3. Florida Gators
Year: 2015 (Away)
Final score: Tennessee Volunteers lose 28-27
Of all of Tennessee football’s heartbreaking losses to the Florida Gators, we ironically pick the one in which both teams are unranked. Honestly, we could have picked 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2014 or 2017. But 2015 stands out because of how the loss occurred.
The Vols teased their fans in this one. Remember, at this point, they were on a frustrating 10-year losing streak to the Gators. One year earlier, they had blown a 9-0 lead late only to lose 10-9. That was their second blown two-score lead in the second half to lose by one point during the streak, the other coming in 2006.
But this season, Jim McElwain was rebuilding the Gators, and the Vols returned almost everybody from a 7-6 team while adding a top 5 recruiting class. Butch Jones’s hype had still not worn off. The momentum died a bit early, though, as the Vols blew a 17-0 lead to the Oklahoma Sooners and lost in double-overtime in the second game of the year.
That dropped them out of the top 25 as they entered this game 2-1. However, the expectation was still for them to win. And despite giving up the first touchdown, they controlled most of the game and were up 17-7 at halftime. Then Jones happened. His incompetence would only be outmatched by his 2017 coaching decisions against Florida, but this one was pretty bad.
It started with the Vols leading 20-7 in the second half. Florida, facing a 4th and 6, decided for a 42-yard field goal. Unprepared, Jones called a timeout. That wasted timeout allowed McElwain, who was incompetent himself to change his mind and go for it, which he did and scored a touchdown on that drive in the process.
Then, after building a 26-14 lead thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown, Jones made the ridiculous decision not to go for two there. So it was 27-14 instead of 28-14. On the next drive, Will Grier converted three more fourth down attempts before scoring to make it 27-21. Jones, knowing his defense was tired, still chose to sit on the lead and punt to let his defense win it.
So Florida got the ball again down 27-21. They got stopped on their first three plays and even lost yards. Facing a 4th and 14, Tennessee football just needed one stop to win the game. They couldn’t do it.
Jon Jancek inexplicably called a three-man rush with two spies. So Grier easily found Antonio Calloway for the first down. Bad angles taken by the Vols turned that into a touchdown, and Florida now led 28-27. On their final drive, a UT offense based on tempo could only get off four plays with 90 seconds and a timeout left and had to try a 55-yard field goal with Aaron Medley.
Obviously, UT’s luck dictated that Medley miss the kick just barely so Florida holds on for a 28-27 win. That loss wasn’t just a heartbreaker, but it was Florida’s 11th win in the series. It also gave the Gators the SEC East. So it was devastating in a lot of ways and sickening enough to top the list of bad Florida losses.