KNOXVILLE -- The first and second halves could not have gone differently for Tennessee on Saturday.
Trailing 21-3, the Volunteers were booed off their own field before staging a stunning rally to a 38-28 streak-snapping win behind the poise of quarterback Josh Dobbs and a shorthanded defense rising to the occasion.
It was a sweet win, the kind of victory you wouldn't blame the fan base, players and coaches for enjoying a little longer than usual, even with three more tough SEC games looming.
Here's a look back at a wild Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Such a comeback has Tennessee's has multiple stars, but the nod goes to quarterback Josh Dobbs, who totaled 399 yards of offense (319 passing, 80 rushing) and scored five touchdowns. He threw scoring passes of 23, 20, 67 and 42 yards to Jalen Hurd, Ethan Wolf, Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone. He was hurt by drops and an interception in the first half and never flinched in leading the Vols back.
After averaging 8.8 yards per play in racing out to a 21-0 lead, Florida only managed 2.8 yards per play in the second half as Tennessee's shorthanded defense locked up the Gators. Florida didn't register its first second-half first down until midway through the fourth quarter after Tennessee had scored 38 straight points to take a 17-point lead. Whatever was said at halftime, it worked.
Needing points on its second series of the second half, Tennessee twice converted on third downs to extend an eventual touchdown drive to cut Florida's lead to 21-10 and sustain the Vols' hopes. Dobbs hit freshman Tyler Byrd on a slant for one and found Jason Croom over the middle on a rollout for the other. Dobbs found Hurd for a 20-yard touchdown with plenty of time left in the game.
Jennings beat Jalen Tabor, Florida's star corner, on his juggling 67-yard go-ahead touchdown catch along the sideline early in the fourth quarter. "All the things they were talking about before the game about how we're the worst receiver group they've faced," he said, "we took that personal. Right here is the original Wide Receiver U. We felt like we had to bring that back, and I felt like we did."
WHAT IT MEANS
Florida's 11-year winning streak against Tennessee is history as the Vols staged a memorable comeback to take down a rival for a win the players, coaches and fans deserve to enjoy . The Vols are 4-0 and the early leaders in the SEC East Division. Tennessee can take more control of the division with a win at Georgia next week before tough games at Texas A&M and against Alabama.
BY THE NUMBERS
4,389: Florida's 11-game winning streak against Tennessee spanned nearly 4,400 days. James Wilhoit kicked a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds of the Vols' 30-28 triumph in 2004, and Tennessee staged a remarkable rally on Saturday. All of its wins against the Gators are memorable for Tennessee, and this one will rank pretty highly.
319-11: When Josh Dobbs scored to give the Vols a 38-21 lead with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter, Tennessee held an absurd 319-11 advantage in total offense and scored 35 points while holding the Gators without a first down. Despite playing without its best players and getting torched in the first half, Tennessee's defense held Florida to 102 second-half yards.
9.1: During its dominant second half Tennessee averaged nearly 9 yards per play while holding Florida to a paltry 2.8 yards per snap. In the first half the Gators had an 8.8-3.9 advantage in yards per play. The script flipped entirely after halftime as the Vols roared back
17: The Vols won despite turning six red-zone possessions into just 17 points. Tennessee couldn't punch it in after having first-and-goal from the 2-yard line following Antonio Callaway's muffed punt, and Dobbs threw an end-zone interception after Jalen Hurd was dropped for a 4-yard loss on first-and-goal at the 3.
3: Tackles for loss in the second half by Derek Barnett, the defensive end who took over the game, his coach Butch Jones said after the game. Barnett had two sacks and batted down a pass while looking unblockable at times for Florida's offensive line. Barnett led Tennessee's defensive charge in the second half.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.