Turning points in Tennessee football’s 38-14 loss at Florida

Tennessee wide receiver Jimmy Calloway (9) misses a pass resulting in a turnover on downs during an NCAA football game against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.Tennflorida0925 1944
Tennessee wide receiver Jimmy Calloway (9) misses a pass resulting in a turnover on downs during an NCAA football game against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.Tennflorida0925 1944 /

Obviously, if Tennessee football had pulled off the upset over the Florida Gators, the key moments would have been those few big plays. We’re talking about the Hendon Hookers’ 47-yard touchdown pass to Tiyon Evans on a screen, his 75-yard touchdown pass to JaVonta Payton and Alontae Taylor’s forced fumble of Jacob Copeland that Aaron Beasley recovered.

Unfortunately for UT, the game ended in a 38-14 loss despite those two touchdowns giving them a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter. As a result, none of those were key moments that dictated the outcome of what happened.

Florida utilized plenty of big plays on their own, along with plenty of UT miscues, en route to its fifth straight win in this series and 16th win in 17 years. Let’s take a look at what some of those notable plays were. These are the turning points and key moments from Tennessee football’s SEC-opening loss to the Gators Saturday to fall to 2-2 in Josh Heupel’s first year.

Cooper Mays bad snap kills drive

Don’t forget that in the second quarter, the Vols had the ball and the lead against Florida. A bad running play brought up a 3rd and 9 for UT at their own 22-yard line as they were up 14-10 with just under seven and a half minutes to go in the first half. However, big plays had already led fans to believe they’d be able to convert.

Well, Mays, who was rusty in his return from injury and began to battle another one in this game, had a bad snap that forced Hooker to just run for three yards in desperation. Rocky Top was then forced to punt, and then Florida took the lead on the next drive. If the Vols could’ve kept this drive alive, anything may have happened.

Chase McGrath missed field goal to end first half

One advantage for Tennessee football was supposed to be the kicking game. Chase McGrath was 3-of-3 on the year heading into the matchup, with two of those kicks coming from beyond 40 yards and no missed extra points. Jace Christmann had already nailed a 47-yarder for Florida.

On the heels of that forced fumble by Taylor, the Vols quickly drove into UF territory down 17-14. They trotted out McGrath for a potential game-tying field goal heading into halftime. However, McGrath missed it badly. That was a momentum killer for Tennessee football, as the Gators got the ball to start the second half and drove down for a touchdown to take a two-score lead.

Jimmy Calloway 4th down drop in third quarter

After Florida went up 24-14 to open the second half, the Vols didn’t quit. They began driving the ball downfield, and they even converted a fourth down to JaVonta Payton. Another fourth down came up at the Florida 30.

Just over halfway through the third and on 4th and 5, Josh Heupel called the perfect play. He sent Jimmy Calloway on a crossing route, and Hendon Hooker made the perfect pass. However, Calloway dropped what would have been a sure touchdown to cut it to 24-21. That combined wiht the missed field goal is why this wasn’t a game in the fourth.

Jaylen McCollough missed tackle on Dameon Pierce

A Calloway drop and McGrath missed field goal was all that kept this game from being tied late in the third. However, Florida was driving for the knockout punch at this point. With just over four minutes to go in the fourth, the Vols were trying to stop Florida from taking a three-score lead.

UF had the ball 2nd and 9 at Tennessee football’s 32-yard line. Emory Jones found Dameon Pierce in the backfield, and Jaylen McCollough was there for the tackle. However, Pierce eluded McCollough to gain six yards. It wasn’t a first down, but it brought up 3rd and 3, which Jones converted. UF, then scored on that drive to take a 31-14 lead.

Delay of game for Vols offense in Florida territory in fourth quarter

By this point, the game was in hand, but the Vols weren’t quitting. They had made it into Florida territory and brought up a 4th and 2 early in the fourth quarter. Any score would make this interesting. However, a delay of game made it 4th and 7 from the Florida 48.

Next. Five takeaways from Vols' 38-14 loss at Florida. dark

Josh Heupel decided to punt the ball, and that was it. Tennessee football’s offense never really threatened again, especially with Hendon Hooker getting knocked out on the next drive. Despite this game being a blowout, the Vols were just a few plays away from making this a game, and it does show what they could be capable of if the chips fall the right way.