Mistakes. Penalties. Turnovers. Poor Execution.
It you’re a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers, it certainly does sound familiar. The same issues plagued the Vols throughout the embarassing 31-3 loss, which has become the norm over the past few years.
Florida drove right down the field and scored a touchdown on its first possession. Kyle Trask was able to find Trevon Grimes for a 43-yard completion to take the Gators to the UT30 and then he found tight end Kyle Pitts over the middle for a 19-yard strike. Pitts then fought his way into the end zone and Evan McPherson hit the PAT to put the Gators up, 7-0.
A 27-yard catch-and-run by Jauan Jennings moved Tennessee into Florida territory, but K’Rohjn Calbert was flagged for a late hit on the next play and pushed the offense into a 2nd-and-19 from which they couldn’t recover. The Vols were forced to punt the ball and the Gators took over at their own 20 after the ball bounced into the end zone.
Dan Mullen’s squad avoided disaster early on their first drive after a Malik Davis fumble was recovered by an ineligible Warren Burrell. Burrell stepped out of bounds before recovering the ball and didn’t re-establish himself inbounds by the time he gained possession of the ball. It was a typical stroke of bad luck for the Vols.
Fortunately, a holding call on the same play erased the gain and kept Florida behind the chains. Florida would keep the ball, but now had to face a 2nd-and-21 from its own 9.
But it didn’t matter. Trask found a wide open enter here for a 22-yard gain over the middle and a first down.
The Vols’ defense came through on the next play. A Bryce Thompson blitz and good pressure from Daniel Bituli took down Trask for a big sack. Trask would end up fumbling the ball and the Vols would take over at the Florida 19.
Guarantano and the Vols were able to take the ball down to the Gator 3, but Jennings let a perfect pass bounce off his hands and into the hands of Trey Dean III for the interception.
Trask was able to drive his offense to the Tennessee 30, but the Vols’ defense held tough and held the Gators to a 4th-and-2, but Mullen decided to go for it. A quarterback keeper was dialed up, but the Gators couldn’t covert, leaving both teams with zero points after a turnover.
The Vols took over at their own 29. Even though it was only 7-0, it was imperative that Guarantano and the offense get some points on the board after the last drive ended with an interception.
Things didn’t get off to the best start. Trey Smith was immediately called for a hands-to-the-face flag on the first play of the drive. That pushed the Vols into a 1st-and-25. but were saved from a dire situation thanks to a holding call on James Houston IV gave the Vols 10 yards and first down.
The offense continued to make mistakes and was hit with a delay-of-game penalty right after the Houston penalty, which left them with a 1st-and-15. Guarantano made things even worse after missing a wide-open Dominick Wood-Anderson for what would’ve probably been an 80-yard touchdown.
Guarantano somewhat-made it up though. He stared right down the barrel of a blitzing safety, took a huge hit and delivered a 15-yard strike to Jennings on the right sideline. It was enough to convert a 3rd-and-14, and the Vols’ offense was still alive.
A quick death followed soon afterward, however, as a miscommunication between Guarantano and Marquez Callaway led to another Gator interception. This time, it was Marco Wilson who made the play and Florida took over at their own 46.
Trask completed passes of 17 and 19 yards to start the drive and drove his team down the UT10 right off the bat. The Vols held on the next three plays to force a Gator field goal. McPherson made the 21-yard attempt to give the Gators a 10-0 lead with 10:02 left in the first half.
A Luke Ancrum sacked killed Tennessee’s next drive a false start penalty killed the Gators’ subsequent drive. Chandler dropped a swing pass - which was almost a fumble - on the next drive, handing the Vols their second straight three-and-out.
Florida took over at their own 39 with under 5:00 left in the half, while looking to break the current streak of offensive (pun intended) shortcomings.
Trask and the offense gained 34 yards on the first three plays. A holding penalty tried to kill the drive, but Trask found a wide-open Freddie Swain for a 24-yard gain over the middle, leaving the Gators with a goal-to-go situation from just inside the UT10.
The defense held again, and Mullen decided to go for it on fourth down from inside the UT1, again. With just :02 seconds left in the first half, Perine just crossed over the goal line to give Florida a 16-0 lead. Another McPherson PAT led the Vols into halftime down 17-0.
Pruitt made a major change at halftime and decided to bench Guarantano for true freshman Brian Maurer.
The young quarterback made a nice throw for a first down on 3rd-and-11 to get the Vols into field goal range. Brent Cimaglia drilled his 40-yard field goal attempt, but the Vols first points of the game didn’t come cheap. True freshman Wanya Morris, a five-star recruit, was hurt on the play before the field goal try. Nevertheless, the Vol were now down, 17-3 with 11:24 to go in the third quarter.
Florida got its quick passing game going on the first drive of the second half. Screen passess to Van Jefferson and Swain led them into Volunteer territory and a personal foul on Daniel Bituli led them even deeper down the field.
Trask then found a wide-open Swain over the middle for the Gators’ third touchdown of the game. The McPherson PAT made it 24-3 with 9:11 left in the third quarter.
Maurer threw the first interception of his young career on the Vols’ next offensive drive and the Gators took over the UT32. A score here would certainly put the game away for good.
But the Tennessee defense wasn’t ready to give up. Bituli was able to take Trask down for another sack and Theo Jackson made a great play on the ball to give Tennessee its first interception of the game.
The offense couldn’t get anything done and had to punt the ball back to the Gators. Jennings made matters worse during the punt return as drilled Swain while he was attempting to reel in the punt.
Florida started on its own 42 and in great position to close out the game, but the Tennessee defense came up with yet another interception. Alontae Taylor was able to snag a tipped pass in the end zone, giving the Vols’ offense another shot.
And speaking of “another shot”, Guarantano found himself back on the field for the next drive. He was able to move the team into enemy territory rather quickly, but Eric Gray fumbled the ball and the Gators recovered.
That led to an 8-play, 64-yard drive that was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown run by Dameon Pierce. The PAT was good and the Vols were officially dead as the Gators led, 31-3 with 11:31 remaining in the game.
Tennessee couldn’t score any more points, but the Gators tacked on one more field goal with a few minutes left. The Gators would go on to win, 34-3.
Tennessee (1-3) hosts the Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) next week. Kickoff is still TBA, but we will provide an update as soon as it’s available.