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LSU 16 Tennessee 14 - The Agony & The Idiocy

I just typed that score, and it's wrong.  It's wrong.

Usually Joel does the immediate post-game writeups, while I sit with the outcome for a few hours until I'm able to sound more rational.  But right now, this hurts so much by such an unimaginable method, I have to talk about it.

Because I'm thinking about the way Les Miles (and whoever else is responsible on LSU's coaching staff) did what they always do, and mismanaged the final two minutes.  About how a delay of game penalty turned 4th and 9 into 4th and 14, then about how Les Miles decided to use his final timeout anyway.

And of course, it somehow turned to gold for Miles again.  The Vols gave up 4th and 14, which is our fault.  And ultimately, so is what happened at the end. 

LSU was stopped with 28 seconds left at the 2 yard line.  The fact that they couldn't even get a spike off and ended up with a snap that went 15 yards the wrong way proves their ineptitude.  The fact that we had 13 men on the field proves ours.  The only difference is that you couldn't penalize LSU's brand of stupidity.

LSU deserved to win this game because they had 433 yards of offense to our 217.  Tennessee deserved to win because we created four turnovers and played exactly the type of game you thought we'd have to play to pull one of these huge upsets.  And on the final play, neither of us deserved anything but defeat.

If both own a DVR and enjoy pain, go back and watch the final sequence.  Watch the pure joy on Dooley's face as he celebrates with his team for all of one minute.  The expression on his face, for a few seconds, was shared by all of his players:  youthful, schoolboy exuberance.  You think you wanted to win this game?  Think about these players.  Think about what they've been through.  Think about how hard they continue to work.  And think about what this win would've meant to them.

Think about what it would've meant for Derek Dooley.

The darker parts of my fanhood would now like to ask you to think about this:

What if those sixty seconds are as good as it gets this year?

The Vols, as stated, were outgained by more than 200 yards.  We give up sacks with such ease we don't even really complain about it, we just accept it.  It was always going to take a special effort to win one of these October games.  We got that effort today, against the perfect combination of poor quarterback play and poor coaching decisions.  We won't see anything like Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, and Les Miles again all year.

An already fragile Tennessee team is going to be ultra-vulnerable next week.  When we get an off week to pick ourselves up and dust off our britches, #1 Alabama is on the other side of it.

How much more can we take?  Not the fans - we get out of this what we put into it, and if you're reading here you're putting in, and so you probably feel terrible tonight.  But we'll be back next Saturday to put in again.  Most of us probably didn't expect to be this close, to care this much, and subsequently, to hurt this much this year.  But we'll be back.

But what about this team, on its third coaching staff in three years, with adversity constantly inventing new and creative ways to kick us while we're down?  How much more can these 18-22 year olds take?

And what about Derek Dooley?  I was so ready to praise him today - for the way the Vols did stare down adversity in the fourth quarter this time, for the way Tennessee came out firing after LaMarcus Thompson's interception in the end zone, and for the way he had this team in position to win.

One big upset win in your first year - just one - is enough to cover a multitude of sins.  Ask Rick Neuheisel about beating the Vols.  Ask Lane Kiffin about the number we put on Georgia last year.

But now, Dooley and his staff get most remembered for having 13 guys on the field on the game's final play.  That's how the national media will see it anyway - "What an idiot!" - and if this season doesn't get any better than those sixty seconds of false joy, will some of us start to see it that way too?

We played our hearts out today, had victory, and quite literally gave it away.  How will Dooley respond?  How will this team respond?

This is awful.  But by Saturday, we'll pick up the pieces of our broken hearts, and take them with us to Athens.  As disappointing as this day was for Derek Dooley?  If he can lead the Vols back from this, I'll be even more impressed.

Go Vols.