A bit of historical perspective, which may help explain why these last two losses have registered beyond a 10 on the pain scale.
In his 17 years on the sideline, Phillip Fulmer's Vols lost a game in which they led by two possessions six times:
- 1994 at Mississippi State: led 21-7 third quarter, lost 24-21
- 1995 at Florida: led 30-14 second quarter, lost 62-37
- 1999 at Arkansas: led 24-14 third quarter, lost 28-24
- 2001 vs Georgia: led 14-3 first quarter, lost 26-24
- 2001 SEC Championship vs LSU: led 17-7 second quarter, lost 31-20
- 2006 vs Florida: led 17-7 third quarter, lost 21-20
Other than the first one, a game in which Todd Helton was the starting quarterback, you've got the who's who of heartbreaking losses. Rightfully so, considering not only the way the games were lost but the talent of the Tennessee teams that fell on those Saturdays. And in at least half of these cases, the quality of the opponent should be considered. Both of those Florida teams would play for the national title; obviously LSU won the SEC title.
But note this: in 17 years, Fulmer's Vols never blew a two possession lead in the fourth quarter.
Derek Dooley's teams blew a pair of two possession leads: a 13-3 second quarter lead on Oregon in 2010, and a 28-14 third quarter lead on Missouri in 2012. Those 2010 Ducks went on to play for the national title; those 2012 Vols were a week away from saying goodbye to their coach. Dooley's Vols never blew a two possession lead in the fourth quarter, though there were few of them to blow.
- 2014 vs Florida: led 9-0 fourth quarter, lost 10-9
- 2015 vs Oklahoma: led 17-3 fourth quarter, lost 31-24 2OT
- 2015 at Florida: led 27-14 fourth quarter, lost 28-27