The Vols won every statistically category except the final score. We review the Vols first loss of the season with The Day After.
HOT AND NOT
Rashaan Gaulden – The Vol nickel-back had arguably his best day as a Vol. Gaulden led the team with 10 tackles, a pass deflection and the interception that set up the game-tying field goal. Gaulden has to be on the field for Tennessee which means a lot of 4-2-5 defensive alignments and maybe he plays safety in the 4-3 alignment. But he must be on the field.
The run game – It got off to a slow start, but the Vol offensive line and the backs — led by John Kelly — had a terrific second half. Kelly had 134 on his last 12 carries going back to his final carry of the first half. The Vol running backs averaged 6.3 yards a carry rushing for 182 yards on 29 runs.
Redzone offense (run the ball) – Tennessee snapped the football seven times inside the Gators 10-yard line. All seven snaps were pass attempts. Larry Scott clearly didn't think his offense could run the football at the Gator goal line. On the year now, Quinten Dormady is 4-14 for 34 yards, 2 TD and 2 INT's in the red zone. Meanwhile, John Kelly's rushing numbers in the redzone are 8 carries for 44 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Turnovers – You are not going to win very often throwing three interceptions, including one at the goal line, as well as a pick-6. In the last six quarters of football, quarterback Quinten Dormady has thrown four interceptions and he has a fumble.
Prevent defense (or lack of it) – For the second time in his 15 games as Tennessee's defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop's defense let a receiver get behind them for a touchdown in the last minute of the game. Shoop elected not to play prevent or an extra defensive back in both situations.
The kicking game – Three missed field goals, a kickoff out of bounds, and a bad punt. Vols also gave up a 46 yard kickoff return. Tennessee didn't win special teams on Saturday.
Florida's game winner – After tying it at 20-20 the game seemed heading to overtime at 20-20. But with nine seconds to go. Tennessee playing their base defense allowed Florida got get behind the secondary for a 63 yards touchdown and a walk-off win.
First and goal at the Florida 9 – Tennessee didn't get the ball to running back John Kelly nearly enough in the redzone. With the game 20-17 and the Vols looking for a their first lead. Quinten Dormady under threw a wide open Kelly over the middle that would have been a walk in touchdown.
Interception at the Gator one – In the third quarter, Tennessee was poised to take the lead or at least tie the game but on 3rd and goal, Dormady threw an interception on the slant.
Justin Martin's forced fumble – It's unfortunate that Martin's hustle play didn't end up changing the outcome of the game, but it made the fourth quarter a great show. Martin turned a 73 yard touchdown run into a 72 yard touch back by stripping the ball. Had Florida scored there the score would have been 30-3 with 11 minutes to play. Martin set the stage for the comeback by making a great hustle play.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 for 7 – Tennessee had seven snaps inside the Gators 10 yard line (all in the second half). All seven snaps were passes.
7.5 – Average yards per offensive touch by John Kelly. The junior running back already has 540 yards of total offense this season as he's the leading receiver and runner for the Vols.
13 – Number of penalties against the Vols the last two weeks. In week one, the Vols only had 2 penalties. Saturday they were flagged five times in the redzone.
9 – Number of touchdowns surrendered by Bob Shoop's defense the last two years of 45 yards or more. Saturday's 63 yard score was the 5th touchdown of 60 yards or more surrendered by a Shoop defense.
The best player on the field Saturday was running back John Kelly. Kelly's performance on Saturday reminded me of Travis Henry's day against the Gators in 2000, which was also a gut wrenching loss. Kelly led the Vols in rushing and receiving. Kelly had 237 yards of offense breaking numerous tackles in the second half. The Vols must run everything through Kelly. He's their best football player.
BIGGEST QUESTION/CONCERN MOVING FORWARD
You have the obvious question is that is can this team handle the disappointment of the loss? There is still football to be played and to a man, the players said they will be ready to go.
But for the Vols, it's beyond being ready emotionally. This team is going to give great effort. They have shown that, but now the question is how much can they improve. Tennessee has to get better in several areas. One, they have to ride their horse inside the 10 especially. Two, the defense has to grow. Offenses are going to be better in October. Bob Shoop's unit did good things on Saturday, but like a broken record, they still gave up too many big plays.
The question is how much better can this team get. Everyone will start to find out next week.