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Tennessee's Tyler Byrd (10) breaks loss for a long gain on a pass reception. The Florida Gators visited the Tennessee Volunteers in a important SEC football contest at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016.

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Vols rejoice in momentous comeback win over Florida, 38-28

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KNOXVILLE — If Tyler Byrd didn't know before Saturday, Tennessee's freshman wide receiver knows now his quarterback remains poised under pressure.

The Volunteers needed every ounce of the calmness Josh Dobbs showed during their comeback win against Florida.

After a forgetful first half full of squandered opportunities, Tennessee came roaring to life under the guidance of its senior quarterback, who led the Vols to 35 second-half points in a 38-28 win against the Gators.

"It's unbelievable," Byrd said. "He's a great leader and he propels us. He always stays calm when everything seems to melt down, and he brings us all back up."

How Tennessee played on offense in the first half was more a meltdown than a performance. The Vols had three first downs inside Florida's 15-yard line and turned those situations into just three points. Another possession that began in Florida territory went nowhere.

The Vols were plagued by dropped passes, and Dobbs tossed an interception in the end zone.

"I thought we were an emotional team, and we don't like emotional teams," Vols coach Butch Jones said. "We like passionate teams. We were too emotional. I thought we were living and dying on every single snap instead of playing one snap, clear and move on to play the next. We were too much into the highs and lows in the first half, and it showed."

Dobbs completed just one of his first eight passes as tight end Ethan Wolf dropped two and Jason Croom let a touchdown throw slip through his grasp following a Florida turnover.

Later Dobbs underthrew an open Alvin Kamara, which led to a field goal.

Halftime provided a chance for the Vols to regroup.

"The second half is a new game," Kamara said. "The first half, obviously, didn't go our way, but I think we felt good going in at halftime at what was about to happen. We were really shooting ourselves in the foot, so going into halftime, (Dobbs) grabbed some guys, I grabbed some guys, I came to him and went to Jalen (Hurd) — we just had to keep the morale up."

Tennessee's promising drive to start the second half ended when Dobbs was hit as he threw and was intercepted, but the Vols scored on five of their next six possessions.

"Simple. It was just execution," Dobbs said. "We were shooting ourselves in the foot the whole first half and even on that first drive (of the second half), whether it was bad ball location on my part or not finishing catches or messing up up front. We came into the locker room and said don't panic. It's simple, we've just got to execute and play our brand of football.

"We were moving the ball on them the whole game, and once we started executing, that's when the success came."

Tennessee rolled up 154 yards in the third quarter and 182 in the fourth and finished with nine completions of 15-plus yards and three runs of 10 or more yards against one of the SEC's most talented defenses.

Dobbs finished with an impressive stat line (399 yards and five touchdowns) and left with a signature win.

"That's what you want. At the quarterback position, you want a flat-lined player," Jones said. "We don't want the ebbs and flows and the peaks and the valleys. You want somebody who's very consistent in their approach, and that's Joshua Dobbs. He's very consistent in his approach. He's very calm and very collected, and our team feeds off that."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com

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