Tennessee was hanging on for dear life.
After taking a 14-10 lead over the Florida Gators on Saturday night in The Swamp, the 11th ranked team in the nation slowly started settling in. Dan Mullen’s team responded after a couple of big plays from Tennessee to retake the lead at 17-14.
Florida was threatening to make that lead 24-14 before halftime, but a huge play from Alontae Taylor kept the Volunteers in the game at the break.
The Gators did come out and get that 24-14 lead in the third quarter, but Tennessee was poised to strike back as Hendon Hooker was able to put a drive together. Josh Heupel opted to go for it for a second time on fourth down in the drive, and drew up what appeared to be the perfect play, only for the pass to be dropped by sophomore receiver Jimmy Calloway.
Calloway might have scored on the play — at minimum it would have put Tennessee in chip-shot field goal range. That missed opportunity was the one that broke Tennessee’s back, as the Gators pulled away from there.
After a couple of days to let the dust settle, Josh Heupel was asked what his message was to his young receiver.
“Don’t let a moment define you,” Heupel said. “As you move forward, you get to define those moments. Your practice habits and how you approach everything you do ends up showing up. That’s a young guy that did a lot of really positive things early in training camp. You guys heard me talk about him. Missed some time, has come back, has missed some practices. At the end of the day, when you’re on the field you have to play a little bit cleaner. Did some really positive things the other night, too. The things that weren’t so positive, everybody can see. Continue to come back and be a great competitor and have great practice habits, that will lead to a successful moment when that moment arises.”
Calloway is an emerging weapon for Tennessee, who started to make his mark during the Pittsburgh game a few weeks back. The former four-star athlete took a screen pass to the house, providing a much-needed spark at the time. Calloway is a former quarterback in high school who is still learning the position, and is already in his second offensive system since arriving at Tennessee.
Better days are certainly ahead for Calloway, who clearly has the support of this staff after that key drop last weekend. If I’m Josh Heupel, I’m giving him an immediate opportunity to put this behind him against Missouri.