KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — 22,943 Vols fans showed out at Neyland Stadium hoping to see Tennessee pull off an upset over SEC East Rival Florida.
The team was impacted by COVID-19 concerns leading up to the game, that lead to some young players getting their first career start including true freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey.
After shaking off some early nerves, the true freshman found some confidence in the pocket in Tennessee’s third possession.
After 11 plays for 96 yards, Tennessee got on the board after Bailey completed his first touchdown pass to Eric Gray for 15 yards, to give the Vols the lead to 7-3.
Florida answered right back. Kyle Trask capped off a 6-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to his favorite target on the day Trevon Grimes to give Florida back the lead 10-7.
The Gators would go on to score 21 unanswered leading into the fourth quarter.
Tennessee tried to pull some trickery to keep their third possession, on 4th and 5 with 6:41 in the second, the Vols faked the punt with Paxton Brooks slinging the ball to Jimmy Holiday—but Holiday couldn’t hold on.
The Gators scored a field goal on the following drive to extend the lead 10-7.
The Vols momentum on the third possession of the second quarter dwindled after Bailey was sacked for a 7-yard loss, forcing the Vols to punt.
The Gators with 0:33 seconds left in the first half, putting the Vols in a 10-point hole heading into the locker rooms, down 17-7.
Florida started the second half with the ball, which lead to a touchdown on their opening drive in the third quarter.
The Vols third quarter struggles continued, unable to produce any points in the cursed quarter. However, thanks to Tennessee’s defense the Gators were only able to score 7 points—the least amount of third quarter points scored by an opponent since the Mizzou game.
Tennessee didn’t give up, with 5:33 left in the game, Ty Chandler ran it in 7-yards to cut the lead 31-13.
Tennessee found the end zone one more time in a last stitch effort to cut the lead, with J.T. Shrout connecting with Velus Jones Jr. for a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-19 but that would be it.
The Vols defensive front went to work, stifling the Gators ground game to just 19 rushing yards making the Gators offense one dimensional. However, that one dimension is their forte. Trask competed 35 of his 49 pass attempts for 433 yards and 4 touchdown passes.
The Gators walk away with the SEC East title after handing Tennessee its sixth double digit loss on the season.
Three of Tennessee’s four quarterbacks saw game time, with Jarrett Guarantano sidelined.
Bailey ended the game completing 14 of 21 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown and the best stat: no turnovers.
Brian Maurer logged one snap, completing his lone pass for 8 yards to give Tennessee a first down in the Vols second drive of the second half.
J.T. Shrout took the reigns in the fourth quarter, completing 12 of 14 for 121 yards and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Velus Jones Jr.