Tennessee coach Butch Jones rolled the dice before entering his first matchup against SEC East rival Florida. After announcing the re-opening of a competition amongst his quarterbacks for the starting position earlier this week, Jones gave redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman the nod shortly before kickoff.
However, the inexperienced Peterman did little to help the Vols chances.
Florida defeated Tennessee for the ninth-consecutive season, 31-17. The Vols last win against the Gators came during a 30-28 home win in 2004.
For the second-straight week, the Vols had their best showing early. Tennessee capitalized on a 62-yard Devuan Swafford interception return to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
But their offensive struggles against the Florida defense quickly halted their advantage. The Vols turned the ball over four times during the first half, while the Gators managed to take a 17-3 lead.
Peterman’s struggles played a major factor in the team’s lack of success. He finished 4-of-11 passing for five yards and three total turnovers. Peterman was replaced seconds before halftime by former starter Justin Worley, who finished the game.
Despite providing the team’s only passing touchdown, Worley also struggled against the dominant Florida defensive unit. He added two more interceptions to the Vols’ six turnovers, while the Gators’ offense continued to heat up throughout the game.
Florida added 14 more points, including a four-yard run by Matt Jones in the third quarter and a seven-yard keeper by backup quarterback Tyler Murphy, who replaced Jeff Driskel after suffering a game-ending injury on the team’s second possession.
The Vols finished the contest with 220 total yards. Tennessee accounted for just 44 yards by halftime, with turnovers and dropped passes playing a major role.
Tennessee still has unanswered questions in Jones’ first season, however, should be credited for making an effort to stay competitive throughout the tough loss. With South Alabama heading to Knoxville next week, the rebuilding program will have a break from their tough schedule and a chance to even their record at 2-2.