THE FIVE BIGGEST SURPRISES OF 2007: #3 - THE HOG-WHOOPIN'

If Knoxville was humming with negativity going into October, it was postively caustic going into November. Not only had we been blown out by Cal and Florida, but any postive vibes we'd received as a result of the Dawg Whoopin' had been lost two weeks later at Alabama. The 17-41 loss to a Tide team that was 5-2 at the time but finished the season only 7-6 is widely viewed as the biggest disappointment of the season.

With the team struggling, it certainly was not a good time for a Heisman candidate to be paying a visit.

Like I said yesterday, it's pretty much all McFadden all the time around the McInternetosphere this week. Okay, already. We know that he looks scary good. We know that he had 321 yards against Steve Spurrier and that he and Felix Jones combined for 487, numbers that coach Fulmer characterized as "unbelievable." No, we don't know whether we can stop him.

No wonder Arkansas' rushing offense was No. 2 in the nation. And, yikes, Tennessee's rush defense was 74th in the nation. This wicked combination had Vol fans running scared through the hills of Tennessee screaming "How do you solve a problem like McFadden?" Former players were taking out full-page ads in the newspaper to defend coach Fulmer, whose job was apparently riding on the outcome of the game. Nuclear engineering grad students were crunching numbers and lawyers were flirting with disaster by playing with loaded math. Corn from a Jar pegged the fear/paranoia level at 9.5 out of 10 and the "desperate need to win level" at 11 out of 10.

And then . . . Tennessee running backs Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, and Lennon Creer, along with the Tennessee defense, stole the show from McFadden and Jones the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs got only one first down the entire first half. Yes, Jones returned his first kickoff to the Tennessee 34, but the defense held them to one first down (which would be the only one they'd have the entire first half) and a field goal, and true freshman Dennis Rogan did him one better by returning the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Arkansas 15 yard line. The remainder of Arkansas' first half drives resulted in 29 yards, zero first downs, and one interception. In the meantime, Tennessee gained another 119 yards (53 by three-headed running back monster Lenarianario Crardester), ten points, and seven first downs. When the teams went to the locker room, Tennessee had possessed the ball for 21 minutes, and McFadden and Jones had combined for 22 yards.

Arkansas' second half drives:

  • Seven yards and a punt
  • 46 yards and a field goal
  • 61 yards and a failed fourth-down conversion
  • Minus 18 yards and a punt
  • Touchdown
  • Interception (by Jerod Mayo, returned for a touchdown)
  • Interception (by Eric Berry, returned 61 yards)

Tennessee's bend-don't-break defense in the second half resulted in some ostensibly even stats, but don't be fooled. The Vols absolutely dominated this game:

Arkansas and Darren McFadden rolled into Knoxville on Saturday bringing the national spotlight with them. The Tennessee running backs and John Chavis' defense then proceeded to put together a performance compelling the spotlight to shine on them like a long lost friend. Standing O for stealing the show, gentlemen.

See also:

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