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Top Ten Tennessee Games Of The Past Decade: No.1: The Streak Is Over

The Vols ended 11 consecutive years of misery on this fateful Saturday.

Florida v Tennessee
Jauan Jennings sparked the Vols on his electrifying touchdown catch.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

James Wilhoit’s game-winning kick almost seemed like a dream at this point. The years that followed after the Vols’ big win in the Swamp were just downright pitiful. Adding to the misery was the fact that UT couldn’t beat their biggest rival when it mattered most.

The Vols were coming off a pair of losses to Florida in 2014 and 2015 that were bad enough to render Wilhoit’s kick obsolete. With those two losses now in hand to inferior Florida teams, fans were wondering, “Are we ever going to be Florida again?”

The streak had gotten bad enough that when asked about the possibility of a Vols win in 2016, Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson responded with, “Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck”.

There sure as hell weren’t any trucks getting pulled in the first half. Antonio Callaway - the antagonist from the 2015 loss - hauled in a 51-yard reception from quarterback Austin Appleby on the second play of the game. Three plays later, Appleby connected with Deandre Goolsby to put Florida on the board first.

The Vols were able to move the ball a bit on the next drive but were forced to punt. Callaway fumbled the return which was recovered by the Vols at the Gator two-yard line.

Tennessee was in business.

Well, at least Neyland Stadium though they were. The Vols couldn’t punch the ball in from the two after four tries. Florida received the ball back on downs and fans were already starting to feel the dread.

A series of punts followed before the Gators scored the second touchdown of the game to go up, 14-0. The Vols quickly drove into Florida’s 10-yard line. On a 3rd-and-7, Dobbs dropped back to pass only to be intercepted by the Gator’s own Wilson.

Florida drove right down the field and converted the turnover into seven points. Just like that, Tennessee was down, 21-0.

Florida v Tennessee
It was a very frustrating first half for fans and players.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Now, fans were really starting to feel the dread.

The Gators were supposed to be the less-talented team. This was supposed to be the year the Vols took them down after suffering humiliating, one-point losses the past two years in a row.

But, this was Florida and there was a reason the Vols hadn’t beaten them in over a decade.

The Vols weren’t having many issues moving the ball. They managed to drive into the redzone yet again on the next drive, but couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-6 at the Florida 10.

Butch Jones opted for the field goal to make the score 21-3. Fans booed the team as the ran off the field for halftime. Things were not looking good.

And they didn’t look any better to start the half after Dobbs threw his second interception of the game. Fortunately for the Vols, Bob Shoop and the defense had a game plan for the Gators.

Shoop famously claimed that he was hired in 2016 “to beat Florida” and he sure did. The Gators gained (-9) yards over their next six drives, while the Vols gained 287 yards and scored 35 straight points over the same stretch.

That second half was the culmination of 11 years of misery in Rocky Top finally coming to a head on the football field.

The scoring got started with Jalen Hurd’s 23-yard reception from Dobbs in the third quarter. He found Hurd streaking down the right side of the field wide open and hit him in stride to cut the lead to 11, 21-10.

The Vols kept pounding on defense. Derek Barnett was able to get Appleby a couple of drives later to keep Florida from keeping the ball. Barnett’s sack got the ball back in the hands of UT’s red-hot offense.

Tennessee marched right back down the field and Dobbs was magnificent again, hitting tight end Ethan Wolf on a 20-yard pass up the seam for the second touchdown of the day. Florida’s lead was now just 21-17 and the Gators were starting to feel the pressure.

Barnett sacked Appleby again on the next drive. Now it was time for the Vols to step up and make a play.

What happened next will go down as one of the greatest plays in Tennessee history and who better to have his name on this play than Jauan Jennings?

Jennings absolutely burns Florida cornerback Teez Tabor on the slant-and-go, which leaves him wide-open on the right sideline. Dobbs - who was hit as he released the ball - made a perfect throw and Jennings was able to haul it in and tip-toe down the sideline for the 67-yard touchdown to put the Vols up, 24-21.

My buddy and I were at this game and we were in the white section that you see Jennings running toward. The whole play unfolded in front of us and I remember motioning to Jennings to keep running towards us like he was coming home from the war. What a great play to witness in person.

This play catapulted the Vols into the lead and Florida never recovered. Todd Kelly Jr. picked off Appleby on the Gator’s first play from scrimmage on the next drive and that was pretty much the end of Florida.

But Tennessee wasn’t close to done. These players remembered the excruciating loss from just the year before where Florida came back. Dobbs hit receiver Josh Malone in stride and Malone was able to use his game-breaking speed to blow by all the surrounding Florida defenders to increase the Vols’ lead to double-digits, 31-21.

The defense came through again on the next drive for Tennessee and Florida had to punt after a quick three-and-out. The Vols drove down the field and scored in under a minute to off of a Dobbs’ run to officially put the game on ice, 38-21.

Florida scored on the next drive to pull within 10, 38-28, but Trevor Daniel blasted another beautiful punt that pinned Florida inside their own five to curtail any type of comeback attempt. The Vols turned the ball over on downs, and lined up to take their victory snaps.

Flordia’s back was to our end zone, and no doubt, there was the man - Quincy Wilson himself - within shouting distance of us. So, naturally, we all started chanting “Quack, quack, quack, quack!” to troll the man.

38-28. The streak was over. Things were finally turning around in Knoxville and it felt good.