The University of Tennessee football team no doubt has higher expectations of itself than most others, and that’s why Saturday’s 33-23 loss at Florida stings a little more than it probably should. 

It a battle of two very young teams, the Gators used home-field advantage to jump on the Volunteers early and hold them off in the end.

 

What Worked:

There was not one aspect of the UT team that stood out on Saturday, but give the Volunteers credit for not quitting.  Last season, this was the type of game in which Tennessee would have gotten blown away.  Even down 30-7 midway through the third quarter, the Vols made a game of it, but couldn’t climb out of a huge early hole.

 

What Didn’t Work:

Tennessee had one of the worst games running the football, maybe ever.  The Vols totaled -9 yards on the ground, and basically had to abandon the run altogether in the second half.  Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane combined for 27 yards on 14 carries.  The credit goes to Florida’s front seven, but there’s no excuse for a Southeastern Conference team to be so dreadful in the running game.

 

Who Stood Out:

Florida’s stingy defense will probably not see too many more guys throw for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns on them, so this one goes to Tyler Bray.  Even without star wideout Justin Hunter, UT found openings in the passing game and took advantage of them.  Bray did throw 2 picks, but one was to be expected (with UT in “throw-only” mode trying to mount a comeback) and the other was a great defensive play.

 

Play of the Game:

The most dynamic play was Chris Rainey’s 83 yard catch-and-run for a score with 8:08 left in the third.  It also was big because, even though it put Florida ahead 30-7 at the time, it turned out to be Florida’s last touchdown of the game.  If UT had stopped Florida on that drive, the Vols may have been driving for a go-ahead score at the end of regulation.  Instead, the Gators had a two possession lead and were able to play it safe on defense.  Other notable plays were Rainey’s blocked punt and Trey Burton’s fourth down touchdown run early in the third quarter.

 

It was over when:

Matt Elam intercepted Tyler Bray late in the fourth quarter with UT needing two scores to win.

 

Player of the Game:

Chris Rainey did a little bit of everything.  He tallied over 100 yards rushing, over 100 yards receiving and the aforementioned touchdown. He even blocked a punt. Rainey might be the most versatile player in the country.

 

Looking Ahead:

Tennessee should not be too down on itself about the outcome.  The Vols simply lost on the road to a better team.  The loss does not ruin Tennessee’s season at this point.  The difficulty for Tennessee will be overcoming the loss of Justin Hunter for the remainder of this season.  Fortunately for UT, the coaching staff has three weeks before playing another significant football game, which should allow them some time to come up with an answer.  Despite the setback, most of Tennessee’s goals for the season are still within reach.