Five Observations: No. 6 Florida 31, Tennessee 19

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    Tennessee lost its sixth-straight football game on Saturday afternoon inside of Neyland Stadium, falling to No. 6 Florida 31-19.

    The Vols led 7-3 in the second quarter courtesy of a 15-yard passing touchdown from Harrison Bailey to Eric Gray. Florida would then go on to score 28 unanswered to secure the SEC East and a birth in the SEC Championship Game.

    Here are our five biggest observations from Tennessee’s fourth-straight loss to the Florida Gators:

    Bailey makes first career start

    Bailey looked solid for a true freshman making his first career start against the sixth-ranked team in the country. He threw his first career touchdown pass and gained confidence as the game progressed. The team seemed to respond well to Bailey leading the charge.

    In his three quarters, Bailey finished 14-of-21 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown. He did not turn the ball over and had several nice scrambles despite finishing with negative rushing yards as a result of being sacked five times.

    “With Harrison, it being the first time he played in a game like that, all the way through,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said following the game. “Probably held the ball a few times too long there. Thought he kept his poise. I thought he scrambled well. Kept his eyes down the field. Really a lot of positives there to see.”

    Shrout gets the fourth quarter

    Redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout looked just as good, if not better, as Bailey. Shrout played the entire fourth quarter after Bailey played the first three.

    In Shrout’s first game action since he played against Kentucky in September, he completed 12-of-14 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. He also did not turn the football over, though he was sacked once.

    “I thought JT came in there and done a really nice job too,” Pruitt said. “I thought he has taken a lot of advantage of the opportunities he’s had. He had a really good week, last 10 days were really, really good. Unfortunately hurt his arm a little bit, but looked like he played ok with it today.”

    CBS mentioned multiple times during the broadcast that Shrout suffered a torn labrum during practice this week. Turns out, the result of a pop in his right arm during Wednesday’s practice wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

    “I had an MRI done,” Shrout told the media following the game. “I didn’t have any tearing or anything like that. Just a little bit of scar tissue.”

    Third down struggles continues

    It’s execution, not effort

    Pruitt and Tennessee’s players were adamant following the game that Saturday’s 12-point loss was purely a result of poor execution, not effort, which has been questioned at times throughout the season.

    “I thought our kids fought hard,” Pruitt said. “When you look at the circumstances a lot of these guys were around, we made a ton of mistakes today. But some of the mistakes we made were probably were where we need to do a much better job getting the guys ready to play. Some of them was because guys hadn’t practice in two weeks.”

    Several players missed the last two weeks of practice due to contact tracing. The Vols had a couple of players test positive for COVID-19 which placed several players in quarantine. Pruitt said last Monday that 16 players were in quarantine. Most of those players came out of quarantine on Friday night or Saturday morning. Those same players played against the Gators without practicing.

    “We don’t have an effort problem,” Pruitt said. “We don’t have a toughness problem. We got an execution problem. And we’ve got to work hard to fix that. And our guys will.

    “I don’t know how to describe even how many guys that didn’t practice, that just showed up and wanted to play. They didn’t have to play.”

    Up Next

    Tennessee now turns its attention to a winless Vanderbilt team that didn’t play this weekend because it didn’t meet the necessary roster requirement of 53 players due to COVID, opt outs, transfers, and injuries.

    Pruitt and the Vols are desperate for a win. The program is looking to snap a six-game winning streak, while Pruitt just may be coaching for his job. It’s highly unlikely that Tennessee would move in a different direction after the season. With the way the season has played out, however, things could change in a hurry with a loss to a Vanderbilt team that just fired its head coach.

    The SEC has not yet announced what time the two teams will play next Saturday in Nashville.