Whether or not fans admit it, Phillip Fulmer is one of the greatest coaches in Tennessee football history. A BCS championship to his name, Fulmer's tenure is second only to Robert Neyland. Fulmer's greatest gift was that he had an incredible knack for winning close games, a skill that seems to escape his successors.
Let's take a look at some of the most heartbreaking losses since the end of the Fulmer era.
Coming into this game, Tennessee had defeated Kentucky 26 consecutive times.
A 5-6 Tennessee team, needing one more win to become bowl eligible, headed into Lexington to face an abysmal 4-7 Kentucky team. Moreover, Kentucky had a wide receiver starting at quarterback that day. There was no way the Vols would lose to the Wildcats, right? Wrong.
A relatively boring game resulted in a 10-7 win for Kentucky. The streak was over. Hate on Fulmer all you want, but he never lost to Kentucky.
Déjà vu is all I can say.
The Vols were 6-6 and headed into Nashville to play a mediocre North Carolina team. With Tennessee up 20-17 in the closing seconds, North Carolina marched down the field into field-goal range and spiked the ball. Time, however, ran out and the officials called the game.
After reviewing the play, the officials discovered that there was one second left on the clock when the ball was spiked. North Carolina kicked the field goal and won the game in double overtime.
With the heartbreak in Baton Rouge earlier in the season, it seemed unfathomable that Tennessee could be prematurely declared the winner of a game again and lose. Yet it happened again.
Sometimes when I want to torture myself, I Google the last two minutes of this game and watch it while I try not to snap my laptop in half.
An unranked Tennessee team traveled into Tuscaloosa to do battle with the No. 1 team in the nation. After a pretty lackluster 55 minutes that consisted of nothing but field goals, Alabama led 12-3 and had the ball.
Then, a careless Mark Ingram fumble led to a Vols touchdown with less than two minutes. They recovered the onside kick and seemed destined to pull off the upset. After a few plays, Daniel Lincoln lined up to kick a game-winning 44-yard field goal with four seconds left. Terrence Cody then blocked his second field goal of the day, guaranteeing a 12-10 victory for the Tide.
The image of Cody jumping up and down with his helmet off still haunts me to this day.
Saying that Tennessee should have won this game is an understatement.
We won this game.
With Tennessee leading 14-10, LSU was on the 1-yard line with three seconds left. The ball went through Jordan Jefferson's hands on the snap and the game was over. For about five minutes, the Vols thought they had won.
Then the official came on the field and declared that Tennessee had too many men on the field. A replay showed that Tennessee had 13 men on the field. It's almost laughable. LSU had one untimed play and Jefferson ran the ball in for a touchdown, giving LSU the 16-14 victory.
The emotional swing was too much for me and, for the first time in my life, I cried because of a football game.