KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.
And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years’ worth of frustration on Florida.
Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.
“I didn’t see anybody blink,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “Nobody flinched. They just kept playing.”
This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games.
Florida was so confident it would continue the streak that Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson boldly said this week that “nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck . Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that.”
Tennessee silenced the Gators by reeling off 38 consecutive points.
“I just kept looking at their body language on the sideline, and it was bad,” said Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett, who recorded two sacks. “I think they worried about talking too much (rather than) focusing on playing football, and it showed at the end.”
Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. added that “it just looked like we took their soul, really.”
Dobbs went 16 of 32 for 319 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Trailing 21-0 early against the nation’s top-ranked defense, Tennessee stormed back and pulled ahead for good 24-21 with 12:45 left on Dobbs’ 67-yard completion to a wide-open Jauan Jennings, who bobbled the ball a few times near the right sideline before making the catch while staying inbounds.
“They came in and took it to us,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “It’s disappointing. We’ve got a bunch of guys hurting in the locker room. … These are life lessons. Not every day does everything go just like you wanted. I think the key is what you learn from it and how you’re going to respond.”
Florida took an early 21-0 advantage on a pair of Austin Appleby touchdown passes and a 1-yard run by Jordan Scarlett. Both Appleby touchdown passes were set up by long completions from Appleby to Antonio Callaway. The Gators led 21-3 at halftime.
Appleby threw three touchdown passes and one interception while starting in place of Luke Del Rio, who injured his left knee last week in a 32-0 rout of North Texas.
Twice in the first half, Tennessee got inside Florida’s 5-yard line and failed to score.
“We came into the locker room and we said, ‘Don’t panic,'” Dobbs said. “It was simple. We’ve just got to execute. We’ve just got to play our brand of football. We were moving the ball on them the whole game.”
FLORIDA: Perhaps the Gators’ defense isn’t quite as good as its statistics suggested. A defense that had been allowing just 4.7 points and 129.7 yards per game couldn’t keep Tennessee’s offense out of the end zone in the second half. Of course, that defense didn’t get any help from an offense that disappeared during Tennessee’s comeback.
The Gators’ second-half collapse will raise questions about their ability to handle adversity.
TENNESSEE: Dobbs’ second-half performance answered questions about his accuracy and Tennessee’s downfield passing attack.
After going 7 of 20 for 84 yards with an interception in the first half, Dobbs was 9 of 12 for 235 yards and four touchdowns and an interception the rest of the way. His second-half interception came on Tennessee’s first series of the third quarter. After that turnover, Dobbs led Tennessee into the end zone on five of its next six drives.
Tennessee, which was ninth in the preseason poll, should move back into the top-10 this week. Florida likely will sink toward the bottom of the Top 25.
Tennessee has trailed by double digits in three of its four wins this season. …. This matched the third-biggest comeback in Tennessee history. … Tennessee outgained Florida 154-8 in the third quarter. … Tennessee has won 10 straight games over the last two seasons.
FLORIDA: The Gators visit Vanderbilt.
TENNESSEE: The Volunteers travel to No. 12 Georgia.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org