Butch Jones orchestrated the first Tennessee win over Florida since 2004. He did it in dramatic fashion with his team trailing 21-3 at halftime to come back and win 38-28. So what does this win mean for the fourth year Vols head coach?
It’s easy to see how far this program has come when you look at the times Tennessee lost to Florida under Jones and during the streak. Most losses to Florida were blow outs, and Tennessee was outclassed by the talent on the other side of the field. We see how Jones has flipped the roster and brought in real talent. They have now been the better team three straight years.
Talent wasn’t enough. The Vols lost the previous two match-ups to the Gators by one point a piece when they clearly were the better team. Butch Jones has been criticized for how his team closes out games. Or, better put, how they didn’t close out games, losing four times in 2015 when having two touchdown leads in the fourth quarter. Florida included.
In the first four games of 2016 the Vols have outscored their opponents 87-24 in the second half. Tennessee seems to have fixed that issue. Jones won a game when all the pressure was on him. That’s big. Saturday’s win could be the turning point of the entire football program. History shows what happens when Tennessee beats Florida.
I still have questions about this coaching staff. Why can’t this team put a full game together? Every game this season has seen the Vols get in a tough spot early. Tennessee needed overtime to beat Appalachian State in the opener. It wasn’t until UT trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter vs Virginia Tech before it gained a pulse. The Ohio game started well (scoring 38-seconds into the game), but ended in a lackluster 29-18 win.
Four games of poor starts is a good enough sample size to call it a trend. I don’t think the Vols will be able to beat Texas A&M or Alabama with performances like this. I wouldn’t bet on beating Georgia like that this weekend, either. This problem is squarely on the coach’s shoulders for the staff’s lack of ability to get this team ready to play when the game kicks off.
Turnovers are still plaguing this team. One of the most astonishing stats in all of college football this season is Tennessee’s ability to pounce on a fumbled football. The Vols have recovered 17 of 20 fumbles in games this season on offense, defense and special teams. QB Josh Dobbs has as many interceptions (5) this season as he did in 13 games last year.
This team is far from perfect. We know it has some holes and other holes created by injury. However, this team is right where it needs to be at 4-0.