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Five key takeaways from Tennessee’s loss to Florida

Tennessee v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

“And Tennessee’s misery in the swamp continues...” well said, Chris Fowler, well said. Tennessee has now lost 10 straight games at Florida. That’s what some people would call, “not good.” It’s what I’d even venture to call “bad.” A quarter of the season is in the books and this team has many, many question marks.

The law of averages catches up to Tennessee 3rd Down Defense.

Tennessee’s defense came into this game absolutely dominant on third down. You might ask, “Christian, how dominant has it been?” Well fellow reader, opponents were 10/36 on third down conversions entering tonight’s game. That all went to hell pretty quickly. Florida’s offense absolutely dominated on third down, converting 7 of their first 8, helping them sustain long drives and keep Tennessee’s offense off the field. There was a lot of talk around “Graham Mertz this and Graham Mertz that” — Graham Mertz took this defense to the woodshed on third down. A total clinic. It was embarrassing.

Penalties. Too many penalties.

Winning on the road is hard. Winning on the road against a divisional rival is harder. Winning on the road against a divisional rival, at night, while constantly shooting yourself in the foot with penalties is damn near impossible. Tennessee’s offense has had enough issues finding consistency in the passing game through three games this year — having to constantly start behind the eight ball due to a false start or a holding call is only going to make things worse. Some people might point out that there were some “BS” calls like the blindside block, or that Florida was getting away with things Tennessee wasn’t — and that’s probably true. But a perfect microcosm of Tennessee’s game tonight was committing an offside penalty on 4th and 2 when everyone in the building knew Florida had no intention of snapping the ball.

Josh Heupel had a bad day.

Don’t need to expand on this one too much — Heupel was simply outcoached this evening. Aside from the offense’s opening drive, he made questionable decisions all night and didn’t have them ready to play tonight. His play calls out of timeouts were bad, his use of timeouts were horrific, and for the third straight game he’s failed to create a game plan that finds Tennessee’s offense consistently clicking early. He needs to be better moving forward.

Tennessee’s tackling...woof.

Turns out it’s a lot harder to tackle SEC athletes than it is to tackle dudes who play for the worst team in the ACC and an FCS program. Tennessee came into this game ranked second in the country in tackles for loss but you certainly wouldn’t have known that if you only watched tonight’s performance. It felt like there were countless times Tennessee failed to bring down a Florida running back in the backfield, regardless of who it was. Not to mention Graham Mertz looked like he was covered in oil for the first half of this game. If we’re being honest, if not for a finger injury I think this could’ve been a lot uglier.

If they don’t establish the run, they stink.

This team has to be run first. As an air raid truther, I HATE typing this. Hate it. But there’s no denying that this group of wide receivers is just not that good. They rarely beat their man one on one, they don’t block that well, and aside from Bru McCoy they fail to get consistent separation. I thought Kirk Herbstreit made a great point tonight when he said that Tennessee’s stars on this offense are in the backfield, not on the outside. They don’t have a Jaylin Hyatt or Cedric Tillman and it becomes more glaringly obvious every week. If they want the offense to click, they need to be dominant on the ground.