It's great to win. It's great to frustrate your opponent. But when you frustrate your opponent so much that they go back to the locker room and make a fool of themselves in front of the media? Then it's great. . . and hilarious.
And let there be no mistake, there could be few games more frustrating to the Miami Hurricanes than the one played on November 8th, 2003. The U had yet to lose a home game that decade, with a 26-game win streak dating back to 1999. They had not been held without a touchdown at home in nearly twenty years. They were coming off two straight national title game appearances. All three streaks would end at the hands of Tennessee.
The Hurricanes were able to drive the field on the opening possession, getting inside the red zone and kicking a field goal to go up 3-0. After that? They got the ball just twice more the rest of the first half. On their second possession, they gained five yards and threw an interception that set up a game-tying field goal. On their third possession, they drove seven yards and punted. Technically, they did get a fourth possession, but they were able to make it just nine yards before the clock ran out on the first half. Miami had gained 61 yards on their first drive and then just 21 in the entire rest of the half.
What's more, they went into the half down 10-3, thanks to Philip Fulmer rolling the dice and calling an end-around to Derrick Tinsley on 4th and goal from the one with the clock running out on the second quarter. That would be the only touchdown of the game. (How many big plays did Derrick Tinsley make at Tennessee?).
In the second half, Miami was again able to move the ball. But they were never able to move the ball enough. Whenever the Hurricanes threatened, Tennessee made the big play. Miami drove the ball inside the Tennessee 40 four times. They drove it to the Tennessee ten twice. They got kicked one field goal, turned it over twice, and punted once. Their last drive, with under five minutes to go in a 10-6 game, saw them get to the ten before an interception from Gibril Wilson closed the door on their last scoring opportunity.
And when they forced Tennessee to punt one last time? Sean Taylor muffed it, and Derrick Tinsley recovered. The Vols could run out the clock. (How many big plays did Derrick Tinsley make at Tennessee?).
It's not like the 2003 Tennessee team was a juggernaut. After a two-score win in the Swamp, their next five games were an overtime win at home against a South Carolina team that finished 5-7, a loss to an unranked Auburn squad, a 41-14 defeat at the hands of Georgia, a five-overtime escape against one of the worst Alabama teams of my lifetime, and an uninspiring 23-6 defeat of Duke.
Miami had to feel like they had a clearly superior team. Much of that talent assembled by Butch Davis was still there. They had already beaten both in-state powers, including a top five Florida State on the road. They'd been to two straight national title games and hadn't lost at home all decade. They were favored this afternoon by more than a touchdown. And what's more, once the game started, they did move the ball. They picked up 321 yards to Tennessee's 170.
But the Vols defense did just enough to frustrate Miami. The Hurricanes spent most of the first half without the ball, and when they were able to move it in the second half, they ended their drives in turnovers, a total of four in the afternoon. And as frustration mounted, they committed 121 yards worth of penalties.
And when it was all said and done, Tennessee's defense had allowed just six points. For the Vols, it was beautifully ugly. For Miami's offense? Just ugly. And it provided the perfect opportunity for Kellen Winslow Jr to announce, for all the world to hear, that he was a soldier.