Bumped from the FanPosts. Great job by VolnVA.
I do feel a bit as though I am beating a dead horse here as it has already been 48+ hours since the game ended, but I just got back home this evening from Birmingham after going to the game on Saturday. I just wanted to share a few observations and leave a few questions about 'Bama before refocusing on SCarolina.
I think I have been able to gain enough perspective now to admit that it was a highly entertaining game. I had a feeling all week that Tennessee was certainly capable of pulling the upset, but my rational brain thought that Alabama would win by 10-14. Their body of work to date is more impressive than any other team I've had the opportunity to watch this season, and other than the throttling of UGA, I think we can all admit that the Vols haven't garnered too many results thus far.
As the game unfolded, I continued to believe UT could win, but it looked more and more like UA would pull away. I felt it come close to getting away at the end of the first half, then I felt it slipping again at the end of the 4th quarter. Before it got out of control, though, the defense came up huge (as they are wont to do) and 3+ of the most exciting minutes I have ever witnessed unfolded, ultimately coming up 4 seconds short of being the BEST 3+ minutes I think I have ever witnessed. Those last few minutes just truly encompassed everything that makes college football so spectacular on a weekly basis.
Before I ramble too much (and perhaps I have already crossed that threshold...), below are my observations and outstanding questions to put to rest before I can truly move on to the Gamecocks.
- I was very proud of my guys...and I was extremely devastated by the final outcome. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing for a sports fan is hope. I was ready to embrace defeat with 3.5 minutes to go, but there the Vols went clawing, scratching, and making things happen. I felt that I was about to be part of something special, something that you could really tell the kids/grandkids about one day, "Yes, I was there when UT scored 10 in the last 2 minutes to destroy an undefeated Alabama team's dreams." Then a series of unfortunate events happened...and I couldn't believe it. I was on the last row of the upper deck and had to resist the urge to jump overboard, ultimately settling for collapsing in a heap on the ground. My girlfriend said she was afraid I was never going to get up. I am encouraged that we are competitive again...but that loss hurt...a lot.
- Jonathan Crompton deserves better. I'll confess to being a bit fair weather when it comes to Crompton. I was ready to throw him under the bus after the UCLA game. But if you look at all the crap he has had to deal with over the last season and a half and then consider his last 9 quarters, I am amazed. He has played with poise and confidence since the end of the Auburn game and I no longer dread every time that he drops back to throw. As has been mentioned in several other posts, this had a chance to be his vindication, his redemption...I wish it had happened for him.
- Our defense is beastly. It's not just EB. It's Janzen Jackson. It's Dennis Rogan. It's Rico McCoy (speaking of which, is there an injury update on him? I didn't notice while being at the game, but I caught the 2nd half of the replay on CSS last night and took notice when they said he was out with an undisclosed injury). It's Monte being smarter than everybody. I obviously want EB back next year, but we can continue to be strong on that side of the ball without him.
- Penalties hurt us...badly. We've all gone back and forth on the fat man's helmet at the end of the game ad nauseam (thanks, PTI). I'm not suggesting we got screwed by the refs in one way or another over the course of the game (because it's really hard to tell these things from the last row of the stadium), but we had some real drive killers. Those 2 long 2nd half drives that ended up with no points were seriously hampered by penalties. Whether it was a lack of discipline or just being physically outmanned at some spots, we've got to clean that up for next week.
- This is the one that really feels talked out, but the last 45 seconds were not well managed. Obviously you don't want to get that close and throw an interception trying to get 5 more yards. I understand that. But given the way we had been destroyed on the previous 40+ yard attempt (it hit Cody in the armpit it was so low), didn't it make sense to get closer? If Lincoln's quad really was bothering him and he's struggling to get the right combination of height and distance, doesn't it help him to be 7-10 yards closer in the middle of the field? Again, it's been well-documented that an extra point wouldn't have made it against the absolute jailbreak that occurred, but I'm not sure Lane put Lincoln in the best position for success.
- Did anyone else notice commentary on how 'Bama "dominated" the game until the last 3 minutes? Between the AP write up of the game, a couple of Saban's post-game comments, Pat Forde's article, and some things in the Birmingham paper, I became convinced they watched a different game than I did. Alabama controlled the 1st half, but UT owned them in the 2nd. I just found it strange they would essentially ignore the entire 2nd half of the game...
- None of the other coaches in the SEC want to give Kiffin credit for anything. I know he came in with guns blazing and aimed barbs specifically at Meyer, Saban, and Spurrier. I find it odd, however, that both Meyer and Saban have blamed extenuating circumstances (the Great Flu Outbreak of 2009, i.e.) or conservative play calling (don't you guys have control over that?) rather than giving some credit to Lane & Co. Maybe he's in their heads, maybe they fear the recruiting behemoth if they say anything positive, maybe they don't like that he's taken the same group of guys and made them a lot better. Maybe they don't like that our defense has made them look extremely vulnerable. Whatever it is, it strikes me as odd.
- Let's be clear...I really don't like Alabama, but dangit if I don't respect them. I think Saban is a money-grubbing opportunist. I find their band with their little capes incredibly irritating. Rammer Jammer instills in me a tremendous desire to pop somebody in the face (I know you can't change the lyrics on the fly, but c'mon, 12-10 does not a "hell beating" make). Their drunk/obnoxious fans are just as bad as anybody else's drunk/obnoxious fans. But I don't know of any other place where fans would seek out supporters of their rival, pat them on the back, shake their hand, and say, "Your team played a great game today." Maybe they were saying this to all UT fans, maybe they just said it to me because I looked more despondent than anyone else. I have been to 4 games in Alabama (last one in B-ham, 3 in Tuscaloosa) and I have enjoyed them all. The majority of that crowd knows class.
- I have a funny feeling that this was Alabama's Clint Stoerner moment. I, like probably all of you, have many vivid memories of the 1998 season. Tennessee had no business beating Syracuse on Donovan McNabb's personal field day, but they did. Tennessee had no business beating Florida minus one bad dude named Al Wilson. Tennessee had no business coming back and ultimately pulling out a miracle against an 8-0 Arkansas team that had a huge lead. Sometimes, things just go your way on the way to the ultimate prize. If anybody's taking notes, I am calling Alabama winning the NC in 2.5 months. It is their year.
That was a lot to say...but I had to finish the cathartic process by writing this all down. I am now ready to move on to a HUUUUUUUUUGE game against South Carolina. 8-4 is still a legitimate goal, but 6-6 or 5-7 (Kentucky did beat Auburn at Auburn...I'm just saying) is possible if things fall the wrong way. Lane, have the guys shake off Alabama and get ready to go for the last 5 games, please. Thanks.