A Fumble and a Fake Punt

Tennessee 24  Kentucky 14

27 Nov 2010 | Neyland Stadium | 101,170

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*****

Everything changed with a fumble.

The Tennessee Volunteers were staring at a likely 0-14 deficit with less than a minute remaining in the opening quarter. The Kentucky Wildcats were sitting pretty, first and goal at the Vol 1 yard line after eating up lots of real estate with 16 plays starting from their own 22 yard line, featuring their dynamic duo Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb, guided by senior quarterback Mike Hartline. Several minutes before that, Kentucky had spent several minutes of the first quarter game clock going 80 yards on 10 plays toward the game’s first score to make it 7-0 ‘Cats.

Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz recovers a fumble by Kentucky tailback Derrick Locke as he struggles with Nick Melillo for the ball. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Getting ready to score his second TD of the game, Locke had 74 yards rushing. Hartline took the snap in the shotgun formation and just couldn’t quite stick the ball in the warm spot of his running back’s cradled arms. The ball crashed to the ground, rolled forward to about the two yard line where Vol defensive end Jacquez Smith pounced. What seemed to be a bit of misfortune in the moment, Smith was only able to squirt the ball forward into the endzone. Three orange jerseys went to the ground, but from the TV camera angle, a Kentucky lineman seemed to land on the ball for a Wildcat score. Instead, another Vol linebacker, senior Nick Reveiz had gained possession and was buried beneath about six orange-clad brothers for the touchback.

*****

Tennessee had already tried their hand at moving the ball during two possessions, the first after Da’Rick Rogers returned the opening kickoff 78 yards to the Kentucky 17 yard line. Tauren Poole had three carries for zero net yards. Daniel Lincoln had missed a 28-yard chip shot of a field goal attempt.

Vol wide receiver Denarius Moore catches a TD pass in the second quarter. Moore did a lot more - he finished the day with 205 yards on 7 catches to become the first Vol to ever have 2 games with more than 200 receiving yards in a single season. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

So, fortunately the recovery was in the endzone resulting in a drive starting at the 20 yard line instead of at the one yard line where Smith had originally tried to gain possession. Tennessee didn’t have to run to get out of no-man’s land. They had room to operate.

For the remainder of the first half, the Vols passed the football, passed again, and then passed some more. Tennessee had 16 plays from scrimmage the rest of the half – freshman Tyler Bray passed 14 times. Twice he hit a receiver for a TD, and he threw an interception. It was aerial fun. Senior wide receiver Denarius Moore caught passes for 49, 48, 44, and 12 yards in the second quarter alone, one of them a splendid catch for a score to put the Vols up 14-7. Seniors Gerald Jones and Luke Stocker caught passes, too. The only non-pass plays from scrimmage were a sack and Bray taking a knee to run out the first half clock.

*****

Kentucky couldn’t get their mojo back in the quarter – their offense seemed lifeless after the fumble. The Wildcats did manage to put a 14-play drive together late in the quarter, but it ended with a thud when Craig McIntosh missed a 42-yard field goal attempt to even the slate with Lincoln’s early miss.

All Kentucky in the first quarter; all Vols in the second. A wild half saw Tennessee leading 14-7. Dooley wasn’t impressed as he walked off the field, being interviewed by the SEC Network. The first year coach indicated his team exhibited a lack of needed consistency – it was either feast or famine on offense.

It was nearly enough feast to make the difference. But, more solid, fearless play would be required to seal the deal.

*****

The opening of the second half saw Kentucky’s offense back in sync, mainly on passes from Hartline to Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. With 4th and 1 at the Tennessee, Hartline hit Tyler Robinson for a score and the game was even. Everybody knew what would happen – Bray would keep passing. He did, for three incompletions in a row.

Tennessee punter Michael Palardy is congratulated by quarterback Matt Simms after a successful fake punt gained a first down to keep a third quarter drive alive. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Vol freshman punter Michael Palardy said in the post-game locker room that he had never run the ball in high school. So on 4th and 10 from the Vol 24 yard line, Palardy entered virgin territory. It was a bold call by Derek Dooley and his staff. Palardy took the snap near his own 10 yard line, looked up briefly, and took off running for his life toward the left sideline. He eventually gained 16 yards, rambling out of bounds at the Tennessee 40 yard line. Kentucky was stunned. So was nearly everybody wearing orange – in the stands and at home watching on TV.

Brilliant calls are brilliant only when they work. This one was as shiny as they come.

It didn’t seem to matter that Tennessee couldn’t score on the remainder of the drive – Bray threw an interception in the Kentucky end zone while trying to throw the ball away. Kentucky did nothing with the ball, and when the Vols regained possession, they mixed passes with runs on a 9 play, 73 yard drive that ended with Tauren Poole churning his legs to push his Kentucky defenders backward into the endzone for the go-ahead score.

*****

Kentucky couldn’t answer the bell for the fourth quarter – players and coaches. After gaining a first down near midfield, the ‘Cats faced a 4th and 2 at the Tennessee 38 yard line, a situation that Derek Dooley and company surely would have tried to keep possession by going for it on 4th down. Instead, Kentucky head coach Joker Smith called for a pooch-punt to back up the Vols near their own goal line. Punter Ryan Tydlacka hit it squarely into the endzone instead.

Kentucky was dead.

Daniel Lincoln added a 36-yard field goal to make it Vols 24 Wildcats 14. The defense added their stamp on this game. Freshman defensive tackle Joseph Ayers laid a nice sack on the ‘Cats QB. Sophomore defensive back Janzen Jackson made fine plays. And sophomore DB Prentiss Waggoner intercepted a Mike Hartline pass down the right sideline that was well over his intended receiver’s head. Hartline looked at his receiver and dismissively threw his right hand in a way that said “Why didn’t you run after my pass?”

It was a beautiful ending to the game.

*****

During the Vols’ final possession, Tauren Poole desperately ran the ball to get enough yards in order to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for his season. He came up 6 yards short. He actually gained enough yards on the day to eclipse the magic mark, but his net yardage was affected by a few runs for losses.

No worries. Poole can get the mark in the bowl game.

Derek Dooley shows his exuberance for his team's win that sends the Vols to a bowl. Photo by Michael Patrick.

That’s right. The Tennessee Volunteers, the outnumbered, undersized, end-of-October SEC doormat Vols are bowl-eligible.

That in itself speaks volumes about Derek Dooley, his coaching staff, his never-say-die seniors, and a very talented bunch of underclassmen who give all of us something tasty to look forward to on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Simply put, it’s good to be a Tennessee Vol.

Oh, and I nearly forgot — it’s 26 and counting, Kentucky!

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11 responses to “A Fumble and a Fake Punt”

  1. Jan Evett says :

    Not so shabby after all – I’m really proud of how they’ve played. They hung in there and I think we’ll have something to look forward to again next year. Can you believe the season is winding down already? Seems like it went faster than ever this year. Go Vols!

    • norcalvol says :

      You’re right, Jan – this season seemed to go by in a zip. Last season (for some reason) seemed to drag on and on.
      No matter what happens in the bowl game, the expectation level in Knoxville next season will be back up in the stratosphere as usual. For better and/or for worse.
      Thanks for reading this year.

  2. tk says :

    HELLO FELLOW VOLS
    SEVERAL NOTES FROM ME ON THIS LAST REGULAR SEASON GAMES

    -WHATS THE COUNT ON THE NUMBER OF PLAYS COBB TOUCHED THE BALL OR HAD AN INCOMPLETE PASS THROWN TO HIM……SEEMED LIKE EVERY PLAY AND IM SURE THE P. A. ANNOUNCER THOUGHT SO TOO.
    -THIS GAME TOOK ME BACK IN TIME. SEEMED IN MY MEMORY SO MUCH LIKE A GAME OUT OF THE BOBBY SCOTT ERA. I HAVENT HAD THIS MUCH ENJOYMENT ATTENDING A GAME IN QUITE A WHILE.
    -ALSO A COUPLE OF FIRST FOR ME FROM THE P. A. ANNOUNCER. ON ONE PLAY WHEN THE BALL WAS THROWN OUT OF BOUNDS AND CAUGHT BY DOOLEY, THE ANNOUNCER ACTUALLY SAID. “PASS CAUGHT BY DERICK DOOLEY”— ANOTHER FIRST IS THAT HE COUNTED DOWN THE LAST TEN SECONDS OVER THE P.A. SYSTEM……BUT HE WAS BEHIND BY ONE SECOND UNTIL NEAR THE END WHEN HE SIMPLY SAID “5, 4, 3, 1″ I HAD NEVER HEARD THAT DONE.
    -GREAT FOOTBALL WEATHER, GREAT FOOTBALL GAME, GREAT WAY TO END THE ROUGH SEASON WE ALL KNEW WE WOULD HAVE TO ENDURE.
    -ALSO—–26 26 26 26
    -FRED , GIVE US A REFRESHER OF HOW WE ALL PICKED THE SEASON RECORDS. IM SURE YOU HAVE THAT IN YOUR ARCHIVES.
    -RIP EM UP, TEAR EM UP , GIVE EM HELL TENNESSEE……….AND LETS GET THAT BEER BARREL BACK OUT.

    • norcalvol says :

      TK:

      Regarding Cobb… Looking at the number of plays in which he was involved (caught a pass, intended receiver on an incomplete pass or interception, threw a pass, or rushed the ball), the tally is as follows:
      First half: 15 of 63 plays.
      Second half: 13 of 30 plays.
      This game, especially in the first half, was more about Locke than Cobb.

      Your comment about Bobby Scott – amen.
      I don’t remember when it was, but when the Vols got possession back, and the first play was yet another slinger from Bray, I stood up and said: “My goodness how times have changed!”
      It was fun to watch.
      I remember that before the Ole Miss game, a Rebel blogger wrote that changing to Bray will bring about 0.3% more excitement to Tennessee’s game. I guess he was just a tad off…

  3. Bert says :

    here ya go terry…i’ll save you some work, fred….

    5 – 7 | norcalvol
    6 – 6 | TK
    8 – 5 | Billy (he must be including a win in a bowl game!!!)
    7 – 5 | Sandy
    6 – 6 | Bert (who also says we prevail in the WeedEater Bowl to go 7-6!!)
    7 – 5 | DW
    ? – ? | Bobby

  4. tk says :

    fred……….this must be a first!!!!!!! i never remember bert helping you out on anything. check that in the damn archives

  5. rockytop78 says :

    A few belated comments about the game (belated due to computer “issues” over the Thanksgiving holiday that effectively kept me off the internet).

    First, a game to be proud of — barring a few mistakes and mental errors, the seniors and the underclassmen both played well. Given the short-handed roster and the issues that we have had all season with depth at critical positions, everybody stepped it up; and the coaches are to be commended for getting the team ready to play. (Yes, I know that it’s only Kentucky; but a potentially dangerous Kentucky team that had sufficient talent to beat a depleted Tennessee team). In fact, I would say that this team is definitely playing better now than at the beginning of the season — again, a tribute to the coaching staff which has managed to do a good bit with a very little. I am very encouraged by what I hope will be a continued improvement in talent and performance into next season.

    Second, I think that the window for Kentucky beating Tennessee in the foreseeable future may have just closed. If Kentucky couldn’t do it this year, I’m not sure that they can do it next year either — Hartline and Locke are seniors and so are gone; Cobb, although a junior, may well be gone to the NFL; and I don’t know of any budding superstars on their roster. And if Randy Sanders couldn’t come up with a better offensive game plan after having 2 weeks to prepare for this game, then I don’t think that he will be able to do it with the drop-off in offensive talent that he may be dealing with next year. (Anyone familiar with Randy Sanders as offensive coordinator should be used to his team underperforming in critical games against lesser talent — 2001 SEC Championship game, anyone?)

    Third, it’s always good to see the UK fanbase lose their collective minds. On one of their blogsites, evidently some UK fan had started a thread before the game with the question, “Where will you be when Kentucky beats UT to break The Streak?” Near the end of the game someone had posted this answer: “In an alternate universe, because it ain’t happening in this one.” Couldn’t have said it better myself! And here’s to many more years of The Streak continuing!

    • norcalvol says :

      One thing struck me about Tennessee’s approach. We came out trying to run the ball, and failed pretty miserably based on the first two possessions. Then, we went to 100% passing. Under Sanders/Fulmer, that would never have happened. We would have stuck with our running game until it was too late to pass our way back into the game.

      The Kentucky fans are pretty angry about this one – after last year’s OT loss, there really wasn’t much commentary – they went into basketball mode immediately. I think this season, they were convinced they were going to beat us.

      You are right – this team is playing better now than at any point this season. I’d love to have another crack at Florida – how about next week? By November, I thought we’d be so beat up that it would be impossible to go 4-0 in the last month.

      No doubt in my mind the turning point was Dooley’s mid-game decision in Columbia to go with Bray. It simply changed everything. I wonder if the Simms’ family is already looking for another school for the senior season. I say that with empathy – he’s not a bad QB by any stretch of the imagination; but he doesn’t seem to have the instinctual abilities that Bray does.

      • rockytop78 says :

        Yes, one thing that has distinguished Dooley from Fulmer is his apparent flexibility in changing personnel and schemes — whether born of desperation or not. And Bray reminds me so much of Eric Ainge in his physique and passing style (except that he doesn’t throw interceptions as badly as Ainge did in critical situations).

        I do hope that Simms stays here; he will be very valuable as a back-up quarterback even though that may not be what he or his family hopes for. Considering that the job was his to lose, he can’t complain that he was not given a fair chance; and if he (or his father) thinks that he has a future pro career, then he is borderline delusional. What does he have to look forward to if he transfers? If to a D-II program like Nick Stephens, what exposure will he have that would make pro scouts look at him? If to another D-I program, then I presume that he’ll have to sit out a year before he could play (making him 25 years old when he graduates). Maybe he should stay here, and then transfer to another school and enroll as a graduate student, a la Masoli, having had the benefit of playing in a resurgent D-I program. (Not that I’m expecting a call from the Simms family asking for my advice, of course.)

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