Tennessee 34 Ohio 23

1

2

3

4

Total

Ohio Helmet_SmallOhio

14

3

3

3

23

Tennessee Helmet_SMALLTennessee

14

10

7

3

34

Attendance (Neyland Stadium):  95,535

Recap /   Box Score /  Play-by-Play /  Drive Chart

Welcome to a Work in Progress

men_at_work_sign

This game leaves me wondering who we are. I’m sure it does you, too.

Last week, my game preview included the following insights of a genius:

…there is no way that this defense lets up Saturday. First night game of the season… it’s another week for our defense to strengthen a national reputation in the making. We’re beginning to be recognized as a squad you don’t want to mess with. Serious physical opponent. No letting up. Relentless pressure start to finish…

If you go by the numbers, then wrong, wrong, wrong, Bluto! Theo Scott’s numbers: 30 for 52, 319 yards. A game that wasn’t decided until well into the fourth quarter. But before allowing our defense to become whipping boys, let us consider the following additional intellectual downloads:

I suppose that if you throw 52 times in a game, which is a lot mind you, you’re bound to run up some numbers. Our vaunted secondary had their hands full covering receivers waiting for a throw from a QB that couldn’t stand in one spot if there was a million dollars for the taking by doing so.

Theo had to throw the ball. Ohio had no running game to speak of  – 21 yards rushing! The defensive line was stellar, not only in stopping any hope of a running game at the line, but they applied pressure in the Ohio backfield on numerous occasions. Which explains part of the running around. A constantly moving target is difficult to squash, and when that moving target is the QB, it adds pressure on the secondary and LB’s because there is more time for routes to change in a spontaneous way.

Just because you know the offense is going to throw doesn’t mean that you can hold them to only a few yards.

So, even though in the immediate hours following the game I felt the Vol defense had grossly underwhelmed us all, a little distance and retrospect gives me a more optimistic look going into next week. We bent, due to the nature of their offense as described, but we really didn’t break – Ohio scored only one TD from the field of play. Throw in a kick off return for a touchdown, and a handfull of field goals, and you have yourself a competitive ball game.

And if it weren’t for a pretty big bit of luck – a right foot barely out of bounds completely nullifying a game-changing play (more on that later) – we might just be talking about a different outcome.

Vol RB Montario Hardesty keeps on running. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Vol RB Montario Hardesty keeps on running. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Turnovers, penalties, and time of possession all were pretty even. So the Vols’ win came down to a few things. First, our line play on both sides of the ball completely dominated Ohio. Second, our defense in the redzone was good enough to not let Ohio within sniffing distance of a Bobcat party. Third, Montario Hardesty – 140 yards gained by a runner exuding effort and will – was once again Mr. Offense. Fourth, Crompton’s ability to throw vertically with some effect, without throwing the game away, allowed the running game to fluorish. The Ohio defense couldn’t just sit on the fastball all night. Fifth, making a big, big defensive play on a 3rd-and-29 with the Ohio QB backed up in his own endzone. Sixth, luck. Pure and simple. The Ohio TD on a fumble recovery was good fortune that came our way by the grace of a few inches. A game-changer that was wiped out, described in the official play summary sheet as “Crompton recovered his own fumble.” Goes to show you that reading factual game summaries isn’t worth a lot.

And finally, once again, effort. We don’t quit. Period.

So, let’s all take a deep breath, and see the game for what it was – a highly entertaining affair that if played last season would have ended in the Big Orange wastebasket of disasters to be forgotton. It didn’t go unnoticed by this observer that Ohio’s colors are the same as the North Texas State squad that in 1975 handed Tennessee one of its most humiliating losses ever. I know I keep bring that one up, and will again, I’m sure, but it’s a nightmare that has left me with a football fan’s version of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Things are better than last season. The state of Vol Football will continue to improve. So let’s sit back and enjoy this work in progress. It just might be a fun ride.

As long as your expectations are in check…

And I think mine are. Nothing I’ve seen so far is making me waiver from my pre-season pick: 6 wins, 6 losses.

Opening Act – Score! Score! Score!

The rains that cancelled the Vol Walk and some other festivities stopped just in time for the opening kickoff, which went to David Oku. When Crompton hit Bryce brown on the first series for a 34-yard gain to the Ohio 35, I thought “let’s steamroll this team now.” But on 3rd and 8 from the Ohio 33, Kevin Cooper hauled in a pass only to fumble the ball away, but thankfully it ultimately went to himself for an 8-yard gain. Finally, out of the wildcat formation, Montario Hardesty ran 11 yards into the checkerboard and we had an early lead from a pretty nice 9-play, 69-yard drive. Tennessee 7 Ohio 0.

So let’s see if the defense can hold the Ohio offense on the first series and get them rattled a bit. We didn’t get the chance. Instead, Chris Garrett took Chad Cunningham’s kickoff at the 6 yard line, ran up the middle, got some clearance, and then shifted the flight pattern over to the right sideline and raced all the way into the endzone. Not the even score you would expect with 11:47 still left in the opening quarter.  Tennessee 7 Ohio 7.

Ohio's LaVon Brazill kept the Vol secondary busy. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Ohio's LaVon Brazill kept the Vol secondary busy. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Our offensive opened brightly from the 21 when Bryce Brown ran for 11 on a sweep right and Nu’Keese Richardson ran off tackle for 5. But on second and 5, we’re penalized 10 yards for holding, and on the next play, 3rd and 14, Crompton’s pass is intercepted by Noah Keller and returned to the Tennessee 30. On the first series with a 3rd and 7, Ohio’s QB Theo Scott hist Taylor Price for 25 yards to the Tennessee, and then they follow with a TD pass to LaVon Brazill, and just like that, with a little over 7 minutes left in the opening quarter, the Bobcats from the Athens-North are ahead.  Ohio 14 Tennessee 7.

It’s starting to look just a bit scary. Wyoming for you young folk. North Texas State for you grandpas. You get the picture.

Janzen Jackson loses his fumble recovery back to Ohio. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Janzen Jackson loses his fumble recovery back to Ohio. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Surprisingly, Tennessee comes out passing. After making two first downs, a 3rd and 7 at the Ohio 46 ends up as a busted play which Crompton tries to fix by running right but to no avail. After a punt and Ohio starting on their own 10 yard line, the first play from scrimmage is a wild one that the Vols lost a great opportunity to get a quick six. Ohio running back Chris Garrett is hit by Rico McCoy and fumbles the ball which is recovered by Janzen Jackson at the 15, but after running for 8 yards, Jackson fumbles it back to Ohio’s Cole Bunner at the 7. Tennessee challenge the play but the ruling on the field stood. Ohio flounder their possession and punt out of their own end zone to the Vols and now Tennessee have great field position at the Ohio 30.

We make the most of it, albeit a bit unconventionally. On 3rd and 10, Crompton hits Marsailis Teague for 9 yards and the Vols go for it on 4th and 1 with an 18-yard pass play to Montario Hardesty to the Ohio 3 yard line. On the next play, Crompton hits Brandon Warren on a pretty timing play in the end zone and we’re even after a very entertaining first quarter. Tennessee 14 Ohio 14.

If this keeps up, we’re going to be out of breath by the third quarter.

Second Stanza – More Fun

Gerald Williams and Company kept the pressure on Ohio QB Theo Scott throughout the evening. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Gerald Williams and Company kept the pressure on Ohio QB Theo Scott throughout the evening. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

The Vols defense ratcheted up the pressure a bit on the Bobcat offense to open up the second quarter. Gerald Williams applies pressure on the QB to hurry a throw followed by a Chris Walker sack, but on 3rd and 14 Ohio get exactly 14 on a screen pass, and it is starting to look like a full-fledged shoot out. But Ohio couldn’t cash in again and a punt to the Vols had the Orange back on offense at their own 20.

But they didn’t get out of their own half and a punt has the Bobcats starting at their own 28. It caves in badly for Ohio. The first snap goes over Theo Scott’s head for a 10-yard loss, and offensive holding on the next play and an incomplete pass lead to a 3rd and 29 from the Ohio 9.

Vol DE Chris Walker returns his interception for a TD to put the Vols ahead for good. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Vol DE Chris Walker returns his interception for a TD to put the Vols ahead for good. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Finally, the crowd, a bit on the small side with lots of empty seats in the upper deck, start making some serious noise. Scott lofts a short pass over the middle that is nifty-tipped by the left hand of Chris Walker in a way that allows the big fellow to catch it and waltz into the end zone for a very opportunistic go-ahead score. Tennessee 21 Ohio 14.

Ohio open with a first down and then another following a time out on 3rd and 10. But that was it after Nick Reveiz made a fine tackle on second down and hurried a throw on 3rd down.

Tennessee retain possession on a punt. Crompton continues to throw the ball more than the Vols run it, and his passes are of the downfield variety rather than what he displayed in Gainesville last week. But nothing materialized, the Vols punted to Ohio who move themselves into field goal range with mostly passes and capitalize on a 36-yarder by Matt Weller. Tennessee 21 Ohio 17.

One of the keys of the game I thought was the next possession. With only 40 seconds remaining in the half and the ball at the Vol 30 (because of a short pooch-like kickoff that was fair caught), Tennessee moved the ball fairly well, opening with an 11-yard screen pass gain by Hardesty, and two 7-yard gains on passes to Denarius Moore to the right. After an incomplete pass on first down just into Ohio territory, Crompton made a great pass to Denarius Moore on a crossing pattern over the middle for a 25 yard gain to the Ohio 21.

Now there is only about 7 seconds left, but with two timeouts remaining, the Vols for some reason don’t call one to give them a shot at the end zone before a field goal try. Instead, they let 4 seconds run off the clock, have to call a time out, and kick a 38-yard field goal without getting a chance at seven.

Frankly, this was a bonehead mistake by the coaching staff, but credit is due for not running out the 40 seconds to pack it in for half time. Instead they showed some confidence in Crompton who delivered nicely to be able to get 3 going into the dressing room. Tennessee 24 Ohio 17.

Well, this was not what I expected. The Vols were passing the ball with only a few runs here and there, but perhaps this was designed to set up what materialized in the second half – a rushing onslaught that wore down Ohio to a large extent. The defense in the first half was disappointing only on third down situations, but perhaps because the Ohio QB is a mobile one causing a lot of problems on defensive reads.

To be honest, I was enjoying this game from the perspective of entertainment. A lot of things were happening, with more to come in the next quarter.

Third Period – The Game Settles into Serious Business with Luck Thrown In

Vol RB Montario Hardesty racked up 140 yards on the ground. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

Vol RB Montario Hardesty racked up 140 yards on the ground. AP Photo by Wade Payne.

The Vols kicked to Ohio to open the third quarter but the Bobcats couldn’t move the ball into Tennessee territory. This time, the Vols turned to the run, and in particular, to Montario Hardesty. Consecutive rushes for 6, 9, and 22 yards by Mr. Vol Offense put the ball quickly in Ohio territory, and Crompton followed with a pass to Kevin Cooper that moved the ball deep into Bobcat land to the Ohio 26. But on the next series, the offense stalled, and Daniel Lincoln’s 46-yard attempt hit the left upright square to leave us wanting.

Ohio started their next possession from their own 30 and opening it with a ripping pass play to Taylor Price for a 41 yard gain to the Vol 29.

Boys, we’re now in a game.

Ohio make two more first downs, and Theo Scott looks like he could work a miracle. But once they got the ball to the Tennessee 4 for a first and goal, they ended up kicking a field goal, thanks in large part to two tackles by Nick Reveiz. Tennessee 24 Ohio 20.

Key Point in Game – what can we do with the ball right after Ohio score as we are getting into nut-cutting time? RUN THE BALL!

An injured Nick Reveiz is attended to by the Vol staff late in the 3rd Quarter. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

An injured Nick Reveiz is attended to by the Vol staff late in the 3rd Quarter. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Again, Tennessee turns to the run, and did we ever run. Hardesty for 1, then 10. Brown for 8, then 11. Back to Hardesty for 5, then 10. But just when the drive looked like it had stalled at the Ohio 26 on 3rd and 8, Crompton made a very nice decision. Under very good pressure that was leading to a 10-yard or more loss, he adroitly dumped a screen to the left where Bryce Brown jetted into the end zone for a Tennessee Touchdown. Tennessee 31 Ohio 20.

Thoughts here? Game over, maybe now we broke their will, maybe we can even get over 40 with the offense clicking and get done what everybody was wanting – a comfortable win. And Ohio’s next posession didn’t disappoint: 3 and out. But the defensive stop wasn’t really satisfying, because Nick Reveiz who was having a fine game and a very fine season, blew his knee out, and word today is that the Junior linebacker is done for the season. A sad end to a campaign that looked like a lock for first team All-SEC and perhaps even an All-American spot. Let’s hope Nick can make a complete recovery and be back healthy for September 2010.

Final Act – Too Close for Southern Comfort

Now the Vols nearing the end of the third quarter have the ball on their own 42 yard line and look poised to settle in for the kill and hearty meal. After Montario ran for 10 yards to the Ohio 42 on a 3rd and 4, it really looked tasty. Ohio look defeated. Tired. Maybe a look of they know exactly what’s coming, like somebody on the receiving end of a firing squad.

Tennessee QB Crompton's fumble near the sideline nearly produced a game-changing play for Ohio. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

Tennessee QB Crompton's fumble near the sideline nearly produced a game-changing play for Ohio. The Tennessean Photo by Larry McCormack.

But football like all sport is played by human beings in a very unscripted way. Yes it is television and entertainment, but it’s not a movie or TV series. Which is exactly why I like watching sport on TV – no one knows the ending nor the way to the ending.

So here we go. Crompton on 1st and 10 at the Ohio 42 has to roll right, and being surrounded and trapped near the sideline, he instinctively (instead of intelligently) tries to get the most out of a bad situation. But Errik Ejike puts the hurt on him, Ohio’s Keller picks up the ball at the Vol 46 yard line and runs all the way down the left sideline for a Bobcat touchdown to make it a four-point game, and anybody’s game at that.

Alertly, the Tennesssee coaching staff who are on the other side of the field call for a review. Quickly, the first couple of replays show that Keller’s right foot is out of bounds just as he is scooping the ball up for his TD run. But the officials take several minutes to get the ruling correct, which they do. The ball was ruled to have been fumbled out-of-bounds by Tennessee, thus not only is the Ohio TD waived off, but the Vols regain possession, which they did nothing with and punted to Ohio.

I know. If ifs and buts were pretzels and nuts, we’d have Christmas every day. But you have to think what would have been. Anyway, it almost happened without the good fortune of an out-of-bounds right toe. Ohio turn their next possession into a 31-yard field goal after being handsomely pressured by the Big Orange defense with a first down at the Vol 18. Tennessee 31 Ohio 23.

Tennessee answered on the very next possession with some more Hardesty running and a Lincoln 49-yard field goal set up by a sack of Crompton nearly out of field goal range. Tennessee 34 Ohio 23.

Ohio PK Matthew is either looking for his contact lens or is about to throw up after missing a late FG attempt. AP Photo.

Ohio PK Matthew is either looking for his contact lens or is about to throw up after missing a late FG attempt. AP Photo.

With 6:00 left, it was obvious that Ohio was not going into hibernation. They drove the ball with eight Theo Scott completions out of nine attempts to get the ball to the Tennessee 15. With 4th and 2, they decided to kick a FG – with only 2 minutes and a few seconds to go in the game, you HAVE to go for that there, I’m sorry – and Matt Weller missed the 32-yard attempt. Maybe he was surprised to be called onto the field, too…

The game took for ever to expire, but expire it did. And I think we all felt a bit of unease with the win, knowing that we were playing a team from the MAC at home following an uplifting performance at the Swamp last week.

But that’s the workings of a Work in Progress. Which is exactly what we have. Warts and all.

Scoring Summary

Checkerboard strip

First Quarter

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL

11:47 Montario Hardesty runs 11 yards for a TD. GIVE HIM SIX! TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE! Daniel Lincoln‘s extra point is GOOOOOOD! TENN 7  OHIO 0. The TD capped an 9 play, 69 yard drive lasting 3:13.

Ohio Helmet_Small11:34 Chris Garrett returns the kickoff 95 yards for a TD. Matt Weller’s extra point is good. TENN 7  OHIO 7 . The runback was the only play of Ohio’s possession.

Ohio Helmet_Small7:08 LaVaon Brazill catches a 2-yd Theo Scott pass for a TD. Matt Weller’s extra point is good. OHIO 14  TENN 7. The TD capped a 4-play 30-yard drive lasting 2:06.

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL0:00 Brandon Warren catches a Jonathan Crompton pass for a 3-yard TD. GIVE HIM SIX! TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE! Daniel Lincoln‘s extra point is GOOOOOOD! TENN 14 OHIO 14. The TD capped a 5-play 30-yard drive lasting 2:10.

Second Quarter

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL7:23 Chris Walker intercepts a Theo Scott pass at the Ohio 7 yard line and returns it for a TD. GIVE HIM SIX! TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE! Daniel Lincoln‘s extra point is GOOOOOOD!. TENN 21 OHIO 14. The TD was the only play of Tennessee’s possession.

Ohio Helmet_Small0:40 Matt Weller kicks a 36-yard field goal.  TENN 21 OHIO 17. The field goal capped an 8-play 45-yard drive lasting 2:38.

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL0:00 Daniel Lincoln kicks a 38 yard field goal. GOOOOOOD!  TENN 24 OHIO 17. The field goal capped a 6-play 49-yard drive, lasting 0:40.

Third Quarter

Ohio Helmet_Small6:40 Matt Weller kicks an 18-yard field goal.  TENN 24 OHIO 20. The field goal capped an 9-play 69-yard drive lasting 2:52.

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL2:38 Bryce Brown catches a Jonathan Crompton for a 26-yard TD. GIVE HIM SIX! TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE! Daniel Lincoln‘s extra point is GOOOOOOD! TENN 31 OHIO 20. The TD capped a 9-play 73-yard drive lasting 3:56.

Fourth Quarter

Ohio Helmet_Small10:38 Matt Weller kicks an 18-yard field goal. TENN 31 OHIO 23. The field goal capped a 7-play 65-yard drive lasting 2:40.

Tennessee Helmet_SMALL6:00 Daniel Lincoln kicks a 49 yard field goal. GOOOOOOD!  TENN 34 OHIO 23. The field goal capped an 8-play 35-yard drive, lasting 4:31.

Scoreboard

Scoreboard

Upcoming 2009 Opponents

Mississippi 10  South Carolina 16
Marshall 27  Memphis 16
Arkansas 7  Alabama 35
Florida 41  Kentucky 7
Ball State 30  Auburn 54
Arizona State 17  Georgia 20
Vanderbilt 36  Rice 17

Past 2009 Opponents

Western Kentucky 22  Navy 38
Florida 41  Kentucky 7
UCLA –  Bye Week

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5 responses to “Tennessee 34 Ohio 23”

  1. T K says :

    FRED ….GREAT WRITE UP AS USUAL
    I AGREEE WITH THE BONEHEAD WORK OF SOME COACH ON LETTING THE CLOCK RUN OFF THOSE SECONDS BEFORE THE HALF…..BUT I GIVE KIFFEN MUCH CREDIT WITH 40 SECONDS LEFT TO TRY TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN. I WOULD BET A PAYCHECK, WITH NO HESITATION, THAT FULMER WOULD TAKE THE KNEE TWICE.
    THE OHIO FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT LATE……I KINDA HAD THE SAME THOUGHTS AS YOU BUT THEN AGAIN ITS A TWO POSSESION GAME AND MAYBE THAT DIDNT MATTER ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. I HAD MIXED FEELINGS ON THAT ONE. VERY WET PREGAME. LOTS OF HARD RAIN PRIOR TO THE GAME. AND THATS NO FUN BUT IMAGINE THIS FREDDY….ALREADY POURING THE RAIN, SPIRITS LOW DUE TO THE WEATHER AND ON TOP OF ALL THAT HAVING TO PUT UP WITH BERT AND BOBBY. I WAS SHOT AFTER THAT WEEKEND!!!!!!

  2. Michael says :

    The biggest problem the team has is at QB.

    I understand that Kiffin has hitched his star to Crompton, but there are times when Crompton just can’t and doesn’t deliver. Thankfully, we avoided his usual implosion if things don’t go well early and were able to recover. For this, I credit the defense a lot. The defense is carrying the team right now and I just hope the offense can at least get in the same zip code at some point this season.

    A solid game on offense against Auburn would help a lot.

    • NorCalVol says :

      I agree. I think we’re (unfortunately) going to see the fruits of Kiffin’s decision Saturday night. We won’t be able to win this game by keeping a very tight leash on Crompton in the way we did against Florida. We’re going to have to open it up a bit, similar to the way we did against Ohio. Unfortunately, Auburn isn’t Ohio, and the running game alone, without a bit of vertical passing game, won’t be enough.
      I’m a little pessimistic about Saturday.

  3. DW says :

    Fred – Good insights. I didn’t see the game, but your breakdown filled in a lot of the details missing on the ESPN game highlights. The big running plays were good to see, and even some of Crompton’s passes looked good… particularly the screens and short ones where the receiver got a chance to show some moves.
    TK — sorry to hear that after 30 yrs you still can’t handle Bert and Bobby. Maybe you need to ratchet up the strength training a notch or two.
    B&B tag team — wish I could have been there to see both of your soggy butts .. and share in the uplifitng pleasure of TK’s misery! Maybe there’s a picture somebody can email.

  4. T K says :

    glad to see donald back with his quips and quotes. now if he can give us his insight on auburn…..

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