It was like the leaves changing to Fall for Tennessee fans, as Harrison Bailey was warming up before the game. Vols fans were going to get their wish and see #15 trot onto the field to start. This was his day, without the yo-yo.
Tennessee came into this game looking for some offensive life, knowing the Gators would bring their own. Florida scored on their opening drive, leading Tennessee 3-0. The Vols did a nice job of holding the Gators to a field goal.
Bailey seemed comfortable in the pocket calling the plays, though he missed a few targets who were open. After three consecutive punts, Tennessee put a fantastic drive together.
Harrison Bailey took command, leading the Vols on an 11 play, 96-yard drive that ended with the Vols finding pay dirt. Bailey found Eric Gray coming out of the backfield for the touchdown. Tennessee was finally showing signs of life on offense. But, it didn’t take long for the Gators to respond and never look back.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked about his team’s performance following the game.
“I thought our kids fought hard. We made a ton of mistakes today. We need to do a much better job of getting some guys ready to play, and some of it was because they hadn’t practiced in two weeks.”
The slant has been rough on Tennessee for nearly every game this season; it’s never been close to competitive. The answer for Kyle Trask was to take advantage of this flaw and make Tennessee pay. You guessed it, Tennessee paid for it.
The Vols even tried a fake punt in the 2nd quarter, trying to keep some offensive momentum flowing their way. Unfortunately, a nice pass from Paxton Brooks was dropped by Jimmy Holliday. Simply put, the Vols were a mess after the first touchdown.
The Gators had scored two touchdowns in the second quarter; the one before half almost felt like the beginning of the end. It was an 80-yard drive, over 10 plays that put the Gators up 17-7 at halftime.
Tennessee was out-gained 252-118 in the first half. The fascinating part about this was Florida had 251 yards through the air, carving up the Vols secondary. The Gators were also 6-9 on third down plays.
It’s no secret that Tennessee has struggled mightily in the 2nd half this season. Heading into this game against Florida, they had been outscored 108-14 during this losing streak. Not much changed today.
Kyle Trask looked the part again, leading the Gators to multiple touchdown drives. It never felt like Tennessee had a chance, even as they were only down ten points at the half. It didn’t take much, besides a few disguised blitzes and a bad Tennessee secondary.
Harrison Bailey was taken out of the game in the early portion of the 4th quarter. Bailey finished the day 14-21 for 111 yards and 1 touchdown. Yes, he overthrew multiple guys and probably should’ve gotten rid of it earlier at times, but it was a learning day.
Tennessee’s problem, you were in the middle of a 5 game losing streak, and learning days won’t cut it. Another glaring problem for this team continues to be the middle of the field. I have never covered a team that gets beat across the middle as the 2020 Vols. I tell you, it’s become a running joke.
Harrison Bailey exited the game early in the 4th quarter, replaced by JT Shrout. It was Shrout who led the Vols to two touchdown drives. Shrout finished 12-14 for 121 yards and 1 touchdown. That was a great performance off the bench. He got the Vols within 12 points as the final seconds ticked off.
Jeremy Pruitt said postgame about the QBs. “I thought Harrison and JT both did a pretty good job.”
But here we are again; the Vols have been outscored 122-26 in the second half, over this six-game losing streak. Honestly, without Shrout, it could’ve been even worse. It wasn’t as though Bailey wasn’t clicking today for the Vols, but it was just too sporadic. Besides the one scoring drive, it almost felt he was forcing it too much. Again, not his fault. He’s a freshman that will continue to learn.
“There’s probably not much difference between the team in our locker room and the team in the other locker room. Obviously, there’s a difference on the scoreboard”. Pruitt added.
But the main takeaway tonight was the lack of execution of a game plan was and how poorly this defense continues to play. They haven’t been able to hide the horrible secondary play and Kyle Trask put a huge spotlight on them again tonight. Opposing offenses are taking full advantage of the problems Tennessee continues to inflict on itself.
The Vols will head back to work tomorrow, looking to break this losing streak that’s getting closer to last year’s winning streak.