Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

Not Ready for Primetime.  Or Anytime

The Vols opened their 2008 season Monday night, losing to UCLA in overtime 27-24, and although the result wasn't the blowout loss they had last year against Cal, the game highlighted that the Vols still have a lot of work to do before being consider as contenders for, well anything. While the defense performed well for most of the game, the offense never found a rhythm, special team play was inconsistent, and once again, as Vol fans have become accustomed to, UT was outcoached in the second half.

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.

My Grades

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.
Posted by Rich
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Arian Foster averaged 7.4 yards a carry. My question is why didn't we run the ball more? It wouldn't have made it a spectacular win but it would have been a win. There is no reason that Crompton should have had 42 passing attempts in the game when he was clearly ineffective.

My advice for the team is to get some coaches that aren't way past their prime. Lately we are 24-16 in our record overall. Sure Fulmer may have the record of one of the winningest coaches in football still, but how long will that last at this rate? I don't know about any other Vol fans. but I am tired of seeing our team get outcoached every week to sometimes barely scrape by for a win (when we do manage). Chavis has a very talented D and it is being squandered. Why play zone defense against a quarterback that tend to throw interceptions? Aren't we supposed to have a talented secondary?

Crompton is clearly not the QB answer. The sad part is that I have no idea who is the second string. My thought is that maybe we should give them a try and see what they can do.
Posted by Isaac  on  09/02  at  09:26 AM

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