Published September 16, 2012 - 2:32pm
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Some 100,000-plus Tennessee fans filed their way out of Neyland Stadium Saturday night wondering what just happened in the second half against the Florida Gators. The orange-clad faithful spent the final 30 minutes watching an average quarterback in Jeff Driskel surgically dissect a talent-rich secondary while Trey Burton and Mike Gillislee delivered game-changing runs.
For 2.5 quarters, the rivalry matchup between ranked teams was competitive play-for-play, an old-fashioned SEC East showdown playing out as scripted.
Then, the old Volunteers showed up.
You know, the ones that have given up big play after big play in Derek Dooley’s three-year tenure, the penalty-prone ones that have trouble executing and getting off the field defensively.
You had us there for a minute Tennessee.
Back-to-back convincing wins with a new sense of urgency gave a program hoping to turn the corner a boatload of pride with a cocky All-SEC-caliber quarterback calling the shots. Instead, what a nationally-televised audience witnessed was a stinker at home that saw the opposition score the game’s final 24 points.
Dooley’s catch and spike of an errant Tyler Bray fourth-down throw in the fourth quarter summed up another disappointing effort for the Volunteers, their 11th straight loss against a ranked team. It takes four quarters to win a game in the SEC and Tennessee may not have the confidence — or proper coaching staff — to do so.
A porous rush defense gave up 336 yards on the ground, 115 of those to Mike Gillislee who wasn’t even 100 percent. Florida mixed it up well on offense and controlled the clock against a team that couldn’t get it going on the ground. The Gators exposed the recipe for beating Tennessee — make the Vols one dimensional and harass the passing game. Tennessee averaged three yards per carry and relied too much on Bray whose career numbers are drastically different against SEC defenses.
Dooley could only watch in his featured orange pants on the sideline as the Vols folded in a game they had to win for national relevance.
Note to ESPN College Gameday, maybe it’s best you not return to Knoxville in the near future. Tennessee’s back to being Tennessee, the inconsistent football team we’ve seen each of the past two seasons that’s not ready for the Top 25.