Just like the angry-looking storm bearing down on Knoxville just before kickoff, the Tennessee Volunteers struck fast and hard and loud against the Oregon Ducks tonight. Tauren Poole took the very first play from scrimmage 31 yards. On the ensuing kickoff, Art Evans forced a fumble, and Prentiss Waggner recovered. Da'Rick Rogers then rushed for 21 yards on the first play of UT's second drive in a row.
The team struck; the crowd thundered. Six minutes and seven seconds into the game, Tennessee had 76 yards, three first downs, and more momentum than the storm that then delayed the game. Unfortunately, they'd only managed to turn that effort into six points.
After the 70 minute weather delay, the team picked up right where it left off, for a time, anyway. Tennessee's defense forced the same Ducks offense that had gained 720 yards and scored 72 points last week into a three and out and a field goal, and Poole was back at it, ripping off more huge gains. They even managed a TD on the first play of the second quarter, at which point Tennessee led 13-3 over the nation's #7 team.
And then, just like that, it was over. Oregon figured out how to stop Poole, and Tennessee couldn't execute any contingency plan. It was still 13-13 going into the half, but in the second half, the Vols couldn't get anything going on offense, and as the game wore on, the defense got tired, and with the fatigue came poor tackling, and with the poor tackling, came points. In bunches. 45 unanswered points, to be exact.
That second half was as miserable as the first 15 minutes was awesome. We knew the team had depth issues. Now we know just how much difference depth can make. What exactly do you do when the maxim calls for 60 minutes, but you have 30 minutes' worth of players?
The silver lining in all of this is that those 30 minutes' worth are good enough to compete with anyone, both on offense and defense. The other 30, well, we're just going to have to wait awhile for those to develop. The weird thing is that tonight, for some reason, it's really hard to remember what we knew yesterday.