Game Preview: Tennessee vs UCLA
Saturday 12 Sept 2009
4:00 pm ET
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Forget about last week – keep looking ahead
Last week was the opening gala, the overture. And the opponent made it look more like a dress rehersal. Yes, it was good to get off to a rousing start. To kick off a new era without a hint of disappointment, without an ounce of regret, was just what the doctor ordered. But now, it is time to forget about it.
On Saturday, we will dip our litmus paper into the solution of competitive college football. We will find out more about last week than we found out last week about anything. Except how much fun it can be at Neyland Stadium in early September, seeing old friends not seen since the prior November. And this week perhaps we fill find out a little bit about next week.
If the paper turns orange, then we’ll just work ourselves up into a big sudsy lather over the anticipation of next week – going down to the cesspool to try and knock off the number one team in their own pig sty. But if the paper turns blue and gold, then we’ll try to pretend that we’ll be playing City College or Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville rather than UF.
Don’t look too far ahead, though
Second-year head coach Rick Neuheisel brings his young talented Bruins to Knoxville this Saturday, fresh off of an opening win over San Diego State, a school to which they have never lost (21-0-1). They are coming with their own litmus kit to see if they have improved over last season. But that might be just a tad unfair. None of their players have played in an atmosphere like they will see on Saturday.
But Neuheisel has, and will likely have his players as ready as possible.
For a squad that by most accounts has defense as its strong suit, UCLA didn’t start like it last week. San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley passed for 142 yards and 2 TDs in the first quarter, including a 78-yard bomb on 3rd and 10.
But Lindley only could muster 96 more yards over the remaining 3 quarters, and 3 interceptions by UCLA’s safety Rahim Moore. UCLA eventually got it together for a respectable win. They put it away for good when when Jerzy Siewierski blocked a SDSU 35-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of the third quarter, and UCLA gathered it and ran it all the way back for a 70 yard touchdown, finishing the deal.
On the other side of the ball, UCLA has a neat story in development. Last week, Kevin Prince became only the second Bruin to start a season opener for his school. The redshirt freshman has made an eventful journey just to get to this spot in his young career. Two years ago, as a high-school senior, he opened that season by suffering a season-ending knee injury. But he came to UCLA, and not only went through the always difficult rehabilitation, but this spring beat out last-year’s starter Kevin Craft.
And the Bruins have some talent behind their QB, mostly in the name of RB Derrick Coleman who put UCLA ahead to stay in last week’s game with a 29-yard TD scamper late in the second quarter.
Too much is being made of irrelevant things
So what else is new? Sportswriters will make a possible angle out of everything because that is their job as reporters and columnists. But for me, it’s much ado about nothing. Yes, Lane Kiffin used to be an assistant coach for USC from 2001-04. That’s the USC, the big cross-town rival of UCLA, not the dump in Columbia. And, yes, Lane Kiffin’s assistancy (is that a word?) was to then-USC offensive coordinator par excellence Norm Chow, who is now UCLA’s offensive coordinator par excellence. And, oh yes, Tennessee assistant Ed Orgeron (that name’s going to go over big when UT visits Eugene in the future isn’t it?) used to be an assistant to Pete Carroll at that same USC. Apparently Ed got the flames going a bit earlier this week on Lane Kiffin’s Sunday TV show when he said, “I tell you what, you will not find anybody else in the world that wants to beat UCLA more than Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin.”
Nice going, Ed. Can we all as a Big Orange family just keep it to a bit of a lower tone for a little while? The quote is all over LA this week, and we don’t need to be donating bulletin board material to anybody. We’re gonna have enough of that thrown in our face next week.
And speaking about this being some kind of revenge match over last year’s 27-24 OT loss in Pasadena. That game seems like it was played 10 years ago, which is about how long ago it seems that Phil Fulmer was on the Tennessee sideline. The beginning of the end of an era. An era that ended before that season even ended. The patient that was the Vol football program has been put back on its feet with a blood transfusion. What happened on September 1, 2008 is now totally irrelevant.
Hey, I’m the first to admit that UCLA is one of my favorite teams outside the SEC. I’ve always liked those powder blue and gold uni’s. I never missed a USC-UCLA game when I was a kid – they were always on TV and I remember marveling at the Coliseum and the weather out there in Southern California. And ever since September 16, 1967, one of the first UT games I can remember listening to on the radio, I’ve thought that the Tennessee-UCLA series is one of the best and most competitive of Vol non-conference get-togethers.
Further down this post is a full list of Tennessee-UCLA matches, beginning with the famous end-of-1965-classic in Memphis where the up-and-coming Vols upset the Rose Bowl-bound Bruins, taking some of the sting out of the tragic accident two months earlier that ended the lives of three Vol assistant coaches.
Others were classics, too. Including the Condredge Holloway show on national TV in September 1974 that is memorable because of the Artful Dodger’s great run and dive for the game-tying TD. But that was preceded by the theatrics of Holloway ending up in the hospital emergency room during the first half because of an injured shoulder, then coming back onto Shields-Watkins Field, dramatically trotting out of the tunnel in front of the full house, and leading his Vols to salvage a tie.
But don’t get me wrong. On Saturday, UCLA sits on the same stool with Florida, Alabama, and Vanderbilt.
Who’s gonna win?
Las Vegas has Tennessee the favorite, by a single-digit spread. No surprise there. It is a home game against a rebuilding program. But spreads are not necessarily about who is going to win. So, who’s going to win?
Tennessee 31 UCLA 21
A link to their website is also included on the right under Xeno Fan Blogs (“blogs from foreigners”). A good blog.
Games Against UCLA
Won 7 Lost 5 Tied 2 360 points for / 297 points against
December 4, 1965 at Memphis – Tennessee 37 UCLA 34
September 16, 1967 at Los Angeles Coliseum – UCLA 20 Tennessee 16
November 2, 1968 at Knoxville – Tennessee 42 UCLA 18
December 5, 1970 at Knoxville – Tennessee 28 UCLA 17
September 7, 1974 at Knoxville – Tennessee 17 UCLA 17
September 20, 1975 at Los Angeles Coliseum – UCLA 34 Tennessee 28
September 16, 1978 at Knoxville – UCLA 13 Tennessee 0
September 14, 1985 at Knoxville – Tennessee 26 UCLA 26
September 9, 1989 at Pasadena – Tennessee 24 UCLA 6
September 14, 1991 at Knoxville – Tennessee 30 UCLA 16
September 3, 1994 at Pasadena – UCLA 25 Tennessee 23
September 7, 1996 at Knoxville – Tennessee 35 UCLA 20
September 6, 1997 at Pasadena – Tennessee 30 UCLA 24
September 1, 2008 at Pasadena – UCLA 27 Tennessee 24
This Week’s Games Involving Upcoming 2009 Opponents
Saturday September 12
Troy at Florida (12:21 pm ET)
South Carolina at Georgia (7:00 pm ET)
Mississippi State at Auburn (7:00 pm ET)
Vanderbilt at LSU (7:00 pm ET)
Florida International at Alabama (7:00 pm ET)
Memphis at Middle Tennessee State (7:00 pm ET)
Ohio University at North Texas State (7:00 pm ET)
Kentucky BYE WEEK
Mississippi BYE WEEK
This Week’s Games Involving Past 2009 Opponents
Saturday September 12
South Florida at Western Kentucky (7:30 pm ET)
Televised SEC Games
Thanks to Chris Low at ESPN.com (he now lives in Knoxville), here is this week’s SEC TV schedule.