After an absolutely dreadful performance against the Florida Gators, Tennessee fans are are searching for answers when it comes the Jeremy Pruitt regime.
A rough season was to be expected, but a blowout loss to the Gators was not. Both teams suffered 4-8 seasons in 2017 and according to the big picture, Tennessee should be the more talented team.
Despite the prognostications, Florida was the better team on Saturday night.
The game got off to a terrible start for the Vols. Intense pressure from the Gators’ defensive line caused a fumble by Jarrett Guarantano that was recovered by David Reese II.
Florida started their second drive of the game from the Vols’ 24. Tennessee’s defense got off to a good start after they dropped Feleipe Franks for a three yard loss, but the Gators scored just three plays later after a key 23-yard pass to Freddie Swain took the Gators down to the Vols’ one. Franks completed a pass to R.J. Raymond for the game’s first score and gave the Gators an early lead, 7-0.
Things didn’t get any better on the next drive for Tennessee. Guarantano was picked off on his third pass attempt of the game by Luke Ancrum. Florida was right back in business as they took over on the Tennessee’s 5-yard line after a five-yard return by Ancrum.
As expected, the Gators scored just two plays later to increase their lead, 14-0.
A big play to Jauan Jennings was practically erased by a false start on the subsequent play and left the Vols to try and convert a 4th-and-4 to Dominick Wood-Anderson, but the attempt fell short and Florida took over at their own 38.
But a forced fumble on Lamical Perine by Alontae Taylor gave the Vols the ball back in Gator territory. Tennessee was able to drive down to the Florida 15, but they had to settle for a field goal and cut the Gators’ lead to 11, 14-3.
A three-and-out gave Tennessee hope, but a great punt by the Gators’ Tommy Townsend left the Vols in terrible field position. A drive that began at their own two-yard line ended in a safety that pushed Florida’s lead to 13, 16-3.
The misery didn’t stop there as Swain sliced through the defense on his way to a 65-yard touchdown on the first play of Florida’s drive after the safety. Tennessee was officially in trouble at this point down 23-3.
The coaching staff and players were feeling the heat at this point and the Vols were able to respond with a 51 yard completion to Austin Pope on a fourth-and-one from the Tennessee 45 yard line.
But Pope fumbled the ball through the endzone and the Gators began their next drive on their own 20.
Tennessee forced a punt on the next drive and it looked as if they were finally figuring things out on the next offensive drive before Guarantano had to leave the game due to injury. A low snap from center Ryan Johnson left Keller Chryst in a bad spot to the point where he couldn’t recover and the Gators began their next drive at the Vols’ 26.
They were able to drive down to the Vols’ eight yard line before settling for a field goal. Florida led 26-3 heading into halftime after four Tennessee turnovers.
Tennessee was set to begin the second half with the ball, but that changed quickly after the Vols fumbled the ball on the kickoff return, which resulted in a Florida recovery.
Pitiful tackling and poor effort led to Jordan Scarlett running for a 19-yard touchdown that pushed the Gator lead to 33-3.
Soon after, Brad Stewart Jr. made a beautiful interception near the goal line to end the Vols’ offensive drive and gave the Gators the ball back at their own 2.
Neither team was able to move the ball very effectively on the next couple of drives, but Tennessee finally found some offense thanks to grad-transfer Madre London.
Tennessee scored their first touchdown of the game late in the third quarter after London rumbled down the field for a 43-yard gain to the Gators’ 16. A defensive pass interference call helped the Vols and gave London his first touchdown a couple of plays later and cut the Gators’ lead to 20, 33-13.
But a familiar name surfaced on the next drive Florida as Franks hit Tyrie Cleveland for a 38 yards en route to the Gators’ fifth touchdown on the day. The Vols now trailed 40-13 and there was basically no comeback in site.
Both sides added garbage time touchdowns to finish this one out. In the end, it was Florida walking away with a 47-21 victory in Neyland Stadium.
Up next for the Vols? At Georgia, at Auburn, then home against Alabama. Woof.