The stage was set. As the crowd of 102,445 fans piled into Neyland stadium in their color-cordnated shirts in which to make the stadium look like the historic checkerboard end zones the feeling set in...This streak could end tonight. The Tennessee Volunteers had not beaten the Florida Gators since 2004; An 11-year streak. That ended tonight. After all the trash talk by "DBU" as Florida calls themselves (Although we all know LSU is DBU) saying "Duck do not pull trucks." after you sift through the garbage what Quincy Wilson was saying was there is no way Tennessee beats Florida. He, was wrong. Jalen Tabor, who has made a name for himself by attempting to call-out Tennessee did not show up when it mattered most tonight. All bark, no bite.
Tennessee came out and looked awful in the first half. After getting to the five yard line twice, and came away with 0-points to show for it fans grew restless. Josh Dobbs was not making good throws, but the Vols also dropped 5-passes in the first half. Tennessee's cornerback Justin Martin who has spent most of his time on twitter bantering back-and-forth with Tennessee fans who had a negative outlook on this team after the first three weeks (and rightfully so); Started the game off playing terrible. Martin was hit with a personal foul penalty on the opening kickoff, a play in which did not see Florida take the ball out of the end zone! Justin Martin then got beat for a long Touchdown pass and that set the tone early for the first half. Florida took a comfortable 21-6 lead into the half racking up 97-yards of offense. Josh Dobbs and company got boo'd off the field to end the first half which the fans have every right to boo. Admit it, even you thought Tennessee did not have a shot.
The Vols came out like gangbusters in the second half. After getting out-played, out-manned, and out-coach Tennessee was ready to right their wrongs. Tennessee posted 38-unanswered points! The defense did not allow a single first down in the second half until 7:34 left in the 4th quarter. Florida ended the day with 2-turnovers, 17-first downs, 402-total yards, and held the ball for 29 minutes and 14 seconds. The Gators were not comping on third down completing just 6-of-16. The undisciplined Gators came out and got flagged 9-times for 75-yards. Running the football got the Gators 3.4-yards a pop, with a total of 106 yards rushing on 31-attempts. Graduate transfer from Purdue, Austin Appleby was also doing his fair share of trash talking before the game saying the crowd would not play a factor and he has played in big games before...at Purdue (Go ahead, laugh). Appleby was seen mouthing to the coaching staff after another delay of game penalty "I can not hear crap right now!" Baker Mayfield knows how you feel, bud. The Gators picked up 296-yards through the air averaging 7-yards a pass on 39-attempts (Going 23-39). Todd Kelly Junior got the best of Appleby one time picking off the grad-transfer. If Derek Barnett could have held on to a pass thrown directly into his hands, they would've had a 2-for-20. The Gators saw 402-yards of offense.
Tennessee's offense drove up-and-down the field from jumped street. The problem in the first half was, they could not punch it in. The Vols corrected that problem in the second half scoring 38-striaght behind Senior leader Josh Dobbs. Tennessee collected 22-first downs, held the ball for 30 minutes and 46 seconds, and had 498-yards of offense. The Vols went 7-for-17 on third down. Josh Dobbs rallied back from a sluggish start finishing with 16/32 for 319-yards, averaging 10-yards a play, and threw 4-touchdowns. Dobbs also threw two interceptions, one costly one in the end-zone to Quincy Wilson, and one to Jalen Tabor after Dobbs got hit in the arm while trying to make a throw. Tabor's day was not all rainbows-and-puppy-toes as a former quarterback Jauan Jennings beat the "Star" defensive back by 10-yards to catch the football and go down the field for a score. On 26 tries Jalen Hurd finished just 5-yards shy of breaking 100 in this one. Hurd found the end zone once on a wheel route. Dobbs picked up 80-yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jauan Jennings went for 111-yards on 3 grabs, and a score. Josh Malone caught a touchdown making it 4-touchdowns-in-4-games.
The Special teams played great in this one. Evan Berry only got one chance at a return but took it 40-yards. Alvin Kamara went for 60-yards on 6-returns in the punting game. When the Vols punted the ball away, the Gators started inside their ten yard line. Florida looked discombobulated on special teams, calling for a fair catch AT THE ONE YARD LINE, and muffing a punt at the five.
The Streak is over, and the Vols are 4-0 (1-0 in the SEC). Next up, Tennessee travels to Athens to try and start a streak of their own, this time against the Bulldogs.
Player of the game: Josh Dobbs. Josh Dobbs really battled back in this one, and dealt with everything the Gators threw at him. The Senior capitalized on his last shot vs Florida and he ended the streak.
2004. 2004, was the last time Tennessee beat the Florida Gators. It has been a long 11-years. Josh Dobbs, Senior Vols starting QB was in 4th grade when the Vols last got the best of the Gators. Tim Tebow, the Gators legendary QB, was in Junior High-school. The list of eye-popping things that have happened since the last time Tennessee beat Florida would go on for hours. This year, the Vols hope the streak ends. Playing at home, the Vols have pulled out all the gimmicks in hopes to beat Florida. Tennessee will wear smokey gray uniforms against Florida on Saturday. Tennessee is 1-0 in the nike smokey gray uniforms after a huge come-for-behind win vs the Georgia Bulldogs last season while sporting the threads. Along with that, the Vols faithful will "Checker-Neyland." Yes, they have done this before, twice. However, after going 0-2 when checkering Neyland, the obvious solution is to flip the colors. What was white the first two times is now going to be orange and so-on-and-so-forth. College game-day will also be in attendance, with CBS calling the game at 3:30 EST.
As for the game Saturday, both teams have a lot of questions surrounding them. Tennessee will be without star-lock down corner back Cam Sutton for an extended period of time. star-middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr is also sidelined for this game which leaves a HUGE hole over the middle. As for the Gators, they come in banged-up at the offensive guard positions. However, the biggest injury heading into Saturday is to Florida's starting quarter-back Luke Del Rio. Rio, got off to a sluggish start vs North Texas last Saturday before taking a late-hit-to-the-knee that will sideline him atleast two weeks. Star-Gator wide receiver Antonio Callaway will be a game-time decision. While, I expect him to play, he may be limited.
By the numbers in this 11-year skid, Florida has out-scored Tennessee 29 points-per-game to 16.3 points-per-game. Florida has committed 14-turnovers to Tennessee's 28.
The Florida Gators will be starting a graduate transfer from Purdue University Austin Appleby. Appleby had a huge problem protecting the ball at Purdue throwing an astronomical number of interceptions with the boilermakers. Although he has only been the Gators starter since Saturday night, he has already rattled the cage of a few Vols fans. Appleby made an idiotic comment about how the crowd at Tennessee will not be a factor Saturday as he makes his first start for Florida. Yeah, about that, ask Oklahoma's quarterback Baker Mayfield about that who as recently as August of this year has sited the Vols-faithful for causing a chaotic environment. Along with Baker Mayfield, other Sooner coaches and players constantly reflect on their trip to Neyland Stadium last fall. However, it doesn't stop there. Vols fans and/or twitter trolls dug-up an old photo in which Appleby is dressed up as Bin-Laden; And well, you can probably infer how that went after Twitter got ahold of it.
It is not all bad news on the injury front as Tennessee expects to get offensive linemen Chance Hall back this week, who has been a full-go in practice all week thus far. The offensive line has struggled mightily this season, however paring him with Jack Jones should do a lot to sure up a weak spot on the Tennessee offense. The Gators will go after the offensive line as some thing Florida has the best defensive line in the SEC. There is no question Saturday will be a tough test for the already struggling offensive line.
Mike DeBord has to come out guns-a-blazing Saturday. With a weakened defense, Tennessee will have to get points on the board and just gain confidence. Tennessee has started slow in all 3-games they have played this season and that has caused weariness in the media and fan base. The players have began to bark-back at the "haters" and "na-sayers" but the bottom line is everything that anyone has been "negative" about to this point is true. Mike DeBord has to turn the playbook loose and allow these players to go make plays! That is something he has not allowed to have happen in his tenure as Tennessee's Offensive Coordinator.
Although the opponents have been sub-par the defense has played well so far in 2016. Colton Jumper, now Tennessee's starting middle linebacker is the lone weak spot in the defense for the most part. However, it is a huge and glaring weak spot. Last season, the Gators exposed Jumper atleast twice as Jumper single-handedly gave up 14-points. That, along with the secondary has to sure up this weekend. Getting off the field on third down has been an inconsistency for this team, but, they have to win the money downs this year; Which is what killed Tennessee last year in the Florida game, not getting off the field on 3rd-and-4th-down.
If Butch Jones can not beat Florida with these circumstances you have to wonder if he can ever beat Florida. Tennessee is at home, they are favored to win the game, the hoopla of a sell-out, game-day, checker-neyland, smokey gray uniforms, the streak, CBS, Gators starting QB being out, Florida's star Wide out being atleast some-what limited, finally a veteran Tennessee team there are no excuses! These two teams are very close. It will come down to coaching. Earn your pay check, Butch Jones.
Tennessee is favored by 7-points. The safe-bet is to stay far away from this game when betting. However, if you just absolutely want to place a bet, as a Tennessee fan throw a little money of Florida to cover or win so that way if Tennessee drops a 12-game in a row to Florida you're covered. As an unbiased fan, I would pick Tennessee to win.
We are a week away from the biggest game of the year. Tennessee, Florida, 3:30, CBS. The fans, the media, everyone over-looking the Bobcats and focusing on the pivotal Gator match-up. However, sadly, the coaches-and-players did too. For the third game in a row, Tennessee came out flat. It is easy to blame "They are just looking ahead to the Florida game." However, every game has been the same story. Tennessee couldn't even get up for the first game of the year against Appy State! Butch Jones can not get this team ready to play a football game. Now, they come out flat against an Ohio team that got beat by Texas State and almost collapsed against the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Injury bug hit the Vols hard. Josh Smith, Latroy Lewis, Darrin Kirkland Jr, were all listed as out for todays game. Kirkland will miss the Florida game baring a miracle. Cam Sutton and Jalen-Reeves Maybin both got bit by the Injury Bug in this game. Quarte Sapp also went down with an injury. Danny O'Brien also bit the dust going down late in the 2nd quarter.
The Offense got-off to a quick start putting up 14-points early. However, Josh Dobbs and the offensive line looked horrible. Awful. The Offense could not convert first downs in the first half and with that could not move the ball. Josh Dobbs missed a wide open receiver who had nothing but green-and-checkerboard in front of him, twice. Erasing 14-points. The offensive line got abused by Ohio, yes, Ohio. The offensive line has been man-handled in all-three games this year. The play-calling was very conservative. Mike DeBord continues to prove he is not the man for the jump. Tennessee continues to coach scared of taking shots. The Vols special teams fumbled three times, all three happened to bounce the Vols way after being right in the hands of Ohio defenders. A sloppy game, that Vols fans have to grow accustom to. This team seems to have again pulled-the-wool-over-the-eyes-of-vol-nation. The offense continued to struggle in the second-half. Tennessee was forced to punt the ball two-straight times after short drives to open the half. Tennessee continued to try an hide-Dobbs presumably to unleash him in big games such as Virginia Tech last week like they did, and Florida next week, but that does not help the here-and-now; Much like it did not help during the Appy State game. The Vols offense finally got cooking with gas, moving the ball deep into the red-zone before Josh Dobbs found the checkerboards with his legs, to make it 21-12. Josh Dobbs and the Vols went on a 12-play scoring drive as Josh Dobbs found Josh Malone in the end-zone.
The Defense was riddeled with injuries, but in the first half had a bend-but-don't-break mentality holding the Bobcats to 4-field goals. The secondary looked shaky, but still found a way to play well without their leader, Cam Sutton. Colton Jumper who "earned" the start due to an injury to Kirkland, played how you'd expect the dreadful walk on to play. Jumper missed assignments, and was man-handled, even by a running back. An Ohio running back, drug around a "starting SEC linebacker", so much for the recruiting-and-development Butch Jones. The defense came out of the break playing very well against the sub-par Bobcats, forcing three-straight three-and-outs. After an impressive drive by Ohio, and stupid penalties, the Bobcats expose the worst player in college football, Colton Jumper to score and make it a 2-point game yet again. The Vols defense came up huge stopping Ohio on fourth down with 2:01 left in a two possession game.
If, and when, Tennessee plays like they have all season next week against Florida, there is no way they beat the Gators. Absolutely no way. The Streak will continue, and Butch Jones seat will get much hotter. If/When the streak continues, it might be time for Tennessee to consider firing coach Butch Jones, especially with a new Athletic Director coming in July Jones might be out the door before you know it. This Tennessee team as absolutely no fight, or dog in them. They have no fire-power, emotion, or energy. Whatever you want to call it, they don't have it. The new excuse: Blaming noon-games. If, somehow, Tennessee pulls off a win against the Florida Gators, all will be well. Although, I do not see that happening.
Player of the game: Anyone but Colton Jumper. Jumper missed countless assignments, got picked on by OHIO, and was man-handled every-which-way-but-the-right-way. Florida in 2015 proved they are not scared to attack Jumper which was a 14-point swing in Gainesville last season.