Tennessee Delivers Butch Jones His Signature Win

    The Tennessee Volunteers broke their 11-game losing streak to Florida on Saturday. And Butch Jones earned his biggest win yet in Knoxville.

    September 25, 2016

    The Tennessee Volunteers broke their 11-game losing streak to Florida on Saturday. And Butch Jones earned his biggest win yet in Knoxville.

    And on September 24, 2016, it ended.

    Tennessee’s agonizingly long 11-game losing streak to Florida finally ended on Saturday in Neyland Stadium, as the Volunteers stormed back with an onslaught of points in the second half to claim a 38-28 win over their longtime SEC East rivals.

    The wild victory was not only Tennessee’s first in the series since 2004, but it was the biggest win of head coach Butch Jones’ career.

    Down 21-0 in the second quarter, the Vols scored 38 straight points behind the arm and legs of quarterback Josh Dobbs, who passed for 319 yards and four touchdowns while adding 80 yards and a score on the ground.

    After the Vols had three red-zone trips end with a mere three first-half points, it appeared that a 12th straight loss was imminent and that Jones would have to hear about Florida for another full year—if the Tennessee fan base even allowed him to leave the stadium.

    But the second half was littered with miscues on defense and inefficiency on offense for the Gators, while Dobbs put a rough start behind him and caught fire. He had thrown for at least 200 yards just once this year, but he nearly hit the 320 mark on Saturday. The poor pass protection and dropped passes that had dogged the Vols in the first half were no longer an issue, as they scored four touchdowns through the air in an 18-minute span against what had been a suffocating defense. Finally, Dobbs resembled the quarterback that Tennessee is leaning on in its quest for an SEC East crown.

    In just one afternoon on Rocky Top, Tennessee’s close losses in ’15 as well as the 11 straight defeats to UF suddenly seemed like eons ago. The slow maturation and step-by-step construction of the Vols’ program finally delivered its first payoff. And it couldn’t have happened on a bigger stage against a more perfect opponent.

    This Tennessee squad is far from perfect. And Jones still needs to find a way to get his team to play a full 60-minute game, but the Vols are surviving and advancing—and that’s all that matters for now. Besides, no one ever said it would be easy.

    Saturday’s win serves as a turning point for the program under Jones, who along with his staff has shown a good eye in recruiting and talent evaluation since arriving in Knoxville. The reason why Tennessee was a popular pick to win the SEC East this year is because of the way Jones and his staff were able to restock and develop the Tennessee roster following the Derek Dooley era.

    While the Vols have played sloppy football for a good portion of the year, there are future NFL players all across their depth chart. And keep in mind that Tennessee didn’t have a player drafted in 2015 or 2016—that’s how bad things became in Knoxville. Looking ahead to next year’s draft, the Vols will be well-represented.

    And that’s because of the hard work Jones and Co. have done on the recruiting trail.

    While fans knew Jones could recruit, they needed to see more in the win column.

    The win on Saturday moved the Vols to 4-0 for the first time since 2003, with the most important one of the Jones era coming at just the right time: against arch-rival Florida when his team had its back against the wall. With Georgia getting destroyed by Ole Miss earlier in the day, the SEC East is Tennessee’s to lose.

    Jones has been fighting to get the Vols back to the top of the East division since his arrival, and his team showed very similar fight on Saturday when faced with so much pressure, so much doubt and so much uncertainty.

    Behind one massive second-half surge, Tennessee—especially Jones—started to make believers even out of the most vocal critics.

    MORE: Week 4 College Football Predictions For Every Game


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