For the second time in three weeks, Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) let a double-digit lead in the second half waste away, leading to a heartbreaking loss. Down 27-14 in the fourth quarter, Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC) rallied for a thrilling 28-27 win against the division rival Vols. Gators quarterback Will Grier threw two touchdowns in the comeback that saw the Gators keep their perfect record in play and extended the school’s winning streak over Tennessee to 11. Grier’s 4th and 14 pass to Antonio Callaway went for 63 yards and the winning touchdown with 1:26 left in the game. Tennessee missed a 55-yard field goal as the clock expired.
Florida got a number of breaks to get the win, but they earned them. The Gators were a perfect five-for-five on fourth downs, making up for a 3-for-15 third down success rate. Tennessee even had the advantage in total offensive yards (419-392) and the Vols rushed for more than twice as many yards on the ground (254-109). Tennessee also had the slight edge in time of possession. Talk about a bit of a gutsy win for the Gators.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs led all players with 136 yards and Jalen Hurd added 102 yards and two touchdowns for the Vols. Florida’s Grier overcame some tough moments earlier in the game to shine in the clutch. He ended the game with 283 passing yards and two touchdowns. Kelvin Taylor had 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Callaway ended his day with 112 yards.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain nearly cost his team a win when he chose to freeze Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley on the final play of the game. Hedley was setting up for a 55-yard field goal and missed his first attempt wide right by a good margin, but McElwain called a timeout (probably because college kickers have such a great track record with long field goals, I guess). After the timeout, Medley got a second chance and nearly made McElwain pay for the timeout tactic. Medley’s kick certainly had the distance but once again flew by the goalpost wide right, by an extremely narrow margin.
McElwain escaped his over-coaching moment, but Butch Jones left some scratching their heads over a decision not to go for a two-point conversion. In the fourth quarter, Tennessee took a 26-14 lead on a Hurd touchdown. Rather than attempt the two-point conversion to make it 28-14, Jones kicked the extra point. To say that may have cost Tennessee a win would be an understatement.
So for Tennessee, it is one more year of waiting before snapping the long losing streak to the hated Gators. It has been 11 years since the last time Tennessee defeated the Gators, which means nearly three full recruiting classes have come and gone in Knoxville wihtout celebrating a win over Florida.
Florida is now sitting in first place in the SEC East with a 2-0 conference mark. Tennessee, despite another year of promise and potential, is off to a start of 0-1 in conference play.