The once heated rivalry isn’t much of one anymore. The Tennessee Volunteers went into a No. 19 Florida, just needing to prove they are much more than last week’s team, which lost to a No. 2 Oregon, 59-14. The Gators dominated the Vols in recent years (9 years in a row), but after a disappointing loss to Miami in Week 2, the matchup was hard to predict.
The game was sloppy at best. After all, there were seven turnovers in the first half, four by Tennessee and three by Florida. The Vols went up early 7-0 on a pick-6, but much of the first half showed shortcomings on both sides of the ball. The quarterback change to Nathan Peterman didn’t pan out as expected as he went 2/7 for five yards and two INTs in the first half and was promptly replaced late in the second by Justin Worley. Gators’ quarterback Jeff Driskel was injured early and didn’t return (he will be out for the season), bringing Tyler Murphy, who led the Gators to a 31-17 win over the Vols.
What does this mean for the Vols in the coming weeks?
The Vols have improved significantly since the loss to Oregon. As much as everyone wanted a quarterback change, it wasn’t meant to be. Worley had some signs of light, throwing some beautiful passes midway through the fourth quarter. Worley will remain the starting quarterback. He earned it, despite two INTs against Florida. The quarterback position isn’t the only area for improvement for the Vols. Although the front five are doing a great job, running backs Marlin Lane and Rajion Neel have been unable to make big plays. On the defensive side of the ball, the lack of depth showed, but their resilience helped make sure the game wasn’t too much of a blowout. A key area to improve on will be turnover margin. The Vols finished the game with 6 turnovers.
Next week, the Vols have a great opportunity to try out some different schemes against South Alabama, before the dreaded SEC run of Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. Head Coach Butch Jones can prove that his “brick by brick” method is working.
Lahari Subraveti is a football writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on twitter @Lahari_S.