KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones never had a doubt about the Tennessee offensive line, even when the statistics and struggles with opening opponents suggested there might be a problem.
“We have a group of guys that are very prideful,” Jones told ESPN College GameDay prior to the start of the Vols’ 38-28 win over Florida on Saturday. “They understand the standards and the expectations and the way we’re going to play offensive football.”
Tennessee had two trips inside the Gators’ 5-yard line in the first half, but operating out of a shotgun formation the Vols were unable to punch the ball into the end zone.
Jones explained, “That first half of football wasn’t us.”
The second half, however, was exactly what Tennessee’s head coach was looking for, as quarterback Josh Dobbs led a five-touchdown explosion behind the suddenly effective offensive line.
“I felt like guys on the offensive line did a much better job of communicating and came out with the mental focus and mental intensity to take over the game, and guys just played together and for each other and bonded throughout the game,” Vols’ starting left guard Jashon Robertson said.
“It was one snap, one play, one drive at a time and not worrying about anything else going on,” he said. “It was putting your head down and grinding through the drives and grinding through the plays.”
Jones said UT did “run some under-center stuff,” when asked if he might add a goal-line package for future games, acknowledging “we do have to get better in short yardage.”
The addition of Chance Hall in the starting lineup at right tackle seemed to provide a lift, as by the second half Florida’s previously No. 1-ranked defense had worn down.
Robertson is the only Tennessee offensive lineman to start each of the first four games at the same position.
The Nashville product said Saturday’s game will indeed hold a special significance to him and his teammates.
“Breaking a streak is something special, it’s a part of our legacy that will be left here, saying we were the team to do that,” Robertson said. “There’s a lot of guys who came in and came out of here without doing it. So that’s something that’s special for us.”