Are the Tennessee Volunteers the Team We Thought They Were?

Aaron HawkinsContributor ISeptember 1, 2008

On Monday night, The University of Tennessee proved their doubters correct when they lost a close game against the UCLA Bruins 27-24 in overtime.

Many people thought UT was going to be a mediocre team at best, with the loss of veteran quarterback Erik Ainge and having inexperienced Jonathan Crompton at the helm.

The first half started a little rough for the junior QB, when he had several incomplete passes and an interception. Tennessee went on to have a punt blocked and returned for the first score of the game.

It only got worse as kicker Daniel Lincoln missed field goals of 51 and 55 yards.

The lone bright spot of the first half was the Tennessee secondary. Four interceptions by UCLA QB Kevin Craft, one of which was returned 60 yards by Nevin McKenzie for a touchdown, seemed to boost the Volunteer defense going into the half.

To start the second half, UCLA kicker Kai Forbath kicked a 41-yard field goal to make it a 14-10 game. The rest of the third quarter only seemed to prove one thing: Kevin Craft of UCLA had gotten over the jitters he had before the game and during the first half, and was ready to play football.

It also showed that the Vol defense was maybe not as good as everyone was predicting it to be. Safety Eric Berry did play a very good defensive game, as expected, but the second-half intensity was just not there for the team.

The fourth quarter started off with a touchdown run by Raymond Carter, giving UCLA its first lead of the game. On their next possession, UT running back Montario Hardesty rushed for his second touchdown of the evening, punching it in from 20 yards out giving Tennessee a 21-17 lead.

With under a minute to go, Craft turned it up a little. He led the Bruins down the field, capping off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Moya.

With very little time left on the clock, Crompton and the Vols marched down the field and set up Lincoln for a 47-yard field goal. It was time for Lincoln to redeem his two earlier misses and send this game to overtime. Lincoln was successful, and we were tied 24-24 at the end of regulation.

Did I fail to mention we got a safety on the Bruins that the referees totally blew the call on, and that field goal should have won the game? Oh yeah, it happened.

Tennessee wins the toss and elects to go on defense first. After completing a pass and setting up a 42 yard field goal, the Bruins call upon kicker Kai Forbath once again. He splits the uprights with the kick and the Bruins now have a 27-24 lead.

UT gets the ball and begins what looks like a promising march toward the end zone, but on third down with no one open, Crompton tucks the ball and runs attempting to get the first down.

This sets up a 34 yard field goal by Lincoln from the hash mark. Lincoln kicked the ball and missed it wide left. He appeared to be worried that he was going to push it to far and it go wide right, and ended up pulling it wide left.

As the game went off, I began wondering, is this the Tennessee Volunteer team we will be seeing all year or will we take our bye week and step it up in preparation for UAB? I hope we can make the necessary adjustments and come back strong against UAB, because after we play them, the schedule does not get any easier.

We then begin conference play against who else? Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators. If we want to play in the same stadium with them, much less the same game, we need to make several adjustments on offense and defense.

I would start off by suggesting on offense, try something different when you put Gerald Jones in at QB other than him tucking and running or a regular handoff like Crompton could have done.

Lets face it, he is no Tim Tebow, he is not going to run over anybody like Tebow did in 2006 when he split time with Chris Leak. Also let's try blocking the blitz, and realizing when they blitz two straight plays, they probably will be doing it again and maybe just maybe we can run a screen play and catch them off guard.

On defense, lets try blitzing more than three guys on third down; without pressure, the opposing QB will have all day to throw the ball. That will wear out our highly ranked secondary really quick.

I would then focus on our punter and kicker. The punter, who is taking Colquitt's place until he returns from his suspension, seems to be moving in slow motion. Lincoln needs to get this game out of his head and return to his clutch ways of last year.

Tune in next for my column on Monday Night Raw from Labor Day and Aaron Rodgers first career start Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Until then.....                                                                                Hawk