Mistake after mistake after mistake pretty much sums up the reason why the Tennessee Volunteers lost their first game of the season to the Florida Gators 29-16 at the Swamp in Gainesville, FL. The Vols (2-1) committed 10 penalties for 79 yards, most of them eliminating big drive opportunities or allowing the Gators to continue theirs.
Although the Vols’ defense had its moments, especially in the 2nd half when they only allowed the Gators three points, it was the second quarter in which the Gators ran out to a huge lead scoring 20 points while the Vols scored none.
The Gators were led by running back, Trevor Etienne, who rushed for 172 yards on 23 carries, one of them being a 62-yard run in that 2nd quarter. Florida quarterback Graham Mertz was also efficient hitting on 15 of his first 17 attempts and finishing the night 19 of 24 including a touchdown pass and a touchdown run. While Mertz was having a great game, Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton who had one costly interception that led to a Gators touchdown, played possibly his best game of the season. Milton finished the game 20 of 34 for 287 yards and had 2 touchdown passes.
After starting the season off against Virginia with only 2 penalties the Vols have committed 19 penalties in their last two games. The penalties are coming on both sides of the football and at the most crucial times. From unsportsmanlike conduct to roughing the passer, to holding, to false start, to offsides, the Volunteer fans have seen it all the past two weeks
The Vols started off strong in this game. Florida easily took the first drive down to the Vols 26-yard line but it was the Vols defense and special teams which came up huge. The Vols stopped the Gators on a 3rd and 12 and then it was the special teams blocking a 46-yard field goal attempt by Florida kicker, Adam Mihalek. The Vols took that momentum and drove 71 yards highlighted by a Milton 41-yard pass to Squirrel Wright and capped off by a Milton 11-yard touchdown pass to Ramel Keyton. It didn’t take long for the Gators to fight back as four plays later Etienne took the handoff from Mertz and ran 62 yards for a touchdown. After a missed extra point by Mihalek, the quarter ended with the Vols leading 7-6
It was all Gators in the 2nd quarter. A well-balanced offense of passes and runs led to the second touchdown drive for the Gators as it came to a conclusion on a 4-yard run by Gators running back Montrell Johnson. On the Vols’ next possession Milton, who was under pressure on a 2nd and 12, just threw the ball up for grabs and it was intercepted by Devin Moore who ran it back 39 yards. Tack on 15 more yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Gators found themselves at The Vols 9-yard line. Five plays later it was Mertz taking it in from the 1. The Gators would score one more time in the quarter as Mertz found Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 2:22 left in the half
Vols kicker Charles Campbell accounted for all the scoring in the 3rd quarter as he kicked a 42-yard field goal. The Vols did score a touchdown in the 4th when Bru McCoy scored on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Milton with 8:48 left in the game. It wasn’t enough as the Gators’ defense held them scoreless the rest of the way
The Vols will try to get back on the winning track next week when they host UTSA (1-2) at 3:00 PM