The streak is over! After a losing streak that lasted too long, Tennessee took down the Florida Gators in Neyland Stadium Saturday. Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones solidified his success as a head coach at Tennessee with this marquee statement win. The Vols are also now in the driver’s seat of the SEC East as the only remaining undefeated team left on the East side at 4-0. At the end of the day the Vols came out on top by a score of 38 to 28, but the journey of how the Vols won this game is an incredible tale of two halves.
With 102,455 screaming fans checkering Neyland Stadium, the Vols played the first half a bit sloppy, and a score that made it look even sloppier. Florida struck first going up 7 to 0 early in the first quarter, on what was really their only great drive of the game. The Gators made it 21 to 0 before Aaron Medley kicked a 28 yard field goal to notch the score at 21 to 3 in Florida’s favor at the half.
The second half: Tennessee showed they are a serious force. In the second half everything turned around for the Volunteers and they absolutely shut down Florida on their way to an amazing comeback win. Josh Dobbs played like a Heisman Trophy contender and the Volunteers’ defense barely let Florida move a yard. To open up the second half, Tennessee started off the scoring with a 23-yard pass from Josh Dobbs to a wide open Jalen Hurd on the right side for a walk in touchdown. The Vols then moved the score to 21 to 10. Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop must’ve made some major halftime adjustments as Florida didn’t even have a first down in the second half until there was 7 minutes left on the clock. After Tennessee got the ball back Josh Dobbs threw another amazing touchdown over the top in the end zone to tight end Ethan Wolf for a 20-yard score, which made the score 21 to 17 Florida. Tennessee immediately forced another Florida punt on their next drive and took the ball back. Then the Vols had one of the most memorable, unforgettable, amazing plays in Tennessee history. After a few small rushes from the line of scrimmage, on 3rd and 5 from the Tennessee 33, Dobbs takes the snap, has time and airs it out to a wide open Jauan Jennings on the sideline for an outstanding 67-yard go ahead score. The Vols were now in front by a score of 24 to 21! Jennings made a great play that led to the score, he juked out Florida defender Jalen Tabor and made him fall flat on the ground. Jennings then bobbled the wide open pass for a moment, but then caught it and strolled in for an electrifying, crowd-aweing touchdown. By this time Neyland Stadium was going absolutely crazy and the fans were roaring with excitement! On defense Todd Kelly Jr. intercepted an Austin Appleby pass on the first play to give the ball back to the high-flying offense. After no-gain and an incompletion, Dobbs zipped a pass over the middle to Josh Malone who turned on the jets for another crazy 42-yard touchdown. The incredible Vols defense made the Gators go backwards for -7 yards and forced yet another Florida punt. Tennessee drove the ball down to the end zone in three plays and Dobbs ran it in from five yards out to push the score to 38-21 after the extra point. Florida tacked on a late touchdown to make the score 38 to 28 in Tennessee’s favor, before the Vols took the ball and just ran the clock out.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs had some amazing stats in the passing and rushing game. Dobbs racked up 4 touchdowns passing on 319 yards and a 16 of 32 completions mark. Dobbs also ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries on his way to being named the SEC offensive player of the week. Jalen Hurd ran the ball efficiently with 95 yards on 26 carries, and a long of 19 yards. Receiving the ball, the Vols receivers absolutely went off! Jauan Jennings led the way with 3 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. Josh Malone also had a career game with 4 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Freshmen WR Tyler Byrd had a breakout game with 3 receptions for 40 yards. Jalen Hurd had 2 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown through the air along with his part in the run game. Ethan Wolf also played a key part in the aerial attack with 1 catch for 20 yards into the end zone. The offense put up 498 yards against an elite defense in Florida, which really shows that Tennessee can make a championship run.
The defense really showed up Saturday, taking down the quarterback twice in the backfield and causing 16 incompletions. Derek Barnett played very well with 5 total tackles and numerous quarterback takedowns. He was named SEC co-defensive lineman of the week. A player that really needed to play well and came with a winning mindset, linebacker Colton Jumper, led the team in tackles with 8.
This win is one of the greatest comebacks in Volunteer football history. This game sent a wave of excitement and celebration all across the state of Tennessee, and proved that the Vols are back where they need to be: on top. This win will jolt Tennessee to new heights just 4 games into the season. ESPN writer Ivan Maisel compared Tennessee’s hunger and will to win to Clemson’s breakout 2015 team saying on ESPN’s Championship Drive Podcast stating that, “it’s not just the orange that makes me think of Clemson when I look at Tennessee but it’s the hunger to be right on the cusp of breaking through.” Maisel also pointed towards Tennessee when picking the Vols as potentially the first SEC east team to win the league title since 2008.
Tennessee will face Georgia this Saturday in Athens, as the Vols look to continue their winning streak.