Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are You Really That Excited Over Beating Kentucky?

Apologies to Kentucky fans,who are justifiably proud of the improvement in their Wildcats, but c'mon!

Four overtimes to beat Kentucky? After leading by 17 points with just over a minute to go in the 3rd quarter?

Sorry, but I'm not ready to join in the beatification of Saint Fulmer just yet.

Yes, I'm happy that the Vols are playing for the SEC championship, and I think this team has more heart and guts than the last three editions put together. The return of David Cutcliffe has nearly doubled the offensive output of the Big Orange offense, nearly countering John Chavis's defensive doldrums. (Here's a hint for Chavis; if the opposing team needs only 2 yards for a touchdown,if your coverage gives them a five yard cushion, they will score. Unless you're playing Ole Miss.)

Yes, I'm happy to see Eric Ainge breaking records and completing passes and not taking sacks. The offensive line is playing better than they have in quite a while, which means the running game is beginning to come back to life as well.

At least in the first half.

And that's the heart of my issues with Fulmer and his coaches. In big time college football, each half is almost like a separate game. The adjustments made at halftime will usually determine who wins and who loses. How long many second halves have the Vols won this season?

Second Half
CaliforniaL 31-451410
Southern MissW 39-19322
FloridaL 20-59317
Arkansas StateW 48-271017
Georgia W 35-14147
Mississippi StateW 33-21716
AlabamaL 17-41170
South CarolinaW 27-24243
Louisiana-LafayetteW 59-7 7 35
ArkansasW 34-131014
VanderbiltW 25-24716
KentuckyW 52-50247

By my count, we beat 6 teams in the second half. 6 teams with a combined record of 35-37. Contrast that to the combined record of the teams that outscored us in the second half, 44-27. Winning teams win the second half; it is as simple as that. We had a 24 point lead against South Carolina,and wound up needing them to miss a game tieing field goal. We had a 17 point lead over Kentucky, and let them score 24 points to tie the game. Leading 24-17 at the half, 6-6 Bama, losers to Louisiana Monroe, posted 17 points and blanked the Vols in the second half. And let's not talk about Florida. By way of contrast, let's look at UT's opponent in the SEC championship, LSU. The Tigers have outscored their opposition 282-99 in the second half.

Like I said, it's all about the adjustments you make at halftime,and our adjustments just don't work. We get too conservative on offense,too soft on defense. We are consistently outcoached in the second half of big games. This is why Fulmer is on the hot seat, despite his winning record. Too often, it feels like he plays "not to lose" in the second half, instead of playing to win.

Saturday's SEC Championship game represents a test for Fulmer and his staff. LSU is beatable; Arkansas proved that. A good game plan will see the Volunteers playing in a BCS Bowl on New Year's Day. The team has the talent,the heart, and the drive to win.

All they need is the coaching.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Coach Johnny Majors Still Haunting the Vols.

Appropriaely enough for Halloween, the ghost of Johnny Majors visited Neyland Stadium Saturday night and may have cost Tennessee the game and a shot at the SEC Championship.

Early in the second half, the Vol defence came up with a brilliant goal line stand. Unfortunately, the UT offence went into a coma, running up the middle three times and punting.

Spurrier capitalized on Fulmer's timidity by driving 40* yards for the Gamecocks first touchdown in over eight quarters. The Vol offence responded quickly by throwing four straight screen passes and punting.

Chavis is doing his part by playing a very soft, prevent defence that true to its name will prevent the Vols from winning.

South Carolina just scored again, and unless Fulmer and Chavis get their collective act together, this game will go from a Tennessee rout to a loss.

And you can chalk it up solely to the coaching.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bama vs UT

Can you smell the home cooking?

Wow. It'snear the end of the first half, and I'm starting to wonder of Knox County Commissioner Scott Moore is one of the refs, because something sure smells bad with this game. Tennessee gets called for pass interference on a beautiful pass breakup, and the very next play, Bama gets away with a clear offensive pass interference that gives them a touchdown.

I'm still picking the Vols to win this one, 38-37.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 07, 2007


UT whipped up on the Bulldogs so badly that I had to check the coaching roster to see whether Michael Vick had become a Vol.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Now Hold On a Minute

While I'm waiting for things to get cranked up here, let's talk football for a minute. Everybody is screaming that we need to fire Fulmer now, after the debacle against Florida on Saturday. Yeah, the loss was ugly, and the Vols are 1-2, but based on last season's team, the losses to the lines, and the schedule, did you really expect anything different?

I had hopes of an upset or two, but I knew at the start of the season that this kind of start was probable.

I'm betting that by the end of the regular season, the Vols will be 9-3, and the talk will die down again.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Boy, I was WAY off!

I predicted a Florida win, but only by 6 points. Even so, most people thought I was nuts.

Not anymore. It just goes to show you what a team can do when properly motivated and coached. Of course, the SEC does have a way of making Heisman Trophy winners look bad (Vinny Testaverde and Eddie George spring to mind.) so Troy Smith shouldn't feel too badly, although I don't see how he can feel good about less than 90 yards offense for the entire freakin' game!

Florida played a beautiful game of football tonight, totally demolishing the myth of the Big 10. IN the second half, the Gators went to a ball control ground and pound style of offense that should have given the advantage to OSU, but the Gators were able to beat the Buckeyes at their own game, and ground away 30 minutes of clock time without ever letting OSU mount a scoring threat.

I'll celebrate an SEC National Championship for the rest of the week, then it'll be time to get back to hating Florida. But until then, well done Florida!

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Tale of Two Teams

The Vols came out flat and flaccid, and played like they couldn't care less.

On the other hand, the Boise State Broncos played with fire, passion, and fun.

Guess which team won their game?

I was going to write more about the Vols, but why should I try harder than they did?

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

BCS Conundrum

No problem. Florida plays for the championship; They had the tougher schedule; they play in the toughest conference; they've earned a shot at the title.

Michigan had their shot and blew it. Do we really want to see that game again?

By the way, I'm picking the Gators by 6.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Grading on the Curve

Fulmer has something on John Adams and the News Sentinel sports staff. Looking at today's Vol Report in the KNS, it's obvious that something is going on.

Let's start with the report card for the game.
  • Quarterbacks C
  • Running Backs C+
  • Wide ReceiversC-
  • Offensive Line D
  • Defensive Line D
  • Linebackers D-
  • Secondary D
  • Special Teams C-
  • Coaching D

Now, back when I was in school, if I made those grades, I'd get a D+ overall. I would have also gotten a trip out to the woodshed courtesy of my father.

The KNS gave the Vols an overall grade of ...wait for it...


That's some curve they've got going on there.

And John Adams, last seen ripping Phil Fulmer a new one for his handling of the Goodfellas Three, displayed his softer side today, lavishing praise on the Vols after their worst shellacking of the season. I'm wondering if Fulmer didn't offer to have Arian Foster come over to the sports desk to help out with dispute resolution or something.

Yes, John, the Vols have overachieved. But no, John, beating Vandy and Kentucky does not ever constitute 'finishing strong.' Not at UT. Not ever.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pre-Game Prediction

The SEC is getting squirrelly.

Auburn beats LSU who beats Tennessee who beats Georgia who beats Auburn.

Florida beats Tennessee who beats South Carolina who is beating Florida.

Gotta love SEC football, right.

So how will Tennessee do against Arkansas at Arkansas?

Well, let's see. The Vols start a reserve quarterback, and a mediocre run defense against the best rushing attack in the nation.

Ark. 31, Vols 21.

This is one of those times when I'd love to be wrong.

By the way, 9-3 is a great achievement for this team. 8-4, which would include a loss to either Kentucky or Vandy, would be a dismal finish to a great season.

Half Time Update Boy, was I way off! This is ugly. Out of curiosity, do we have a defensive secondary? I haven't seen one today. Maybe they missed the plane.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vols and Tigers

LSU has the better team; it's as simple as that. Granted, Tennessee played without several key players (Ainge, Johnson, Coker, Harrell) and Swain is still not at 100%, but dealing with injuries is part of the game.

I was very happy with Crompton's play. He could use a little more seasoning, but Tennessee is in great shape at quarterback even after Ainge graduates.

The biggest surprise to me was that the Vol defense, which is usually a strong point or the team, cost us the game. On the last drive, the Vol secondary really let us down on the 4th and 8 play, as well as the touchdown. I don't know if the players blew the coverage or if Chavis called the wrong set, but the Tiger receivers couldn't have been more open. It looked like I was playing defensive back on those plays.

But it's over and done with now; no reason to linger over it. Not when we get to play Arkansas next, and they're every bit as good as LSU. We could be in for two losses in a row. That would be disappointing after the great start they made, but not overly so. The Vols are back to playing Tennessee football; going deep for the big play, or grinding out the yards, they play hard and hit harder. Sure, I hate it when they lose, but if they've played hard, and done their best, I can't ask for anymore.

UPDATE: OK, yes I can. Is it too much to ask for these players to not get arrested for being stupid?

Apparently it is. Suspension should be the least punishment they face. I'd kick them off the team.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Vols ranked 8th in AP, 9th in Coaches Polls

Is Tennessee really that good?

I'm saying yes, but it has less to do with the Georgia game and more to do with the season so far. Georgia's numbers, particularly on defense, were inflated by a soft schedule, (opponents went a combined 11-18) and the offense was revealed as suspect by their struggles against Ole Miss and winless Colorado.

But let's look at the rest of Tennessee's schedule to date.

  • Tennessee has faced one of the tougher schedules in college football. Our opponents have a combined record of 20-12
  • Cal is on a 5 game winning streak since losing to the Vols, scoring 40+ points per game and reclaiming a top 10 ranking. They just beat a highly ranked Oregon team soundly.
  • Air Force is undefeated in conference play
  • The Gators are rolling towards an undefeated season. And no, Georgia has no chance agains the Gators.
  • The Vols are 2-1 against teams ranked in the top 10 when we played them, and lost by 1 point to Florida.

So yes, the Vols are a top 10 team. You could argue that there are a couple of teams ranked behind them that could beat them, but there are also a couple of teams ranked ahead of them that they could handle fairly easily. As the season progresses, we'll see how it all shakes out.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Well, That Worked Out Just Great, Didn’t It?

Another spectacular meltdown by Fulmer's choice for quarterback, Eric Ainge.

Two 4th quarter interceptions that cost us 10 points and any chance of winning.

A delay of game penalty on the last drive.

Intentional ground penalties.

A drive killing fumble.

At least 4 overthrown balls for potential touchdowns.

Hell, the only receivers he could hit reliably had on dark blue jerseys.

But you know, it's not all his fault. It's clear to even the casual fan that the kid is not ready for the big time. So what would you say about a coach who keeps putting him into situations he's not prepared for?

And how about good old Rick Clausen, Cotton Bowl MVP, relegated to signalling in plays with Jim Bob Cooter from the sidelines? Yes, I'm sure he's happy with the situation.

You know, he's the second good quarterback we've watched Fulmer destroy before our very eyes. Remember Joey Matthews? Yeah, Fulmer benched him for winning his only start. And who did he bench him for? Well, let's see, he had Brandon Stewart and Peyton Manning in reserve. Who would be the best pick? Hmmmm. Let me think. Why, Stewart of course!

Actually, given the mental pounding Ainge is taking, let's make that three good quarterbacks destroyed.

And for all you radio pundts who claim that it isn't coaching, because it;s the players themselves that fumble, drop balls, miss blocking assignments whatever; let me remind you of two well known sayings in football.

You play like you practice.

You practice like you're coached.

It IS the coaches you dunderheads! They're job, they're only job, is to get these players ready for game day. Can anyone seriously make the argument that, defense excepted, UT has been ready for any game this season?

Ahhh, to heck with it. I'm not watching another game until the Vandy game. I want to see them break the 23 year losing streak.

By the way, if by some chance Rick Clausen is reading this, I just want you to know that there are a lot of UT fans out there that think what's been done to you is a damn disgrace. You've done everything this program has asked of you and gotten nothing but the shaft from Fulmer. Keep your head up, and I know that wherever you go, you'll find success.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 06, 2004

When is a Loss Better than a Win?

It's an odd feeling.

For the last two weeks as I watched the Vols beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky, I was mildly disgusted with the level of play. Yeah, we came away with wins, but damn, they were ugly. We made Vandy look good, and before that last interception, we were lookinf another L in the face.

And the game against Kentucky was no better.

I'm not trying to knock either program, because they came ready to play on game day, while the Vols went through the motions, but there was no reason for Tennessee to let those two teams stay that close through 4 quarters. Tennessee simply played uninspired football, and if they played like that in the SEC chamionship game, it would be another blowout, maybe even worse than their first meeting. Auburn needed to thrash Tennessee, not just beat them, in the hopes of gaining a little ground on Oklahoma in the BCS polls.

But the Vols didn't co-operate; the team showed up like they did against Georgia, full of fire and determination. Unfortunately, for most of the game, they were outplayed by a better Auburn team. The offense never really settled in until the second half, and while the defense front managed to contain the potent Auburn rushing tandem of Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown, the secondary was ravaged by the pinpoint passing of Jason Campbell, who had the game of his career just when he needed it most.

In the first half, Tennessee managed only 20 plays, 2 first downs, and 7 points. Rick Clausen's game was much better than his stats, as several nice passes bounced off of receivers' hands and chests to hit the turf. I counted 4 drops in the first half, one of which would have gone for a touchdown.

The second half started with Tennessee again taking advantage of an Auburn miscue, recovering a fumble that lead to Tennessee's second touchdown. The defense was fired up by the score and stopped Auburns next possession after a single first down. Then Tennessee had it's first big play of the season. Gerald Riggs broke up the middle virtually untoouched as he raced for 80 yards and the tying touchdown.

In the middle of the rout, a football game had broken out.

But Auburn didn't go undefeated through an SEC season by packing it in at the first sign of trouble. They answered with a 6 play 85 yard drive of their own, taking the lead back. They added a field goal to their lead early in the 4th quarter, but Tennessee answered the call again with their own 5 play 80 yard TD drive to cut the lead to 3.
But that was all the fight the Vols had left. Auburn scored once again to make the score 38-28, and that's the way the game ended.

So why do I like the loss better than the two earlier wins?

Because they played the game as hard as they could. Rick Clausen played better than he did in his previous three games, making good throws and better decisions. He threw for one touchdown and had his first interception free game. The offensive line showed signs of the dominence they had early in the season, allowing both Riggs and Houston to break off 80 yard runs, although Houston had his called back on a penalty. All season long, Auburn had given up only 1 rushing touchdown; Tennessee scored 3. Randy Sanders called a good game, showing me that he can do it when needed. The running game showed some imagination and some new wrinkles that resulted in success.

In short, Tennessee played like they diserved to be there, and they played to the best of their abilities, and that's what I want to see in a team. I would have loved to have won the game, but Auburn was the better team, and deserved the win. But I'm proud of our guys; they gave it all they had, from the coaches to all the players.

Next up is a tough but winnable game against Texas AM in the Cotton Bowl.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Smokey Ain’t Nuthin’ but a Road Dog!

Yessir! Smokey showed Ugga what a real dog is all about. Ugga thought whoopin' up on an over sized pussy cat made him the big dog in the east; he forgot that Smokey has made a habit of going into other folk's houses and making a mess of all their plans. Like the Hurricanes last year and the Gators 3 years ago, the Georgia Dawgs underestimated the Vols and paid for it with the end of their home win streak.

Sorry about that boys.

What a game!

I was at a Little League football game taking pictures, and listening to the Vols on the radio. I announced much of the last 4 possessions as a crowd gathered around, hanging on my report of each play. Since I do the play by play for the teams during home games, it was pretty much same old same old for me, except I couldn't see the game and had to rely on Bob Kesling.

For about the last 10 minutes of the game, hearing down and distance along with time remaining in the game was critical and Bob would always leave at least one of these bits of info out, leaving us all hanging. Maybe he was trying to build suspense, but dog gone, how much more suspenseful can a game get? All the way down to the last play on the last second of the game? What more can you ask for?

This team reminds me a lot of the 98 team. There aren't any big stars, but they play as a team. Kelly Washington and Casey Clausen were corrosive to the heart off the team over the last few years; not that they're both gone, the Vols are playing with some heart.

Of course, they're very young, and I don't know if they have the maturity to maintain their intensity after a big road in like that, but no matter what happens for the rest of this season, I like this team.

Posted by Rich
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