JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee stinks it up in the Swamp

JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee stinks it up in the Swamp (Image 1)

And to think I watched the Tennessee-Florida football folly over the classic Saturday afternoon movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Where was my head? About the same place Tennessee's offense was, especially in the first half.

Why would first year coach Butch Jones decide to give redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Peterman the first start of his career in of all places, the Swamp? Peterman grew up just outside Jacksonville. He knows the Swamp is a visitors' graveyard.

Jones based a lot of his decision on how Peterman practiced last week. Everyone knows some players stink it up in practice and turn the light on in a game. Or others look great in practice and then turn to mush in a real game.

We don't have enough sample size to tell which kind of quarterback Peterman is. He gave way to previous starter Justin Worley after one horrid half where anything that could go wrong, did just that.

Peterman missed on seven of his 11 passes. Two of them were picked off by Florida. His four completions gained five yards. He was sacked once.

“In the first quarter, or first half, we were never able to get him in any type of rhythm offensively and against a defense like that, you have to get into a rhythm. You have to generate first downs and keep moving the chains and obviously we weren't able to do that,'' Jones said.

Part of it was on Peterman. But a lot of it was on an offensive line that has been heralded as one of the best in the SEC. Florida's defensive line whipped the Vols offensive line every way that counted.

End result?

Florida 31. Tennessee 17. Florida ran its win streak over the Vols to nine straight. This game was nothing like the games coached by Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier. They had established programs and great players. Neither team that played Saturday measures up to those teams.

The Gators lost their starting quarterback Jeff Driskel when he suffered a broken leg on a pass that was intercepted in the first quarter, paving the way for a 68-yard return for the Vols only touchdown in the first half. Florida Coach Will Muschamp announced after the game Driskel is out for the season.

But it was junior Tyler Murphy who came off the bench and sparked the Gators offense. Murphy was 8 of 14 passing for a touchdown, but it was his legs that often kept the chains moving. He finished with 84 yards on 10 carries and a rushing touchdown.

Murphy had been just as untested as Peterman, but Florida had a better offensive line, better wide receivers and better running backs. Its front seven on defense was better than Tennessee's.

The loss wasn't as one sided as the previous week against No. 2 Oregon, in which the Ducks piled up 59 points on the Vols.

“The second half our defense was on the field an awful lot,'' Jones said. “I thought we showed resiliency and we didn't quit.
“I thought we took some small steps. … I'm disappointed, but I'm optimistic. We're going to get it. The more you invest, the more it hurts.''

The Vols don't have much time to sort it all out, to continue to take steps forward.

They host South Alabama this week, then hit SEC powers Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama before closing with Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

They are earning their battle scars one game at a time, but it is life in the SEC.

“It is what it is,'' Jones said. “It's where we're at in our program. We just have to learn how to play winning football every play.''

 Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at      

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