5 Reasons The Refs Did Not Cost Tennessee a Win in The Music City Bowl
Someone has to write it, right?
Tennessee's latest loss was absolutely brutal. That statement rings horribly true in the big orange nation right now.
But, as incensed as you might have been about the Vols getting hosed out of a win again, the game would not have even been in doubt had just a few things been done differently.
Unfortunately, it is the job of sportswriters to point those painful moments out to you.
Thus, five reasons the Vols lost this game.
First-Half Play Calling
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Denarius Moore made a tremendous play to get the Vols a first down at the UNC 48 just one minute into the second quarter.
The crowd was into it big time. The Vols decide go for the jugular and throw a deep pass toward the corner of the end zone. The play was broken up. Then Tennessee ran what appeared to be the same exact play on second down. Also incomplete.
The next pass, on a pass over the middle, was juggled by Luke Stocker and subsequently intercepted by Zach Brown, who took it to the Vols 10-yard line.
You can't blame whoever made the first play call for going for it all. But two in a row?
It was odd timing, considering the Vols had been quite proficient throwing underneath to Gerald Jones and tight ends Stocker and Mychal Rivera for most of the first half to that point.
Who knows what would have happened had the Vols stuck with that plan rather than going deep on the same play twice in a row?
North Carolina's Gimme Touchdown Before The Half
UNC sophomore Erik Highsmith
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In going up 14-10 with just 1:30 remaining in the first half, Tennessee captured the momentum that seemed to elude it for much of the first half.
And, in excruciating fashion, North Carolina moved the ball down the field with relative ease against the Tennessee defense. The drive culminated in a wide-open Erik Highsmith catching the ball in the end zone with a little over 20 seconds remaining.
The touchdown gave Carolina the 17-14 lead going into the half when Tennessee should have carried all the momentum into the locker room.
Interceptions & Penalties
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Tyler Bray just finished his freshman season as the starting quarterback at one of the SEC's most prestigious programs. The young man threw for more than 300 yards in three of his four starts. He has been nothing short of a godsend to this young football team.
There's no doubt Bray is going to be a good one.
But in Nashville, his youth and inexperience showed in more ways than one. Often his passes were overthrown and he looked slightly off for much of the first quarter.
Two of his interceptions led to points. The final interception led to the UNC's game-winning possession in overtime.
There were also foolish penalties from the young Vols throughout the evening, whether it was the roughing the passer call against Malik Jackson in the first half or the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Gerald Williams at the end of regulation.
The penalties were needless and cost the Vols precious field position.
Where Was The Running Game?
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At one point early in the fourth quarter, an eye-popping stat made the rounds throughout the astounded press box. Tennessee Vols: three quarters...seven net rushing yards. Seven!
Granted, Tennessee couldn't get anything going on the ground from the beginning of the game. And yes, the Vols eventually moved the ball well enough through the air that it had the game won.
But, a consistent running game might have just put this game out of reach long before the controversial ending of the fourth quarter.
It got so bad that true freshman Raijon Neal took over for much of the final quarter while the near-1,000 yard rusher (994) Tauren Poole watched from the sideline.
But it wasn't all Poole's fault, obviously. The Vols offensive line was dominated by the UNC defensive front for most of the night.
Lincoln's Missed Kick (Where Have I Heard That Before?)
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When Tennessee scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10 minutes to play in the game, Daniel Lincoln was called on to do what he had done 130 other times in his up-and-down Tennessee career: make an extra point.
Unfortunately for the much-maligned kicker, his misses, most of them huge, have overshadowed an otherwise consistent career.
In Nashville, however, it was more of the negative aspect of Lincoln's career that would be the Vols undoing in the 2010 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Lincoln's low trajectory again found the meaty paw of a defender, and the would-be 21-17 lead was suddenly 20-17 instead. If the extra point is good, there's no need for the last-second debacle that resulted in UNC tying the game.
Who Am I Kidding? The Vols Got The Shaft!
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There's absolutely no excuse for the way the officials handled the end of this game. The referee rarely had a handle for what was going on most of the night anyway.
For some strange reason, he felt the need to explain every detail of every call over the loudspeaker. He clearly enjoyed the limelight.
At the end of the game the referee declared, "The game is over."
According to Section 1, Article 3B of the NCAA Football rulebook, "The game is ended and the score is final when the referee so declares." The referee so declared and 30 seconds later undeclared.
The game was over. The game is over. Tennessee won the game, folks.
Sure, Tennessee had opportunities to put it away long before the final few moments, but this game should have been over as soon as the official declared it over. Bottom line. End of story.