touchdown, including a 67-yard bomb, beating Florida’s All-American cornerback Jalen Tabor for the go-ahead score. In fact, all three of Jennings’ receptions were huge as he made a clutch catch on 4th down to keep a drive alive as well as a top-10 worthy snag reaching behind his defender’s back. I wonder if he still wants to play quarterback?
As I already tweeted out, Trevor Daniel is the unsung hero of this game. He flipped the field several times for his defense, with all five of his punts landing inside the Florida 20, including a couple inside the 10. Florida’s offense had a total of 14 possessions and only made it across midfield five times with four of those drives ending in touchdowns and the other drive only getting to Tennessee’s 48. In other words, Florida’s offense never had short field to work with and Daniel is the one who deserves credit for it.
Game Ball and MVP: Josh Dobbs
What else can be said about Josh Dobbs? He isn’t always the most accurate passer, and he doesn’t always make the right read. But I’ll tell you one thing. That kid gives his all for Tennessee every time he steps on the field. Against the best statistical defense in the country, Dobbs was 16 of 32 with 319 yards passing and four touchdowns and would have had even better numbers if not for a handful of dropped passes. He did throw two costly interceptions, but more than made up for it with 80 yards rushing and another touchdown. Dobbs’ 399 total yards were 10 more than Florida had allowed to all three of their previous three opponents combined. You want your quarterback to show up in big games, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday night.