Tennessee’s 26-20 loss to Florida started slow but wound up producing plenty of fireworks. Some were thrilling for Vols’ fans, some not so much so.
The Good: John Kelly. What can be said about Tennessee’s unheralded junior runningback that hasn’t already been said? He’s a bad, bad man. We’ve steadfastly proclaimed him the SEC’s most underrated back, and the entire CBS-viewing nation found that out Saturday afternoon. He rushed for 141 yards and averaged over seven yards per carry, and had 96 receiving yards. Remember: this 3-star runningback from Oak Park, Mich., had zero scholarship offers from SEC schools, aside from Tennessee. He was ranked by Rivals as the nation’s No. 29 runningback in the 2015 recruiting class. His only Power 5 offers aside from home-state Michigan and Michigan State were Cincinnati and Maryland. He may be the only offensive weapon Tennessee has this season, but he’s a good one. And the Vols are going to win some games they would not have won without him.
The Bad: Tennessee’s coaching. The Vols’ red-zone offensive play-calling selection was coaching malpractice (more on that in a moment). The decision to go into a quarters defense on Florida’s final play of the game — the 63-yard touchdown pass — was mind-boggling. (Head coach Butch Jones later joked that Tennessee didn’t have a dime due to injuries, but UT fans were hardly in a laughing mood.) Quarterback play. Junior Quinten Dormady looked serviceable — if shaky at times — during Tennessee’s wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana State but his first road game was an unmitigated disaster in The Swamp. He had his moments, but also had three interceptions . . . and others that could’ve been or should’ve been picked. He threw three terrible passes on three consecutive plays on Tennessee’s goal-to-go series in the third quarter. The penalties. Tennessee’s Jack Jones was whistled for false starts two times inside the red zone. The Vols also had two other penalties in the red zone.
The Ugly: Red zone offense. Tennessee had 13 snaps inside the 20-yard-line during Saturday’s game and produced a grand total of three points. Only one of the snaps was a running play — which is on the coaches. That run went for -1 yard. Seven of the snaps were passes. Only one was completed, for -1 yard. The other was an interception — which was on the quarterback. The other five snaps were penalties. You won’t win many games playing offense like that in the red zone.