Vols Were The Top Dog on Saturday
The players have demonstrated they have the talent to play with and beat just about any team in the SEC. Now it's up to the coaches to demonstrate that they have the ability to consistently get this team to perform up to their potential.
They'll have the chance to do just that in 2 weeks.
Lame Kiffin and the Not Ready for Prime Time Players
No, that wasn't a typo.
After four games, I've seen enough to make this simple declaration. The Vols will never be a top tier team in the SEC with Lane Kiffin as head coach.
The Vols were out coached on both sides of the ball today, but in the end, they played well enough that they had a shot to win. Monte Kiffin's crew gave up big play after big play all night long, but they played well on the goal line, forcing the Tigers to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.
Probably from shock.
But the Vols stayed in the game, mainly through the sheer physical talent of Montario Hardesty and Eric Berry.
Tennessee was trailing by 17 with just over 11:00 to go in the 4th quarter when Hardesty caught a Crompton pass and wiggled his way 31 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. The defense forces Auburn into a three and out, and the Vols had the ball and just over nine minutes left in the game. They needed two scores, so clock management was critical. The offense responded, driving the ball methodically up the field, until they had the ball first and goal. The drive had taken 4 minutes off the clock, and the Vols ran three plays but couldn't get the score.
It was 4th and goal from the 10, and there was about four and a half minutes to go in the game. The drive had eaten up over five minutes, meaning that there wasn't enough time left for them to get back into this position again. Kicking a field goal would give all the advantage to Auburn, since all they would have to do is hold the ball for a couple of minutes and then punt, robbing Tennessee of the time needed to score again. Going for it and making it, on the other hand, gave Tennessee more ways to win. If Auburn took the ball on their next possession, and Tennessee held them to a field goal, the Vols would still only need one score to tie or win.
By going for the touchdown, Tennessee would give themselves more chances to win. By kicking the field goal, they would give Auburn more chances to win. This was the call Lane Kiffin had to make, and he blew it. He chose the field goal, conceding the game with over four minute to go. Auburn drove the length of the field, kicking a field goal and putting the game out of reach.
Lane Kiffin didn't give his team a chance to win.
Monte Kiffin adjusted his defense and managed to contain the Tigers as well as could be expected.
You don't win games in the SEC coaching like that.
Playing to win is not something you can teach a coach. It's a character thing; you either have it or you don't, and Lane Kiffin doesn't. He may be a fine assistant coach, or position coach, but he doesn't have what it takes to be a head coach.
Game Thoughts: Just Remember, It Was Western Kentucky
It was fun to see a Tennessee team not play down to the level of their competition.
And it was nice to see a Tennessee team play with passion, and look like they were having fun.
But, this was the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, not the Florida Gators. Heck, they aren't even the Kentucky Wildcats.
Tennessee failed to score in the first quarter, stopped not by the Hilltopper defense but by their own mistakes. If the mistakes can be chalked up to first game jitters and not the Vols usual lack of discipline, then we are looking good for the rest of the season. We won't win them all, but we will play them all,and that's somthing that has been lacking for the Vols.
I liked Kiffin's decision to go for it on 4th down in the third quarter. Against WKU that's a good call. Against an SEC opponent, not so much.
I liked our running game. We ran with power and a bit of flash,and the offensive line opened some monstrous holes. Hardestyran better than I've ever seen him run before,and the new kidslook pretty exciting as well.
Monte Kiffin's defense simply smothered the HIlltoppers.
UT's freshmen contributed significantly, as Kiffin predicted, something that will help recruiting next year, not to mention our performance this year.
I give the Vols an A for this week. UCLA comes to Neyland Stadium next week, providing a tough early test for the Vols.
Tommy Bowden Fired at Clemson
That Fulmer is running so far behind the curve he can't even be fired first.
There is no excuse for football like that. I'm 45, out of shape, and just under 290lbs and I guarantee that I could open up a hole for Hardesty to get 1 yd. I could probably do the same for Foster, but there's no guarantee he'd hit the hole, or hold on to the ball.
A few weeks ago, Fulmer laid the blame for the loss to Auburn on Chad Cunningham.
I think we've pretty firmly established that Cunningham was not the problem.
It's time we faced a very basic fact. The return of Coach Cutcliffe prolonged the inevitable but the slide that started shortly after he left the first time has now accelerated. The only thing falling faster than the Vols' performance is the stock market.
The only difference is that the stock market will recover eventually. I'm not so sure about the Vols.
The Tennessee Curse is Alive and Well
Every team that has beaten Tennessee this season, and there are a lot of them, have gone on to lose their next game. UCLA got creamed by BYU; Florida lost to Ole Miss, and now Auburn is the latest to fall victim to the Volunteer Virus, dropping a close one to SEC East powerhouse...Vandy?
This is about the biggest worry the Georgia Bulldogs should have next week, since they really don't have to worry about the Vol offense.
Looking at the upcoming schedule, does anybody see 4 winnable games?
I'm thinking it's time to look to B4.
Bring Back Bill Battle.
The Vols Are on TV Tomorrow
Or you can drive down to Neyland Stadium and pick up one of hundreds of tickets that will be selling for $10 or less, and see the game in person.
You'll still be paying too much, but at least you'll get some fresh air and sunshine.
UT 38, NIU 21
Don’t Feel Bad for theVols; Feel Sorry for Auburn.
Florida beat the Vols, and then were upset by lowly Ole Miss.
If the pattern holds, Auburn better be very careful facing Vandy next week.
Apparently whatever the Vols have is contagious.
It’s Football Time InTennessee!
I'll be spending the next 5 hours watching kids who play for the joy of it, not near adults who hope to make money off of it.
And my teams actually have a chance to win.
The Vols are a 7.5 point dog, with an over under of 51.5. That just goes to show how insane bookies are. That works out to a score of 29.5 for Florida to 22 for the Vols. Ignore the funky numbers for a second and just think about the idea of a John Chavis defense that gave up a zilllion yards to a third string quarterback holding a Heisman Trophy winner to 30 points or less.
Take the Gators and the over because friends, this one won't be pretty.
By the way, I am wearing Orange and pulling for the Vols. I am still a Vol fan; just a realistic one.
UT Wins against UAB
In other news, UCLA, owners of a victory over the Vols, lost to unranked BYU
The Gators come to town next week, led by a Heisman trophy winner who actually earned that honor. It won't be pretty.
But judging by the running of Lennon Creer and the freshman Tauren Poole, as well as the passing of second string QB Nick Stephens, next season looks really good.
Is it bad that I'm talking about next season after two games and a bye week?
Follow Up Thoughts on UT UCLA
- Before the game, Rick Neuheisel said he was hoping to keep the game close until the 4th, and then get some home cooking. He got his wish as the refs blew two major calls that may have made the difference in the game. The safety was a safety by the rules of the NCAA because all of the ball was not clear of the endzone. The second missed call was pass with the entire offensive line 5 yards up field. This in no way excuses the Vols lack of ability Monday night.
- Rereading my post from last night, I realized it could be summed up in one point. UT was not ready to play on the opening day of the season, and this is becoming a regular occurrence at Tennessee. That goes directly to coaching.
- Once again, we failed to make appropriate adjustments at half time. Again, that goes directly to coaching.
- Looking at the upcoming schedule, the Vols could easily go 2-4 to start the season.
I'll bet I can get pretty cheap tickets to the UAB game if I wanted them. Fortunately, I'll be announcing English Mountain Conference football and can skip the next Vol debacle.
Not Ready for Primetime. Or Anytime
An ineffective passing offense and inconsistent play from the special teams dominated the first quarter of the game. Jonathan Crompton started off passing the ball well but then started missing open receivers, sending the ball high and hot. Meanwhile the defense played soft, and relied on the inexperience of third string quarterback Kevin Craft, picking him off twice in the period. The only scoring in the quarter came via the Bruins special teams, which returned a blocked Cunningham punt for a Bruin touchdown. Ayers came unblocked into the backfield blocking the punt, and Ryan Graves scooped it up and carried it into the end zone.
The second quarter opened with a Tennessee drive for a touchdown, a drive that highlighted the schizophrenic nature of this Volunteer football team. There were some good running efforts from Montario Hardesty and a 42 yard completion from Crompton to Briscoe, but there were also three false start penalties on the offense, including one by quarterback Crompton. Throughout the game, Tennessee amassed 8 penalties, often in key situations, while the Bruins were penalized twice. Tennessee took the lead on a 62 yard interception and touchdown by Nevin McKenzie, Craft's 4th interception of the half.
The second half started with more of the same. UT started strong, kicking off into the end zone, and then the defense held the Bruins to 3 and out. But then the Mr. Hyde of UT football, AKA the offense, came out to play. First, Rogan almost muffed the punt, and UT started on their own 21 yard line. Then after a solid UT drive to the Bruin 6, Foster lost the handle on the ball before being hit and gave it to UCLA. UCLA mounted a couple of drives, including one good enough for a field goal, cutting the Vol lead to 4. The Tennessee offense never got into a rhythm in the third quarter racking up one fumble and two punts in three possessions.
In the fourth quarter, UCLA came to life. It started with UCLA backed up on their own 3 yard line after a beautiful punt by Cunningham. After a questionable call, the ball was spotted at the 1 foot line, and then UT jumped offsides, allowing the Bruins out of the trap. The defense held and the Bruins punted into a gorgeous return by Gerald Jones, who brought the ball from the Vol 40 to the UCLA 26. Unfortunately, once again the offense took over from there. One bad pass and sack later, and Fulmer elected to go for a 50+ yard field goal for the third time in the game. A penalty for delay of game cancelled the attempt and Fulmer wisely elected to punt.
And UCLA wisely decided to go with a short yardage, high percentage offence designed to protect their shaky quarterback. Craft went 6 for 6 and the UCLA took the lead after a 3 yard run by Carter scored the go ahead touchdown.
On UT's next possession, the offensive line began to break down, allowing the Bruins to pressure Crompton, who didn't handle the pressure well. On five straight plays there were Bruins in the Big Orange backfield almost as quickly as the ball got there. Then, after a UT time out, Crompton scrambled for 10 yards, coming up one yard shy of the first down. Without any other option, Fulmer made the call to go for it, and Crompton snuck the ball and with a strong second effort, got the first down.
That success energized the offensive line, and the Vols moved the ball on the ground and through the air for a touchdown to take the lead with just under 2 minutes to go. The game seemed to be in hand, but this is UT football, and no lead is safe, particularly not a 4 point lead on the road. UCLA marched down the field behind the arm of Craft, who put a terrible first half behind him and took his team to the endzone with 35 seconds to go in the game.
But there was life left in the shambling corpse that was the UT offense, and following a squib kick and two Crompton completions, Daniel Lincoln kicked a 47 yard field goal to tie the game.
In overtime, UT won the toss,and that was the only victory they would get. The Vol defense did their part, holding the Bruins to a field goal, and once again, the offense failed to rise to their example. The coaches called three very conservative plays, going for another tie rather than the win. Lincoln missed a 34 yard field goal to end the game.
Defensive Line: B- They pressured the quarterback, and made some great stops, holding UCLA to just 28 yards on the ground. But UCLA was without their starting running back.
Defensive Secondary: D- It isn't often that I'd give such a low grade to a unit with 4 interceptions in one game, but as Craft demonstrated in the second half, those interceptions were more due to bad decisions by a third string quarterback, not outstanding secondary play. In the second half, that third string quarterback looked like an All American, throwing for 260 yards.
Offensive Line F The supposed strength of the UT team couldn't handle the defensive pressure of the Bruins, particularly in the second half.
Running Backs C- Neither back broke 100 yards for the game, but both showed signs of life, digging for yardage when it was needed. Foster clearly lost the ball before being hit, even though the exchange was a good one. He just got careless.
Receivers: C Hard to grade based on the quarterback play, but I saw several good blocks downfield so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Quarterback D+ Crompton must do better. His passing was wildly off the mark at times and he's going to have to learn to handle pressure ,particularly when we start playing really tough teams.
Special Teams. C The blocked punt proved to be the margin of difference in this game, as well as the missed short field goal. The bright spot, and the only reason they don't get a failing grade, is that kick return and coverage was very good, with the single exception of Rogan's near disaster.
Coaching F. Anytime you lose a game you should win, the coaches get an F. In this case, I'll point out a few different things, like the poor play calling in Overtime. The primary problem was one of readiness. The Vols weren't ready to play. When your starting quarterback gets a penalty for a false start, that's a sign that your practice routine must be lacking something. When a team that you dominated in the first half comes out and eats your lunch in the second, that's a sign that your halftime adjustments may need some work.
The good news is that we've got almost 2 weeks before UAB comes to town. The bad news is that might not be enough time.
Was There Ever Any Doubt?
They couldn't beat Florida.
And now,they couldn't beat LSU.
Ohio State remains 0 for lifetime against the SEC in bowl games,once again being upset by a stronger, faster, better coached team from the SEC.
You know, it was music to my ears to hear the Tiger fans chanting SEC during the game,and even better to hear the players chanting it after the game. So often the SEC is disrespected by sportswriters and talking heads who don't know squat about football,and the Big Ten generally has some pf the worst offenders. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wrote an open letter on the Big Ten website saying that players in the SEC lacked the intelligence and the character to attend and play for Big Ten schools.
I'll tell you what, Jimbo. When you folks up there learn how to count, and realize that the Big Ten actually has eleven teams, then you can come talk to us about academics, OK? Take your shoes off to count 'em up if it helps you any. While you're at it, here's a few more numbers for you to wrap your head around, Jimbo.
- 10. The number of SEC teams that were bowl eligible.
- 9. The number of SEC teams that got bowl bids.
- 8. The number of Big 10 teams bowl eligible.
- 7. The number of SEC bowl wins.
- 6. Giving up 5 sacks plus 1 fumble in a National Title game. It's called playing defense. You might want to look into it.
- 5. The number of Big Ten teams that lost their bowl game.
- 4. The number of times the SEC has won the BCS.
- 3. The number of SEC teams that won the BCS.
- 2. The number of times LSU has won the BCS.
- 1. The number of times the Big Ten has won the BCS.
- 0. The number of victories Ohio State has notched against all SEC teams in the post season.
Geaux Tiger! Go Vols! and Roll Tide Roll! The SEC is the toughest conference in college football.
Now That’s What I Call a Win-Win!
Tennessee showed flashes of excellence today, but those flashes were overcome by torrents of mediocrity, interrupted by episodes of total incoherency. Who came up with that play where they all stood around while Ainge casually picked up the ball and stuck it between the running back's legs? What was up with that? I could understand it if the offense had been struggling, but Ainge had just led them 60+ yards down the field to get them into scoring position. And who was responsible for replacing Ainge with Gerald Jones at the tail end of what should have been another scoring drive? And why is Tennessee the only team in the NCAA that doesn't make offensive adjustments in the second half?
For Coach Cutcliffe's sake, I hope Duke wasn't watching.
Ah well, a win is a win, and other than getting blown out by Florida (again) and Bama and Cal, it was a pretty successful season. The Vols avoided the nasty upset that trapped so many other teams, and managed to play well for three quarters in the SEC championship game.
For the first time in several years, the SEC is living up to its billing as the toughest conference in the nation. As I'm writing this, the SEC is 5-2 and Georgia is walloping Hawaii 24-3. All that remains is for LSU to pull off an upset and send Ohio State home crying to cap off a very successful post season. The Buckeyes haven't fared well against the SEC in bowl games going 0-8 including back to back losses to South Carolina and last years 10 point loss to number 2 Florida.
You can't spell Ohio without an "0", so I figure they're gonna be 0 for 9 against the SEC after the title game.
Vols Still Best of the East
And no, it wasn't a moral victory.
Tennessee played just ok against a wounded LSU team and when the final whistle blew, the better team walked away with the win.
The Tennessee defense played an excellent game for the most part, with the glaring exception of third downs, which they allowed LSU to convert with alarming frequency. Even so, they held the Tigers to 21 points, a major accomplishment against a team that averaged almost 38 points per game. Unfortunately the Big Orange offense wasn't up to the challenge, scoring 20 points less than their 34 point per game season average.(These averages include overtime points.) Ainge made a couple of key mistakes, one of which, an interception for a touchdown, gave the Tigers the margin of victory.
Cutcliffe showed he was willing to gamble, bringing in wide receiver Gerald Jones at quarterback twice, resulting in two carries for 38 yards. Unfortunately the Vols weren't opportunistic enough to take advantage of multiple scoring opportunities, including two missed Lincoln field goals.
In short, I still get the feeling that this team is not playing the caliber of football that they are capable of. This team is better than they way they are playing.