It started out bad, and it never got any better.
The Vols fell 47-21 to Florida in front of a shocked Neyland Stadium crowd of over 100,000 fans. Tennessee fell behind 14-0 before finally connecting on a field goal to get on the board, but they would trail 26-3 at halftime.
And that’s all the Gators needed.
The Vols turned the ball over six times and gave up a safety in this contest, and that sloppy play spoiled what was actually a decent effort defensively in this ball game. Tennessee’s offense gave Florida a short field several times in the game, and they capitalized just about every time.
For the first time since 2007, the Gators put up 40 or more points on the Vols in a game. Florida dominated Tennessee 59-20 in their 2007 match-up, and that’s the last time the Gators put up over 40 points on Tennessee.
Jeremy Pruitt starts off SEC play 0-1 as a head coach, and it only gets tougher moving forward with a trip to Athens looming next week.
Here are our five takeaways from the Vols’ 47-21 loss to Florida.
Another Bad Opening Quarter
Tennessee hasn’t had a good first quarter to start this season. And that continued on Saturday against the Gators.
The Vols turned the ball over on their first two possessions on offense, and Florida scored touchdowns on the ensuing possession both times. Tennessee’s only other offensive possession in the first quarter ended after they went for it on fourth down and couldn’t convert.
Florida only had to go 22 yards and seven yards for their two scoring drives in the first quarter. Tennessee went scoreless in the first half despite out-gaining the Gators 64 yards to 61. Jarrett Guarantano was nailed and fumbled it for the first turnover, and then he threw an interception on a screen pass on the second.
But the Second One Was Worse
As bad as the first quarter was for the Vols, the second was actually much, much worse.
Tennessee found a way to score early in the second quarter, but that’s the only thing that went right for them. The Vols gave the ball away two more times and also allowed Florida to stop them for a safety to take a 26-3 lead into the half.
The Vols were pinned back at their own two with 11:37 to go in the second quarter, and on the second play of the drive, CeCe Jefferson and Adam Shuler stopped Tim Jordan in the end zone for a safety. On Florida’s very next offensive possession, Feleipe Franks completed a pass to Freddie Swain for a good gain, then Swain broke a tackle and raced all the way down the field for a 65-yard score.
And just like that, the Gators led 23-3.
On the next possession for the Vols, Jeremy Pruitt elected to go for it on 4th and short, and a perfect play call had tight end Austin Pope wide open along the sideline. He caught the pass by Guarantano and ran down the field. He dove for the end zone inside the five, but the ball flew out of his hands as he was trying to cross the goal line, and it went out of the back of the end zone.
That was ruled a touchback, and an almost touchdown suddenly became Florida’s possession.
Keller Chryst would be responsible for the next turnover in the second quarter. He had to come in after Jarrett Guarantano took a huge hit, and his second play on that series was a fumbled snap that Florida recovered.
Any Bright Spots?
Instead of pointing out the negatives over and over again for this game, let’s look at some things that were positive:
Ty Chandler and Madre London both looked effective as runners, and Tennessee’s pass rush actually looked better tonight than it did all season up to this point. Jauan Jennings got involved in the passing game more tonight and looked solid. In the grand scheme of things in the game, none of those points mattered, but at least there were a few positives in an otherwise disastrous night.
Nobody to Blame But Themselves
Though the Vols made some big plays on offense and stopped Florida consistently on third down on defense, turnovers and mental errors cost the Vols big time.
Tennessee could get away with those types of mistakes against teams like ETSU and UTEP, but against Florida, the Vols were blasted for the miscues they made. The Vols turned the ball over six times, and the Gators scored 24 points off those six giveaways. Tennessee also had five penalties for 51 yards in the game. Even head coach Jeremy Pruitt got called for a penalty, as he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter for yelling at the referees.
The Vols turned the ball over three times on third down and once on fourth. So not only did the they turn it over, but they did so on the most important downs of the game as well.
And it Only Gets Worse
If you think tonight was bad, we have some bad news for you: It’s probably only going to get worse.
At the risk of sounding too doom and gloom, tonight was probably the best chance the Vols had at winning a football game for the next month. Tennessee has to go on the road to face Georgia next week before their bye week. Then they go on the road to Auburn, host Alabama, and face South Carolina on the road after the Gamecocks are coming off a bye week.
It might get worse before it gets any better for Tennessee this season.