Tennessee runs out of juice
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The hype was there. The buildup. The anticipation. Even ESPN’s College Game Day. They were all there.
And so was Tennessee. At least for the first 30 minutes — and most of the third quarter, for that matter.
The Vols weren’t there on two plays in the third, though. Or for another big one in the fourth.
Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run tied the game at 20 and a Mike Gillislee 42-yard run set up the go-ahead score for Florida on back-to-back quick strike drives in the third quarter Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“We had a good game going until late in the third quarter,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said after his team’s 37-20 loss. “We didn’t do a good job late in the third or early in the fourth.”
The Vols had all the momentum when a Gator fake punt attempt was stuffed in the third.
Tennessee took over in Florida territory but couldn’t take advantage.
A grounding penalty called on quarterback Tyler Bray stalled the possession.
Burton took the direct snap and went 80 yards on Florida’s first play after the Tennessee punt to pull even.
“It looked like we ran out of a little juice on the perimeter,” Dooley said of the play.
The Vols, as a whole, didn’t have much juice after that.
The juice that the Tennessee offense had— at times looking effortless as it moved the ball in the first half against what looked like an out-manned Florida team — was turned into frustration and a unit out of sync in the second half.
“We’re good when we’re moving and we’re (in) tempo,” Dooley said. “We just hit a bad stretch there, for a long time.”
Florida had more than enough juice in that stretch.
Florida had enough on defense to let the Vols’ offense play itself out of the game.
Enough sync on offense to put the game away on quarterback Jeff Driskel’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond to give Florida a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.
“Big plays and turnovers, we lost both of those,” Dooley went on to say. “I say it every week.”
A on-the-way-back Tennessee team took a 14-10 lead into the half. An all too familiar Florida team ran wild to a 27-6 score in the second half.
All the hype and anticipation that built up over the week leading up to the game was just as quickly gone.
The balloon popped, the wave crashed — phrase it how you will.
Suddenly in what felt like a finally re-energized Neyland Stadium, all the air collected over the week was let out at once — out of the stands, out of the huddle, out of the home sideline.
That familiar ‘here we go again’ feeling moved in on the capacity crowd — at least what was left before many filed for the exits early in the fourth quarter.
And just as sudden, Derek Dooley went from the coach that brought Tennessee back to national relevance to the coach fans still aren’t sold on two years and three games later.
“The sky’s not going to fall tomorrow,” Dooley said. “We’re going to have to learn from it. We’re a good football team and we’ve got to move on. And we’ve got to make sure we don’t make those kind of mistakes again.”
Moving on mean from those mistakes means moving back to square one for a team that, entering Saturday, was moving in the right direction.
“It was a good football game,” Dooley said, “and we’re sitting there and we just gave up.”
Grant Ramey is a sportswriter at The Daily Times. You can follow him on Twitter, @TDT_Sports. He wrote from Knoxville.