Tennessee vs. Florida: 10 Things We Learned in Vols' Loss

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2013

Tennessee vs. Florida: 10 Things We Learned in Vols' Loss

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    The Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Gainesville, Fla., looking to upset the Florida Gators.

    Head coach Butch Jones elected to start redshirt freshman Nate Peterson, but the Vols were handled by Florida's outstanding defense and fell, 31-17.

    Devaun Swafford opened the scoring with an interception returned 62 yards for a touchdown, but Tennessee's defense struggled to stop Tyler Murphy and the Gators.

    The Volunteers dropped to 2-2 on the season, and the team taught us a few lessons throughout the game.

Nate Peterman Was Roughed Up

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    Nate Peterman was forced to make his first career start at "The Swamp" against one of the best defenses in the nation, and it showed.

    The Volunteers turned the ball over on each of their first three possessions, and Tennessee gained just 31 yards during the first half. He completed just 4 of 11 attempts for five yards and two interceptions.

    Bleacher Report's Brad Shepard believes Butch Jones made a big mistake by starting Peterman.

    Yes, Worley tossed two interceptions late in the game, but Peterman was thrust into a situation above his current ability.

Justin Worley Should Have Started

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    Justin Worley has not dominated this season, and Butch Jones sat the junior.

    Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but it was not a smart decision from the start.

    Worley eventually replaced Peterman, and he led Tennessee's only scoring drives, including an 18-yard touchdown strike to Pig Howard.

    Worley finished the game going 10-of-23, throwing for 149 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Rajion Neal Again Struggled Against a Top Defense

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    Rajion Neal racked up 215 yards and four touchdowns during the first two games of the season, but he has posted identical, less productive games since then.

    As the level of Tennessee's competition increased (Oregon last week), Neal has tallied just 42 yards on 12 carries the last two weeks.

    Neal also fumbled on the Volunteers' second offensive play, mishandling the transfer from Peterman.

    Considering Tennessee had very little production from its second-stringers, Neal must get back on track vs. South Alabama.

Marquez North Is Making Strides

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    True freshman Marquez North set new career highs with four catches and 43 yards.

    North also added a nine-yard reverse that was literally a single inch from a first down.

    Since Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson moved onto the next level after last season, the Volunteers need receivers to step up, and North is improving each week.

Pig Howard Had a Career Game

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    Florida's secondary was certainly depleted by the end of the game, but sophomore receiver Pig Howard did his damage earlier in the game.

    Similar to Marquez North, Howard had the best game of his young career.

    Howard gained a career-high 75 yards on his career-high four receptions and scored his second touchdown of the season on an 18-yard pass from Worley.

    Howard is now second on the team with eight receptions this year.

Turnovers Really, Really Hurt the Vols

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    Tennessee was gifted fantastic field position on its first drive, but the Volunteers coughed up the ball immediately.

    The Gators also forced a turnover at UT's 6-yard line, and after a later interception, Florida scored a touchdown.

    Peterman, Worley and Neal each committed costly interceptions or fumbles, and the Volunteers surrended 17 points off turnovers.

    With games against the top-notch defenses of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama looming, Tennessee must do a better job holding on to the ball.

Brian Randolph Is a Tackling Machine

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    Brian Randolph was an undeniable bright spot for the Tennessee defense.

    Randolph followed up his five-tackle performance last week against Oregon with a double-digit day.

    The junior safety tallied a career-high 11 stops and added 2.0 tackles for loss.

A.J. Johnson Was Equally Effective

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    A.J. Johnson made his presence known with a vicious tackle of Florida RB Matt Jones during the second quarter.

    The junior linebacker racked up 10 tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage.

    It was the 11th time in Johnson's career he has made double-digit tackles, proving he is the most consistent player on Tennessee's defense.

Devaun Swafford Made a Career Highlight

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    Devaun Swafford was a walk-on at the University of Tennessee.

    Before the game started, Swafford had just four tackles and one pass breakup.

    All he did in his fourth career game was intercept Jeff Driskel and take the ball 62 yards in the opposite direction for a Tennessee touchdown.

    Swafford read Driskel's eyes, jumped in front of the pass and celebrated the game's first points—and that was certainly an amazing feeling for the true freshman.

The Vols Defense Was Simply Decent

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    Despite allowing 382 yards and 31 points, the Volunteers' defensive unit played a respectable game, creating three takeaways.

    Victimized by turnovers and field position, the group was given no favors from the offense.

    With that being said, the Vols still allowed Florida to go 10-of-18 on third down.

    Randolph, Johnson and Dontavis Sapp (nine tackles) stood out for Tennessee, and the trio will be heavily relied upon upon throughout the SEC season.