7-6 (3-5); W TaxSlayer Bowl
2013 record: 5-7 (2-6)
This was a very mild turnaround, but it was the momentum at the end that made the 2014 season so exciting. Butch Jones was entering his second year on Rocky Top after Tennessee football had suffered its third straight season without a bowl game and fourth straight losing season in 2013.
The Vols had a top 5 recruiting class for 2014 and another one on the way for 2015, but they were exceedingly young, so expectations remained low. Momentum was still behind Jones. A brand new offensive line, however, made for a horrendous start and signaled potentially another losing season.
UT was blown out by the Oklahoma Sooners and lost close games to the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators. They were later blown out by the Ole Miss Rebels before Justin Worley suffered a season-ending injury. In the next game, they fell behind 27-0 with Nathan Peterman starting. That’s when Joshua Dobbs came in.
Dobbs went 1-3 and played horribly in 2013 as a freshman filling in for Worley. But he completely turned it around in 2014. After making the Alabama game respectable in a 34-20 loss, his legend was born the next week with a 14-point comeback in less than three minutes at the South Carolina Gamecocks to win in overtime.
The Vols followed that up with wins over the Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores, losing to the Missouri Tigers in between to go from 3-5 to 6-6. In their first bowl appearance in four years, they blew out the Iowa Hawkeyes to finish 7-6. At the time, it seemed to be setting the stage for big years ahead under Jones. But we all know how that turned out.