Disappointing, frustrating, deflating and surprised were the words the Volunteers used to describe Saturday night's 37-20 loss to the Florida Gators.
The Vols (2-1, 0-1 SEC) led the Gators 20-13 with 3:15 left in the third quarter. But then the wheels fell off.
"I'm not really sure what went on," said Tennessee running back Rajion Neal. "I can't really put it into words what really happened. You could just feel it."
After the Volunteers seemed to have gained momentum from stopping Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) on a fake punt near midfield, Tyler Bray was flagged for intentional grounding and everything seemed to turn for the worse.
Tennessee ending up going three-and-out, and on the Gators' first play after getting the ball Trey Burton gashed the Volunteers for an 80-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
"We stalled them on a fake punt, then got a groundie ... and we had a lot of mistakes defensively," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We didn't get the check, gave up a huge play there."
From that point on the Vols couldn't get anything going.
Tennessee ran just 19 offensive plays, was forced into three straight three-and-out's, and punted on their final four drives.
"It was just us not responding well," said Bray. "We knew we were going to be the ones to have to stop us and we just kind of fell apart."
In front of a crowd of 102,455, the Vols came out in the first half and looked poised and ready for the big stage.
The offense was able to respond early after Florida scored the first touchdown and scored the first quarter touchdown against the Gators since 2004 on a Bray-to-Cordarrelle Patterson pass. Tennessee struck again five minutes later when Bray was able to find tight end Mychal Rivera on a play-action pass.
UT went into the half up 14-10 and a huge goal line stand to force the Gators to kick a field goal.
Going into the half, Bray was 13-23 passing for 153 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Vols' defense had also performed well, containing the Florida rushing attack to just 86 yards on the ground, but in the third quarter Tennessee fell apart.
Florida racked up 170 yards on the ground, 57 through the air and 17 points.
"We had a great game going and we just let it slip away," Dooley said.
Following Bray's second interception, it took the Gators just three plays to trek the 70 yards and take the lead on a Jeff Driskel 23-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. Driskel finished the night 14-20 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"Big plays, turnovers," said Dooley. "We lost both of those. I say it every week: big plays and turnovers."
Florida added 10 more points in the fourth quarter, capping off their 24-0 run to close out the game.
Bray was 9-21, 104 yards passing, no touchdowns and two picks in the second half.
"We just didn't execute," said Bray.
Tennessee will look to rebound from the deflating loss next Saturday against Akron at 7:30 p.m. The game will air on CSS.