There were a lot of perplexing things that happened in Florida’s wild last-second win over Tennessee on Saturday, but nothing topped UT’s goal line play-calling on one third quarter drive.
After Quinten Dormady hit Marquez Callaway for 22 yards on third-and-18, the Vols had a first and goal from the one-yard line. Down 6-3, most figured Tennessee would hand the ball to bruising running back John Kelly — who averages six yards per carry — to take the lead. What followed was an absurd sequence of decisions that ultimately led to a turnover.
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Let’s roll through the plays one by one, before letting coach Butch Jones explain what happened.
• First and goal from the 1: Dormady throws a fade to Callaway that was nearly picked off. However, UF was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, so the Vols stayed at the 1.
Dormady took a low hit on the play. Backup Jarrett Guarantano comes in.
• First and goal (again) from the 1: False start
• First and goal from the 5: Dormady pass to freshman receiver Josh Palmer in the end zone. Dropped.
• Second and goal from the 5: Dormady pass to Kelly for a loss of one.
• Third and goal from the 5: Dormady slant pass intercepted by Florida DB Duke Dawson.
Jones was asked about this baffling sequence on Monday and his explanation didn’t make much sense. He said there was a run play called on first down, but Dormady sensed a blitz was coming and checked to a pass. On second down, Jones said a quarterback sneak was considered but because Dormady “tweaked his knee” on the previous play and backup Jarrett Guarantano “didn’t have time to practice” receiving snaps from under center, a passing play was called.
Yes, he really said that.
“That can’t happen on the goal line,” Jones said. “You have first-and-goal on the 1 and we need to score. We had a run play called and they were in a 70 percent, heavy pressure football team of all-out, cover zero blitz so they have a couple gaps, they have a couple individuals you can’t account for in your run scheme. We knew that going in.
“Would we have liked to run the football there? Absolutely. Then the plan was on second down to get underneath center and do a quarterback sneak or run the football outside. Quinten tweaks his knee and we didn’t think it was fair for Jarrett to have to go in the game and do an underneath center snap when he didn’t have time to practice the underneath center snap. So there’s a lot of nuances that occurred throughout the course of those two plays. But make no mistake about it. When we get the ball down there, we need to run the football and we need to score touchdowns.”
Having your quarterback check to a pass on first down is fine. It happens, but the second-string quarterback, who was in competition to start with Dormady all of preseason and played a lot in Week 2, can’t execute a simple QB-center exchange? That’s pretty baffling, especially when Guarantano did it IN A GAME against Indiana State.
Jones’ explanation also is curious considering the second down play came from the five-yard line unless he means they had first and second down plays planned before the first-and-goal snap. Otherwise, that would have been a pretty ballsy QB sneak. Nonetheless, saying something like that will only give Jones’ critics more fuel as the season progresses and his job status gets more and more tenuous.
Next time, just hand it to your stud running back — who averaged 7.4 yards per carry in the game, by the way — even if you get pushed back to the 5.
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