It’s been almost half a century since a Tennessee quarterback made their first-career road start at Florida and went home a winner.
In 1971, Phil Pierce started for the Vols, who debuted white jerseys with orange collars that season, and led a famed 99-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the second half of a 20-13 win at Florida Field.
Several other Tennessee quarterbacks have tried and failed in the years since, but on Saturday, the No. 22 Vols hope Quinten Dormady etches his name in the history books alongside Pierce.
“It’s definitely a huge game,” said Dormady, who has yet to attempt a single pass in a road stadium in three years at Tennessee.
“It’s a hostile environment. It’s going to be hot and humid. … It just comes down to execution.”
Dormady is hardly a lightening rod personality when it comes to interviews with the media. For eight months, he mostly shrugged off quarterback controversy questions as he battled redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano for the job. In the end, the junior’s understated moxie, steadiness and demeanor are key reasons why he’s the team’s starting quarterback. They’re also important attributes that could prove the difference in Saturday’s showdown with the No. 23 Gators in The Swamp.
Just call him Cool Hand Q.
“He’s always been real calm,” senior right tackle Brett Kendrick said. “He’s done a great job so far. He has a great command of the offense. He’s an older guy, and he’s been here long enough. He knows what it takes to win.”
Dormady has led Tennessee to a 2-0 start this fall, including a 14-point comeback in the opener against Georgia Tech. He’s thrown for 415 yards and four touchdowns in two starts, and his 93-yard, game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter against the Yellow Jackets was the signature moment of his career to date.
If he repeats a similar feat at Florida, a house of horrors for most Tennessee quarterbacks in the last four decades, a star could be born.
“If you look at the evolution of great quarterbacks, the great quarterbacks have the ability to lead their team from behind on the road to a victory,” coach Butch Jones said. “Whether it’s a one-minute drive or in the fourth quarter, being able to go on the road and perform and win in a hostile environment.”
"If you look at all the great players that have played this game, whether it’s at the collegiate level or the professional level, that’s what separates them is being able to go on the road and win and perform in a hostile environment against a very, very competitive football team.”
Tennessee squandered a chance to win in Gainesville in 2015, but the Vols overcame a 21-3 deficit in Knoxville last season, as former quarterback Josh Dobbs engineered a thrilling rally to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Gators.
Although Dormady’s skill-set is much different than the quarterback he’s replaced, Kendrick believes Dormady’s poise and leadership remind him of Dobbs last season and gives Tennessee an excellent chance of winning on the road this Saturday.
“He follows exactly what Dobbs was doing last year,” Kendrick explained.
"It’s good to have that calm, steady presence at quarterback. … I’m impressed with what Quinten has done.”