After a debilitating loss to Oregon last week the Tennessee Volunteers were looking to begin a new Saturday against SEC East rival Florida.
The Vols opened the game with a new quarterback at the helm. Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman received the nod for his first career start after poor performances from junior quarterback Justin Worley the past few weeks. However, Worley would be the man to finish the game after a very sloppy start from the redshirt freshman Peterman.
Even after taking an early lead for the second consecutive week the Volunteers fall to Florida for the ninth straight season 31-17 Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Sloppy football ruled the first half for both teams. Defense was the best offense on both sides.
The Gators began the game with a muffed snap on a punt, giving Tennessee the ball for their first possession inside the Gators 15 yard-line. Tennessee would then respond with a fumble of their own on a second down run by senior running back Raijon Neal.
Florida would take the momentum of the Tennessee turnover to midfield before quarterback Jeff Driskel would throw an interception that resulted in a pick-six for the Vols by freshman defensive back Devaun Swafford. Unfortunately for the Gators the hit sustained on Driskel during the pass would result in the end of his season.
Tennessee’s defense remained strong against Florida’s back-up junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who’s best asset was his legs, but eventually the dynamic of a dual threat quarterback would wear down the Vols defense as it has often in recent history.
Both teams turned the ball over multiple times, but only the Gators were able to make any progress off of them by scoring on two of Tennessee’s four first half turnovers. The Florida native Peterman who received the first start of his collegiate career threw two interceptions, and fumbled the ball once before coach Butch Jones finally pulled the plug on the redshirt freshman and put his veteran Worley back in the game.
Worley gave the Vols instant success on his first drive, helping them down the field into position for a 44-yard field goal by another Florida native Michael Palardy to cut the Gators halftime lead to 17-10. Florida would respond with a five minute drive that ended in a touchdown, putting them up by 14, a lead Tennessee would cut no further into.
After riding the bench the first half Worley finished 10-of-23 for 149 yards and a touchdown, coupled with two interceptions. Although his second half play wasn’t great it was still progress from Peterman’s 4-out-of-11 completions for five yards, two interceptions and a fumble.
The Volunteers may be leaving the Swamp wondering, “what if?” after controlling the game early on the defensive side, but having their offense cost them several opportunities and points.
The good news out of all this for Tennessee is they’ll return home next week to face South Alabama, what should be a breather game for the Vols before they play three straight games against top 15 opponents.
The Tennessee Volunteers will host South Alabama at 12:21 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Neyland Stadium. Game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.