Nashville, TN: What does a once-proud college football program have to do to catch a break every now and again?
For the Tennessee Vols, that question simply cannot be answered right now.
Since that fateful 2008 season when Tennessee fired the second-most successful coach in its history, the roller coaster ride has not stopped.
On Thursday night in Nashville in front of a sold-out crowd, most of which was wearing orange, the ride took another sharp dip.
Everything seemed to be going along fine as the the clock melted away in the fourth quarter. Tennessee had just stopped the TarHeels on their own 44 yard line with 1:36 remaining on the clock. UNC had only two timeouts left, down by three.
The Vols went three-and-out and punted the ball into the endzone with 31 seconds remaining.
Which proved more than enough time for UNC (and the officials) to tie the game and send it into overtime.
It was such a bizarre scene on the field that I've had to re-watch it a couple times just to make sure I saw what I think I saw.
One minute, the entire UNC backfield is rushing off the field with three seconds remaining and the next the referee is keying the mic with, "the game is over" to the next second when the final play is under review.
Was this bowl loss worse than the LSU loss?
It turns out that Tennessee was not the culprit in a too-many-men debacle this time around, as they were in Baton Rouge a couple months ago. No, this time it was North Carolina who had too many men on the field.
But apparently the center got a little trigger happy and snapped the ball with one second remaining—which, in turn, somehow stopped the clock at that moment.
UNC was penalized only five yards and allowed to kick the game-tying field goal which sent the Music City Bowl into overtime. That only came, of course, after the Vols stormed the field in celebration of a win that was soon taken away from them.
North Carolina kicked a field goal to win in it after Tyler Bray threw an interception on the first drive of the second overtime.
Upon further inspection, it turns out that the game should have been over once the referee indicated as such over the loud speaker.
As some astute twitter followers pointed out in the wee hours of New Year's Eve, 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 declared the game over, which is when Tennessee stormed the field.
30 seconds later, however, when the official in the replay booth buzzed the referee, the game was no longer over and Tennessee was forced to endure yet another nightmare finish.