A final look back at the 2008 season, quick-like, because pain should be fast.
Up today: Punt coverage and red zone allergies.
So against UAB we'd discovered we're more of a running team than a passing team. Surely, with that discovery and the oft-cited historical fact that in the Tennessee-Florida series (say it with me!) the team that runs the ball best usually wins, we were going to run this time, right? Uh, maybe not:
Perhaps Clawson will look at the historical stats and conclude that because running wins the Tennessee-Florida game, Tennessee will need to run to win. But maybe he'll get suckered into thinking otherwise. Maybe he'll need to learn the lesson himself. I sincerely hope not, but he is sounding like he's flirting with danger, uttering words like "balance" and phrases like "keep them honest."
This despite RTT's inspiring videos to get both mad and even for the prior year's dishumiliarassment and to run, run, run, run! Not to mention Jackson the Mule's memo to coaches Fulmer and Clawson to dictate matters rather than respond to them.
But even if coach Clawson was going to flirt with a passing-oriented offense, surely he'd been warned about kicking to Brandon James, right?
The real danger comes on special teams, specifically Tennessee's punting game. With Florida's Brandon James fielding punts, Tennessee's fourth-down territory should be expanded. If a punt is definitely called for, Chad Cunningham does not need to be a Colquitt, he just needs to be a mere pawn in the scheme, helping his team take one small step in the right direction. He does not need to get the punt out on time, high, and deep. He needs to get it out early and out of bounds. A thirty-eight yard gross average is not the standard here. Avoiding a special teams touchdown for the other team is the only goal. A ten-yard punt that is not returned may be the best play of the night that we'll never acknowledge simply because it precluded something bad from happening.
Got it? Good.
Full Screen Version
Don't get it. Not good.
The Vols start by kicking off to James and letting him return it all the way across the fifty. After the Gators scored, Tennessee fumbled, and Florida scored again. Tennessee then went about 20 yards and punted directly to James, who ran it back for a touchdown. Tennessee's next two possessions ended with turnovers within a couple of yards of the end zone. By the time the midway point of the third quarter rolled around, hordes of Vol fans were heading for the gates.
Yeah, so the speed at which we as a program fixed known problems seemed to be "brontosaurus slow," and "our capacity to make just absolutely astounding, egregious errors at the worst possible time" was systemic. Worst of all was the diagnosis: serious allergies:
You are experiencing very serious allergic reactions to the Punt Coverage and Red Zone Allergens. Take a closer look at the film. See that first long blue line? There should be an orange one directly underneath of it. There is no trace of it, however, because you regressed 15 yards on a personal foul penalty, which put you into an acute down and distance close to the red zone, which in turn resulted in a fumble and an easy field goal for the other team.
Also, do you see that first orange line? There should be a long, segmented line attached to the end of it. There is no trace of it, however, because you exposed yourself to something to which your body does not respond well. Brandon James is a well-known, aggressive and elusive airborne particle, and your hypersensitivity to the Punt Coverage Allergen resulted in an improper activation of your immune system. The usual consequence of this is extreme inflammation of the fan base.
Still, it wasn't 59-20, and a re-watch did show at least a little improvement over the prior year. And there was the added benefit of discovering the wonderful typo "pooponent" (for "opponent") during the post-game awards post.
But here we were, 1-2 to begin the season. And things would only get worse.
Up next: Auburn.