2008 retrospective: UCLA 27, Tennessee 24

A final look back at the 2008 season, quick-like, because pain should be fast.

Up today: Pants.

Pre-Game

Never mind that Cal game in 2007, this was 2008, and disinterested bloggers from both the SEC and the Pac-10 were picking the Vols to beat the UCLA Bruins in a nationally-televised Labor Day prime time game. Of course, that didn't keep the UCLA faithful from making fun of our mule or inexplicably claiming football superiority based on real estate comparables. No matter, Gerald Williams was finally, finally eligible, and that had to be a good sign, didn't it?

The Game

Not necessarily:


Full Screen Version

Yeah. Arian Foster fumbled in the red zone, something we'd hoped we'd seen the last of. Daniel Lincoln missed three field goals, including the game-loser in overtime. Jonathan Crompton couldn't hook up with any receivers. And the defense that intercepted UCLA third-string QB Kevin Craft four times in the first half pretty much gave him the game in the second.

Post-Game

All in all, it was like a really disappointing Christmas:

Pants. It's just pants.

Tennessee had won the SEC East last season, but many fans believed they'd won it mostly by default. Then David Cutcliffe, who'd sort of turned things around and gotten things headed in the right direction after the Randy Sanders Experiment, was off to Duke, and he took most of his offensive staff with him. Trooper Taylor then rode off into the sunset to Oklahoma State. Phillip Fulmer searched for and hired Dave Clawson, who was rumored to have some mysterious west coast-ish, spread-y type secret offense with innovative features like shifting linemen and playmakers in space. The present was covered in opaque, shiny foil wrap with a giant orange bow on it. The card read, "TO: Vol Fans, FROM: Coaches Fulmer and Clawson, P.S. Don't open until September 1st." We were drawn to the gift. When we picked it up and shook it, it made a glorious noise, but it didn't offer any clue as to what was inside. Surely, it was something wonderful. Something worthy of a nickname. Fresh. New. Exciting.

It was pants. Another pair of pants. Same thing we got last year.

Tonight's game against UCLA was most decidedly not good. The Bruins had apparently resorted to LinkedIn to find a QB who had transferred from a really bad team via community college. They had lost several non-QB key players prior to the game. They lost several more during the first half. The aforementioned QB threw four, four, interceptions in the first half.

But after the half, Kevin Craft, that QB I was talking about up there, well, he got new and exciting. Our defense went soft. Jonathan Crompton kept overthrowing receivers. Our running game was stagnant, and our senior-laden, experienced offensive line couldn't push anybody around or give the quarterback time to throw to the ball. Sure, when the Bruins scored the go-ahead touchdown, we did a good job on offense getting into field goal position, and Daniel Lincoln did a good job sending the ball through the uprights and the game into overtime.

But . . . Crompton was neither as bad or as good as was Craft. Lincoln missed a couple of field goals early and the game-loser late. Our offense couldn't capitalize on the turnovers created by our defense. Our defense couldn't adjust to Norm Chow's offensive adjustments.

We lost. The first game of the season. The second year in a row.

Pants. Again.

The game wasn't totally devoid of entertainment value, though. Eric Berry totally clobbered someone. There were those four interceptions, including one by Nevin McKenzie that ranked as the sixth best play of the season:

And there was that small matter of the team scrambling around because a bunch of them were wearing the wrong wristbands:

Best comedy. Some players were wearing the wrong wristbands? Huh? What's the story there? Clawson up in the box reading off one script, Jim Bob Cooter relaying the plays off another, and poor Jonathan Crompton executing off another?

Clawson: Run to the right, on three!

Cooter: Got it. Pass to the left, on one!

Crompton: Got it. Sack, on two!

Yeah, so we were able to have a little bit of fun with the wristband thing, but the game and the result of the game? Not funny. Not funny at all.

Up next: the UAB Blazers.

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