A final look back at the 2008 season, quick-like, because pain should be fast.
Up today: Opportunity plays ding dong ditch with the Vols.
By the end of the Florida game, the program was beginning to turn on itself. The team was 1-2, and fans booing and/or leaving games early were factors in an elite quarterback commitment changing his mind and steering clear of Knoxville. Fortunately for the Vols, this week they would have an excellent opportunity to get things back on track with a win over a traditional power. For once, Tennessee was catching Auburn at a time they were struggling, as the Tigers' installation of a fancy new spread offense hadn't really produced any results. Unfortunately, for the Vols, neither had Tennessee's. No. 1 on the game preview predicted an offensive nightmare for both teams.
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Offensive nightmare indeed. After all of those segmented punt lines on the first three drives, Auburn got on the board first with its second possession. Tennessee then put together two solid drives, but they both ended with field goals. After forcing another Auburn punt, the offense had another allergic reaction to the danger zone when a botched handoff between Jonathan Crompton and Arian Foster was recovered by Auburn in the end zone.
Even more offensive ineptidue ensued in the second half, with Tennessee putting together only one scoring drive. The Vols spent most of the fourth quarter within a field goal of winning yet unable to even attempt one despite being on the right side of the field the entire time.
Or, as we said after it was over, opportunity played ding dong ditch with the Vols for the entire game:
Generally, when opportunity knocks, all one must do is open the door and bag the sucker before it gets away. Ignore it or wait too long and it will move on to the next house.
Or . . . it may ring the bell again and run off to hide in the bushes and laugh at you when you open the door and stand there looking at an empty porch, wondering what happened. When you go back inside, it rings and hides and giggles again, and when you fall for it a third time, it's wetting its pants in fits of laughter at both your gullibility and frustration.
Opportunity's been playing such tricks on the Volunteers in 2008, and never was this more evident than on Saturday afternoon, when Tennessee failed to catch almost every single opportunity that came calling.
. . . .
Opportunity really got on a roll in the second half. Tennessee's worst starting field position after the break was its own 35, and that was the opening drive. The other starts for the Vols in the second half? Auburn's 44, 37, 38, UT's 42, Auburn's 46, and UT's 46. The results of those opportunities? A grand total of 73 yards and seven points. That's right, while the defense was holding Auburn's offense to 77 yards, 33 plays, five three and outs, five first downs, and basically enforcing a house arrest order against the Tigers, Tennessee's offense mustered one single touchdown and zero field goals when one field goal would have won it.
The Vols could do almost nothing with the four punts Chad Cunningham placed on his opponent's 4, 2, 12, and 5 yard lines. They squandered most of Gerald Jones' 107 all-purpose yards. They blew the upside of what was an all-around solid performance by the defense.
. . . .
We're puppets. Opportunity knocks, we open the door to see who's there, and opportunity's in hysterical fits, losing control of its bladder in the bushes.
Yes, we'd blown multiple opportunities and shown that even though Auburn's offense smelled like a week-old possum carcass, ours was even worse.
Up next: Northern Illinois.