Tennessee 56 Tiger High 28: Lane Kiffin does whatever he wants


If you didn't see it and you're only looking at the final or the box score, the real numbers aren't the double-up on the scoreboard, or the fact that Memphis gained 401 yards and scored more points against Tennessee's defense than anyone has all season.  Any eyebrow-raising is reserved for next season.

Because the real story of this game was told in the first thirty minutes and the first two drives of the second half.  Tennessee had eight possessions in that span, and scored touchdowns on seven of them.  We still don't know if we can kick field goals, because Lane Kiffin and the Vols weren't playing that game tonight.

Instead of settling at any point in the first half, Kiffin and the Vols went for the throat from the first play.  After David Oku set the tone with a 69 yard return on the opening kick, the Vols ran a trick play on their first snap, an incomplete halfback pass.  No matter, the Vols scored five plays later, and we were off to the races.

Memphis went three and out, and the Vols went 55 yards in 4 plays to make it 14-0.  And of course, you call for the onside kick in this situation.

Even though the Vols didn't retain possession thanks to an offsides penalty, Memphis punted again.  Tennessee scored again.  Rinse, repeat.

En route to a 42-7 halftime lead, the Vols never punted, tried the onside kick, went for it on fourth down three times (including once at our own 35), forced a fumble and got Eric Berry six yards closer to his record with an interception, dialed up two unsuccessful trick plays, and basically did anything they wanted to on every snap.

Manningesque Crompton returned, but not because the Tigers completely shut down the run - Montario Hardesty still finished with 60 yards on 13 carries, and on the whole the Vols ran for 143 yards, with Bryce Brown getting the bulk of the work in the second half and also finishing with 60 yards on 11 carries.

But when the Vols weren't running, Crompton was getting it done.

During Crompton's time in the game - again, just the first half and the first offensive drive of the third quarter - he went 21 of 27 for 331 yards (career high), throwing five touchdowns to five different receivers (GJones, Denarius, Stocker, Hancock, and Nuke) and sneaking one in himself for six total touchdowns (career high, and only short of the all-time UT record because Erik Ainge had four overtimes to get seven in 2007).  If Memphis doesn't like being called Tiger High, maybe they'd settle for Career High.

Tennessee was up 49-7 with more than 12:00 left in the third quarter, and we were thinking about all-time scoring records, when Kiffin decided that what he wanted to do next was put the backups in and see what we had.

From there, Memphis outscored the Vols 21-7, broke loose for almost 300 yards in the second half, and did cause a few raised eyebrows about Tennessee's depth, especially defensively.  Nick Stephens had his moments (5 of 9 for 98 yards with a touchdown and an interception) and plenty of guys got experience.  Yeah, we're not thrilled with the way our second and third team defense played...but the fact that they got 27 minutes of work means we're very thrilled with everything else.

Kiffin - the head coach of a 5-4 football team who said he thought a game against then-ranked South Carolina "shouldn't have been close" and expressed disappointment when the Vols won by 18 - is going to do whatever he wants.  You've probably figured that out when it comes to his mouth.  But Memphis got the same deal tonight on the field, where the Vols showed no mercy.  It's not running up the score when you do it in one half and one drive.

There are questions of depth for the future, sure.  Monte will have plenty to stress this week.  But right now, Tennessee is a confident, dangerous football team.  The Vols wiped the floor with Memphis for the 21st time in 22 tries.  Now we turn our attention to a game that will make the difference between a good season and an average one for both teams:  Ed Orgeron and the Vols are headed for Oxford, full speed ahead.

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