Tennessee vs Florida: 10 Most Infamous Plays in Vols’ 11-Game Losing Streak to Gators

Sep 26, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones and Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain shake hands at mid field after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones and Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain shake hands at mid field after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee vs Florida series has turned into domination for the Gators. Here are the Top 10 most infamous plays in the Volunteers’ 11-game losing streak.

Just having a long losing streak in the Tennessee vs Florida series is bad enough. But for most Vols fans, the worst part about the streak is that part of it came during a period when Tennessee was more than good enough to beat the Gators.

Sure, that wasn’t the case in the first half of the series while Urban Meyer was there. Florida was just better during that time.

But since Meyer has left, the Vols have had plenty of chances to end the streak. But for some reason or another, they always managed to choke away the opportunity.

The idea of Tennessee being snake-bitten with Florida began to come to fruition just two years ago, though, when they blew a two score lead to lose by one for the second time in the losing streak.

And they confirmed it by blowing the game last year in The Swamp to lose by one again.

At this point, Vols fans are certain there is a curse. And there are plenty of fluke plays over the past 11 games to prove that from this game.

Tennessee could have at least three wins in this series over the past 11 games if they didn’t screw up in certain situations. Here, we are going to take a look at those instances.

These are the 10 most notable plays that have worked against the Vols in their losing streak in the Tennessee vs Florida series.

Nov 9, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; A view where the Florida Gators play, the swamp, during the first quarter against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 9, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; A view where the Florida Gators play, the swamp, during the first quarter against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

10. 2005: Jonathan Hefney fumbles a punt return

Yes, for the first one we go all the way back to when the streak started. Tennessee had entered the season as a Top 5 team, and the Vols were heading to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators looking to make it three straight in the Tennessee vs Florida series.

Florida had a new head coach in Urban Meyer, so things seemed to favor the Vols. However, Phillip Fulmer’s and Randy Sanders’s decisions to alternate quarterbacks between Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen stalled the offense all game.

Still, the defense was playing great.

And early in the second half, with the score tied 7-7, the Vols were set to get the ball in good field position. However, Jonathan Hefney fumbled a punt.

That changed the entire course of the game, as he spotted Florida a field goal to give them a 10-7 lead. They would hit two more field goals in the game, and Tennessee would never recover. They fell to 5-6 that year, and they still haven’t recovered.

But this play started it all.

Oct 4, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

9. 2012: Trey Burton runs 80 yards for a touchdown

It was but a hint of what was to come in 2012 with Sal Sunseri’s awful defense.

The Vols had all the momentum in this game up to this point. College Gameday was in town, they had reached their first Top 25 ranking in over four years at the time, and they were on the verge of ending what was then just a seven-game losing streak to the Gators with a 20-13 lead.

But after they couldn’t capitalize off of a failed fake punt by Florida, they had to punt the ball back. And as bad of an offensive coach as Will Muschamp is, he was able to take advantage of Sunseri.

On one play, Trey Burton took the ball and ran it 80 yards for a touchdown. Sure, that only tied the game for Tennessee, but all the momentum had left the stadium.

Florida had the psychological advantage at that point, and Tyler Bray and the rest of the team quit. The result was a Florida victory that ended up derailing the whole season.

Oct 4, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley (14) passes the ball against the Florida Gators during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

8. 2014: Justin Worley loses the game with an interception

This was where the snake bite belief began to take shape. The Vols were nursing a 9-0 lead in an ugly game against the Gators. Both teams were bad, but with a 9-0 lead Tennessee should have held on given Florida’s terrible offense.

However, Treon Harris came in at quarterback and led two scoring drives to give the Gators a 10-9 lead. But no matter.

The Vols were all of a sudden driving again. They would only need a field goal to win, and Justin Worley had just converted a fourth down.

Right after that, he threw this interception to clinch a victory for Florida. That moved the Gators winning streak in the Tennessee vs Florida series to double digits.

Nov 14, 2015; Knoxville, TN, USA; General view of Neyland Stadium before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the North Texas Mean Green. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 14, 2015; Knoxville, TN, USA; General view of Neyland Stadium before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the North Texas Mean Green. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

7. 2010: Urban Meyer calls a fake punt

It was Derek Dooley’s first year, the Vols were coming off a hideous loss to the Oregon Ducks, and they were suffering a five-game losing streak to the Gators at the time in the Tennessee vs Florida series.

Nobody expected much from the men on Rocky Top as a result.

However, Dooley was looking for a signature win, and into the second half, he appeared to be in good shape. Tennessee had tied the game up at 10 and was about to get the ball back. It was as close as they had been to Florida since 2006.

But Urban Meyer did Urban Meyer things. He called a fake punt, caught Dooley off-guard, and moved into Tennessee territory. The Vols never recovered and ended up losing the game 31-17.

This was the play, though, that changed the momentum of the game.

Nov 22, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; An overview of the Swamp during the first quarter against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 22, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; An overview of the Swamp during the first quarter against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

6. 2007: Arian Foster fumbles 

Arian Foster fumbling the ball at crucial times was always an unfortunate part of his career at Tennessee. But you never want one to come in the Tennessee vs Florida game. This one was at the worst time.

The Vols were down 28-6 in the first half but had fought their way back thanks to a late first-half touchdown and then a pick-six by Eric Berry early in the second half. All of a sudden, it was a one-score game.

The Gators then had to punt to Tennessee. They had the ball, all the momentum, and a chance to go down and tie it. But in a failed exchange between Erik Ainge and Arian Foster on a handoff, the ball fell onto the ground.

Dustin Doe picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown, extending the Gators’ lead to 35-20. There was no coming back from that in the second half.

Tennessee never recovered, and Urban Meyer ran up the score for a 59-20 win. It was Florida’s third win in this Tennessee vs Florida streak at the time.

Oct 4, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley (14) passes the ball against the Florida Gators during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

5. 2014: Justin Worley throws an interception in the red zone

Yes, we’re back to that hideous 2014 game of the Tennessee vs Florida series. The Vols are nursing a 3-0 lead at this point, and the Gators can’t get anything going on offense.

Early in the second half, Florida turned the ball over and spotted Tennessee possession in field goal range. In such a defensive struggle, field goals would be crucial. So the key for Butch Jones at the time had to be not to turn it over.

Well, Worley did just that.

Unable to generate anything in the red zone, the senior forced a pass into the end zone. He was clearly panicking because his offensive line had been failing him all day. But it was a terrible decision.

Worley’s pass was intercepted, and the Vols missed a chance at points. That would play a crucial role down the stretch.

Nov 22, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; A general view of Neyland Stadium home of theTennessee Volunteers following the game against the Missouri Tigers. Missouri won 29-21.  Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 22, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; A general view of Neyland Stadium home of theTennessee Volunteers following the game against the Missouri Tigers. Missouri won 29-21. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

4. 2006: Erik Ainge intentional grounding

It is not one of the most notorious plays from the 2006 loss to the Florida Gators. But it’s one of the most crucial plays.

For context, the Vols had blown a 17-7 lead to Florida and were trailing late in the fourth 21-20. However, fans were not panicking.

Erik Ainge was driving them down the field and had gotten them to the 50. Just a few more yards, and they would be in James Wilhoit’s range for him to be able to repeat what he did in 2004, the last time the Vols won in a Tennessee vs Florida series.

It didn’t happen that way, though.

After playing awful all game, center Michael Frogg showed why he never really saw the field again. On first and 10 past the 50, Frogg missed his blocking assignment, creating a clear path for a Florida blitzer to go at Ainge.

Desperate, Ainge had to throw the ball away, but no receiver was in the area. That caused a grounding penalty. Now backed up, the Vols couldn’t convert and finish the drive. But it all came down to that missed block.

Oct 4, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Brian Cox Jr. pressures Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley (14) during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Florida won 10 to 9 Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

3. 2014: Justin Worley fumbles the ball

Yes, we are back to that ugly 2014 game. After all, Justin Worley made a series of mistakes that were completely unnecessary to cost the Vols a chance to end the Tennessee vs Florida losing streak there.

Nursing a 9-0 lead, Tennessee had the ball with 19 seconds left in the third. Given how Florida’s offense had played, all they needed to do was run out the clock and they’d win ugly.

But after a red zone interception, Worley made another crucial mistake to breath life into the Gators.

Trying to make a play, he was strip-sacked. Florida recovered the ball deep in Tennessee territory, and Will Muschamp switched quarterbacks by putting in Treon Harris. He scored the only touchdown of the game on that drive, which made all the difference in Florida’s 10-9 win.

This was the worst play of that Florida game because all Worley had to do was not turn it over. The Gators couldn’t get any offense. But the poison from the snake bite prevailed. And it made all the difference.

Nov 5, 2015; Columbia, MO, USA; EPSN analyst Tim Tebow laughs prior to the game between the Missouri Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

2. 2006: Tim Tebow converts a 4th-and-1

This play is famous among college football historians because it was the breakout play for Tim Tebow. It is frustrating to all Tennessee football fans because they all saw what was coming.

Tebow at the time had been a five-star freshman recruit that many fans wanted to start, but Urban Meyer stuck with senior Chris Leak, noting he’d use Tebow in special situations.

Well, it had worked to perfection in this game. Again, the Vols were up 17-7 but had let Florida back in it. At this point in the game, the score was 20-14. Still, Tennessee had the Gators at a 4th-and-1.

Meyer brought in Tebow for the 4th-and-1 play. At the time, Tebow had been in on six plays, and all of them were runs. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going to run for this fourth down except for John Chavis.

Chavis used his base defense for some inexplicable reason, and as a result, Tebow converted. This was the defining breakout play of Tebow’s legendary college career. Something like that just perfectly describes the Tennessee vs Florida series.

Sep 26, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) runs the ball in for a 63 yard touchdown during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1. 2015: Will Grier converts a touchdown pass on 4th and 14

You didn’t think we’d leave off last year’s game did you? Of course not.

As many things as we can point to about how the Vols choked away last year’s game to prove the snake-bite in the Tennessee vs Florida series, only one of them was inexplicable.

All the others were understandable, but this play alone epitomizes just how frustrating and unlucky the Vols have been in this series.

To get to it, we have to go back to the middle of the fourth quarter. Tennessee had just taken a 27-14 lead after a Jalen Hurd touchdown run. Hoping to run out the clock, Butch Jones and John Jancek decided to play a soft defense.

Although Florida scored a touchdown on the next drive, converting two fourth downs in the process, it worked. They ran the clock down.

Then, the Vols got the ball back up 27-21, and Jones and Mike DeBord decided to try to run more clock.

So they did what they did, and gave the ball back to Florida. The Gators now had to score a touchdown to win. The defense did its job on the first three plays, and facing a 4th and 14, the Vols were one play away from finally ending this miserable streak.

But Jancek inexplicably made the worst defensive call ever. He rushed three on Grier and put two linebackers in spy. That meant Grier would get no pressure and there would also be clear coverage gaps. Who does that?

Well, he found the open man in Antonio Callaway. Then the Tennessee defenders both took horrible angles. So Callaway turned a first down into a 63-yard touchdown. After the extra point, Florida took a 28-27 lead.

That play alone describes the series. A horrible coaching call, a terrible mental lapse, and all of it coming at a desperate time for the opposition. It serves as proof that the Vols are snake-bitten with Florida.

And it is by far the most frustrating play in this series.

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