"I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee. For instance: running through the 'T,' singing "Rocky Top" all night long after we beat Florida next year. It will be a blast." - Lane Kiffin, Dec. 1, 2008.
When Lane Kiffin was hired at Tennessee and made that statement at his opening press conference, every Tennessee fan must have cheered and laughed simultaneously, I know I did.
Tennessee - 15 UCLA - 19
It's not funny anymore.
Back up. No one in their right mind actually believed Tennessee had the manpower to travel to Gainesville and beat Florida this season. All the talk and hype only goes so far, the Vols just don't have the horses, and never did.
However, one thing Vol fans could look forward to is winning their first two games and going to Florida with some confidence, hopefully putting up a fight that would make the game look respectable. Tennessee has enough talent on defense that without turnovers, it was easy to imagine keeping the game within a couple scores and feeling good about the difference a year makes.
Come off a 63-7 thrashing of Western Kentucky, who was terribly out manned, the Vols were riding high on the back of Senior QB Jonathan Crompton. Crompton, after a miserable career to this point, had a great game making it appear that some of his habits were broken and he was actually coachable.
All winter, summer, and spring, Kiffin has sold the Tennessee fanbase the ideal that he can turn Crompton into something. The rookie head coach has repeatedly referenced his role in turning around Carson Palmer at USC and his tutoring of Matt Leinart.
It was actually kind of hard to argue with it, so buying in was easy. Despite the horrific play Crompton has show in the past, could this coaching staff teach him to simply manage a game?
Many fans bought it. I bought it. The team bought it. Saturday, all that came crashing down. All the of the confidence, momentum, and optimism for the upcoming season disappeared.
It has transformed into the same apathy for this season that developed last season. My first thought leaving the stadium Saturday was, "Man, how bad is Florida going to beat UT?"
Florida returns 12 starters from one of the nation's best defenses and has one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation in Charlie Strong. As mistake prone as Crompton has proven to be over time, I cannot imagine the scary thoughts going through Kiffin's head.
You have an offense that is completely one dimensional going against a defense that can shut down both well. You are playing on the road in one of the toughest stadiums in America, an environment Crompton cannot imagine being on the field for.
You think he was flustered for UCLA? Wait until Saturday.
The motto for the Kiffin era has been "compete, compete, compete", and motivation breeds competition. If there is no motivation, competition will cease.
What's the motivation for these players now? They've lost to UCLA, they are facing another season of disaster after Kiffin's promise to play Crompton all season, what is there?
After fights in the locker room, finger pointing, and just general widespread anger, where do you go from here? You have recruits basically stating your team has one problem, and it's the quarterback they watched.
Where does it go? There is no doubt in my mind that Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff are going to bring Tennessee back to the top of the SEC and college football, not even a little.
But, as I sit here on Monday of Florida week, all I can think about is how it's time to face the music. I wouldn't trade what Kiffin did this offseason, it did and will continue to do a lot of good in recruiting, but right now it hurts.
Saturday could possibly be the day that Lane Kiffin learns his lesson. He threw a rock, hitting the baddest man in the yard in the head, then took off running. Now, the bad dude has caught up to him, and they are face to face.
I don't expect Lane Kiffin to whip the guy in his first year, I don't really expect him to come close. But, I did expect him to whip the guy's weaker, slower roommate, and he didn't.
After an offseason full of talk, Lane Kiffin, it's time to face the music. I for one sure hope you have something, anything that will help you at least stay in the fight for a few minutes.
If you don't, all that face time from the offseason will turn into what really counts, highlight time on ESPN. Florida will not stop, they won't slow down. UCLA was nothing compared to what you are going to face Saturday.
"It's Time" was the battle cry to start the season. Yep, it's time alright, it's time to face the music. I hope Coach Kiffin can dance.