(Aside from the usual joking around with the Tennessee fans, Cumberland Ave being packed as usual, and Calhouns being dominated by the Gator faithful, this doesn’t feel like game it should be)
The sea of orange at Rocky Top was rocking beyond belief. I’ve been coming to this game since 2004. The UT fans fully believe that this is their year to stop the streak of five consecutive victories for Florida in this series. In talking to multiple Vol fans, I’ve heard about their rushing game and their front seven on defense. Apparently those are the strongest units of their team (not like we all didn’t know that already) and the fact that they remain a play action offensive team. Again, that isn’t really all that surprising because they lack a true down-field threat in the passing game. But anyways, on to the game...
Clearly in the first quarter the Gators dominated the field position battle, including downing a punt at the Tennessee one (1) yard line. But that advantage was somewhat negated by Pouncey’s continued inability to snap the ball. Still though, a field goal was all that Tennessee could muster against our defense. It has become clear to me and I can’t figure out why and/or how anyone could disagree and that is Mike Gillislee is our second best running back.
After Gillislee rushes for the touchdown, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the Tennessee offense wakes up. And sure enough, after a great defensive stand by the defense, Janoris Jenkins muffs a punt (due in part because of the Tennessee player who crossed in front of him), and Tennessee promptly throws a long pass down inside the 10 yard line. But Jonathan Bostic erases all fears with very nice interception to end the Tennessee drive. Great read on the play by Bostic but it appeared that Matt Simms missed his secondary target who had the advantage.
The offensive line as a whole, played decent in the first half. The snaps are lie squarely on the shoulders of Pouncey but enough with allowing the defense to bat balls down at the line. Two times in the first half, as Brantley is throwing to a wide open receiver the play goes for not because the offensive line failed to do their job. One final thought on the offensive line, and that is their blocking in the running game was sub-par for them. Either Tennessee’s defensive front seven is a lot better than any of us game them credit for, or our offensive line is playing badly. In the first half at least....
On the flip side of things, Tennessee and their run game didn’t really get off to any kind of start as our defense dominated vs their offensive line from the start. It seemed to me anyway that Simms was running for his life on a consistent basis and their running game wasn’t running at all. Mostly due to the fact that on nearly offensive play the Vols ran, there was at least one Gator in the backfield almost immediately after the snap.
The secondary appeared to blow coverages quite a bit in the 2nd half. I believe it was Will Hill who left the Tennessee receiver wide open for a touchdown on 4th down. Also there was the 49 yard touchdown pass Tennessee had to tie the game at 10 which was also a blown coverage by the defensive secondary. But Will Hill made up for it with a massive hit that caused a fumble and it was at that moment that the game was pretty much over.
On the offensive side of things, Mike Gillislee continues to impress, while Moody continues to disappoint. There was one point in the game and it was the Tennessee challenge on the Jeff Demps fumble. It looked on the big screen at the stadium that the ball was just ripped out of his hands as he was being tackled but I still couldn’t quite tell. It looked like a fumble, but I haven’t seen the slow motion replay yet, so I’m not 100% positive. Another play that I couldn't quite tell was the safety that we had. On the big video board replay I still couldn't quite tell. Don't know.
One of the funnier moments occurred when Trey Burton ran it in from the 3 yard line to make the score 31-17 Gators, when two Tennessee fans turned to me and said, “Oh no. Not another Tebow.” I just smiled and said “Nah.” It was good to see the freshman make an appearance in the 2nd half and the 4th quarter especially. Matt Elam recovering a fumble, and Ronald Powell with a sack were the two that I could see. Also, a shout-out to Brandon Antwine for his two sacks. I know he isn’t a freshman but that was awesome to see him making plays.
The rushing game never really appeared to take off at any point in the game. It seemed that Tennessee did a decent job in shutting that aspect of our offense out. The fake punt call by Urban, and Omarius Hines on the run was the perfect call and changed the game as it was 10-10 at that point. Took the life out of Tennessee long enough for the us to build a 14 point lead which turned out to be too much. Tennessee would close the lead to 7, but we were able to respond quickly and put the game out of reach.
The defense was fantastic (aside from a few blown plays) and the offense still needs work, but we should be able to get it together. It’s going to be an interesting rest of the season. Go Gators!