No. 14 Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) brought an end to an 11-game losing streak to No. 19 Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) in resounding fashion Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. Down 21-0 in the first half, Tennessee roared back with 38 straight points en route to a wild 38-28 victory in a key SEC East battle.
The phrase “tale of two halves” gets thrown around a lot, sometimes more than necessary, but there was simply no way to describe what just happened in a checkered-out Neyland Stadium. The Vols looked lost and sloppy in the first half of the game, shooting themselves in the feet twice inside the Florida 10-yard line with nothing to show for it. But the second half was a reversal of fortune, as the Vols defense started getting off the field quickly and the offense started clicking. Joshua Dobbs shrugged off an awful first half and came back to lead the charge with four touchdown passes in the second half, and one more on the ground just for good measure. Dobbs was Tennessee’s second-leading rusher (behind Jalen Hurd) on top of passing for over 300 yards against the Gators.
Tennessee took the lead on a play that appeared to be eerily similar to a key play from a year ago. Dobbs found a wide-open Jauan Jennings down the right side of the field for an easy touchdown. The score gave the Vols the lead. It was a long passing play last season that saw Florida take the lead on the Vols when it appeared a victory was in hand for Tennessee.
The Vols tacked on more to put the game in he win column, of course. The defense picked off a pass from Austin Appleby on Florida’s first play of the ensuing drive and that was quickly turned into a touchdown. Florida then had to punt after three plays on the next drive, and the Vols scored four plays later. The momentum had swung back to Tennessee and never returned to the Gators’ sideline, even after a 16-play touchdown drive. Nothing was stopping Tennessee at this point, as Florida’s frustration boiled over so much, Brandon Powell was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter for throwing a punch.
Trying to figure out what this means for Tennessee going forward is a bit of a tricky proposition. That is because you just don’t really know which Tennessee was closer to the real Tennessee. The SEC East is most definitely their’s to take this year, with a head-to-head tiebreaker with Florida in the fold and Georgia looking abysmal on the road earlier in the day in a blowout loss at Ole Miss. Tennessee will get a chance to seize complete control of the division next week when they head to Athens to take on those Georgia Bulldogs. A win there and the SEC East crown should be pretty easy to claim, although the Vols still have a road trip to Texas A&M and a home game against Alabama after that Georgia game, so there is no easy path to the SEC East just yet.
And with a challenging schedule ahead of them in conference play the next few weeks, Florida is not out of the picture just yet. The Gators get no easy games with LSU and Arkansas in cross-division play, but a game at Vanderbilt next week offers a chance to bounce back before hosting LSU and Missouri and then taking on Georgia in Jacksonville. Florida can remain in the hunt, but the margin for error has been reduced as a result of this one.
For the second time this spinning of the coaching carousel, a Left Coast FBS program has lost an assistant to its little brother level of college football.
First, it was Cal losing offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin to the head job FCS Cal Poly. This time around it’s San Diego State, with FCS Lamar officially introducing Blane Morgan as its new head football coach.
Morgan spent the past five seasons as the quarterbacks coach at SDSU. Before that, he was at alma mater Air Force for a dozen years as, at various times, wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
ROCKY LONG, HEAD COACH, SAN DIEGO STATE
“Blane has been a key part of our 48-18 record over the past five years. He understands what it takes to win and is a proven winner. He’s gotten the most out of his players, and their consistent play is a big reason for our two conference championships since he’s been here. He should make an outstanding head coach.”
FISHER DEBERRY, FORMER HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
“Blane Morgan is going to be a great college head coach! He was a tremendous quarterback as a player and was one of the most competitive players and coaches that we had in the program at the Air Force Academy. Being the son of a great and very successful high school coach, and also being on the staff of one of the nation’s premier defensive coaches in the college game makes him well qualified and ready for this responsible job. He will be a great role model and mentor to the players! Players and supporters will love his beautiful family and they will be inspired by his leadership. Lamar University has found a nugget.”
TROY CALHOUN, HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
“In Blane Morgan and his family, Lamar is getting a first-class leader that bleeds for their home state of Texas. He’s a superb coach and will be a tremendous representative of the university.“
It goes without saying that Jeff Traylor has hit the ground running in San Antonio.
Monday, Traylor was officially introduced as the new head football coach at UTSA. Thursday, Traylor announced that he has brought in five new assistants and retained another as part of his first coaching staff with the Roadrunners.
Those assistant coaches are:
- Daniel Da Prato (special teams coordinator)
- Nick Graham (cornerbacks)
- Julian Griffin (running backs)
- Jess Loepp (safeties/recruiting coordinator)
- Matt Mattox (run-game coordinator/offensive line)
- Rod Wright (defensive line)
Wright is the only holdover from Frank Wilson‘s last staff at the school.
Da Prato (special teams), Griffin (offensive quality control assistant) and Loepp (offensive analyst) all come to UTSA from Arkansas. Traylor spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach and running backs coach with the Razorbacks.
Graham (defensive assistant) and Mattox (offensive coordinator) were both at McNeese State for the 2019 season.
With yesterday’s developments, Traylor has just four more openings on his on-field staff to fill. Unless he gets raided by another football program, of course.
For the second time Thursday, Eli Drinkwitz has added an assistant to his new Missouri coaching staff. And, for the second time, it’s a member of his old Appalachian State.
First, Charlie Harbison was announced as a defensive assistant whose specific duties will be spelled out later. Next, it’s Erik Link being the second confirmed addition as part of Drinkwitz’s 10-man on-field staff.
Unlike Harbison, though, Link’s role has already been defined — special teams coordinator. That’s the same job Link held with the Mountaineers in 2019, his first and only season with the Sun Belt Conference school.
“Erik is a man of high character with a background in teaching and coaching,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “His special teams units are detailed and very sound, and his guys play hard. They focus on effort, execution and high energy.”
Link was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2018, his first season as an on-field assistant at the FBS level. In 2011-12, he was the special teams coordinator at FCS Montana State.
In two separate stints at Auburn, he served as a quality control assistant (2010) and special teams/offensive analyst (2013-15).
The Lane Train is wasting little time rolling out members of his first coaching staff in Oxford.
Officially confirmed as Ole Miss’ head coach Saturday, Lane Kiffin on Thursday unveiled the first two members of his on-field staff — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and offensive assistant Kevin Smith.
While Smith wasn’t given an official title, he spent the past three seasons as Kiffin’s running backs coach at FAU. That was the 43-year-old Smith’s first on-field role at any level of football as he had spent the previous three seasons at his alma mater UCF as both a coaching intern and quality control coach.
Smith, a consensus All-American as a running back at UCF, played five years for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and one season in the Canadian Football League.
Lebby, coincidentally enough, spent the past two seasons at UCF, the first as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to coordinator following the 2018 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Baylor for five years, primarily as running backs coach.
Lebby’s father-in-law is disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles. His brother-in-law is Kendal Briles, who was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at FAU for one season before leaving for the same job at Houston and then, ultimately, Florida State.
In addition to those on-field hires, Wilson Love was announced as the Rebels’ head strength & conditioning coach. Like Smith, Love was a part of Kiffin’s Owls program the past three years.