Jones asks for patience after another UF win
If any group of fans have had to practice patience over the past decade, it’s Tennessee’s. The past 10 years have been a roller-coaster with more downs than ups as the Vols had tumbled from their spot on top of the college football world.
And no individual team has caused more frustration than Florida during that span. The Gators too have been up and down, but seemingly have always brought their best efforts against Tennessee – or maybe more accurately – they’ve brought out the worst in Tennessee.
It happened again on Saturday afternoon as the Gators scored the final 10 points of the game at Neyland Stadium to extend their winning streak to 10 over the Vols – stunning the sold-out crowd that checkered the stadium in an orange and white pattern in anticipation of a breakthrough win for Tennessee over a struggling Florida squad that was crushed in its last game against Alabama and barely beat Kentucky the week before that.
“just keep your patience,” Jones said in his postgame press conference. “We’re going to be alright. I’ve told you before, it’s like raising your children. We’re raising a football program and I’m just as impatient as anyone. I’m angered and I’m upset, but I’m not discouraged because I see the progress everyday. You guys need to hang in there. We’re in it together. We’re going to get it together. We’re going to have great days, but we just got to keep grinding. I want to say thank you for coming out. We’re going to need you next week. I promise you we’re going you get it right.”
There certainly will be a lot to get right after Saturday’s error-filled performance. The Vols’ offense couldn’t muster a touchdown despite twice being handed the ball in the red zone off of two interceptions. Quarterback Justin Worley turned around once and threw an interception right back to Florida, giving the Vols zero points on that possession. The other one turned into just a field goal.
And though Tennessee did manage to build a 9-0 lead that it held into the early fourth quarter, those missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Vols.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone and you can’t turn the football over,” Jones said. “That’s pretty much the storyline. Again, learning how to win, close games out.”
Tennessee’s defense easily did enough to win the game for the Vols. It shut the Gators out for the first half for the first time since 1955. Florida’s only touchdown came only after the Gators took over on Tennessee’s 30 late in the third quarter when Worley was sacked on a corner blitz and lost the football – another catastrophic-type mistake that Jones has been trying to get the Vols to avoid. Florida replaced ineffective starter Jeff Driskel with true freshman Treon Harris and was able to lean on the run game to get those 30 yards for the score to cut it to 9-7.
Harris did enough on Florida’s drive to move the Gators into position for a long field goal try. Though the play clock appeared to hit zero, UF kicker Austin Hardin got a 49-yard field-goal attempt off and drilled it to give the Gators their first lead at 10-9 – a lead that would never be lost.
“Defensively, I thought we played well enough to win the football game,” added Jones. “Overall, you hold a football team in this conference to 232 yards of total offense and 76 yards passing, you should get a victory and we didn’t do that.”
Tennessee’s last-gasp effort almost put the Vols in position to try a game-winning field goal. They passed midfield on a fourth-down conversion pass to Pig Howard that moved the Vols to within about 20 yards of field-goal range. But Worley threw an interception the next play – ending any realistic chances the Vols had.
It was a frustrating finish to a frustrating day. Another sign that the Vols are close – often one or two plays away – but not quite ready to beat a talented opponent. In a day where the SEC East was thrown even further into doubt after a big win by Kentucky over South Carolina, the Vols know they, realistically, won’t be part of that conversation with two conferences losses already and Ole Miss and Alabama looming next on the SEC slate after a game against UTC next weekend.
The Vols can certainly still still reach their goal of a bowl game this season. They’ll, in all likelihood, knock off the Mocs next week to get to three wins and then need to find a way to get three more over the course of the season. It’ll take improvement and – as Jones asked for – patience.
“We’ll be back,” Jones said. “I promise you we’re going to be a good football team. We’re going to be a good football program. Just keep staying the course.”