Photo Courtesy: Adam Brimer, KNS

Photo Courtesy: Adam Brimer, KNS

Fellow Vol fans, Jacob and I would like to apologize for the tardiness of our UF game analysis. The fact is, we were both on the road this weekend watching football. Jacob saw the Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers while I witnessed the beatdown my brother’s Hardin County Tigers put on Memphis Westwood (yes, that’s right…even the parts of our lives that aren’t ruled by Tennessee football are still ruled by football). Anyways, there’s a lot to discuss about the Florida game, but as I’m sure you’ve already rehashed the game several times (as we have), I’ll try to be as succinct as possible.

The great debate at my house on Saturday was over Lane Kiffin’s offensive gameplan. I loved it, personally. In fact, I thought it was brilliant. You’re facing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, whose hands you obviously want to keep the ball out of. Your quarterback is coming off a UCLA game in which his play was shaky at best. So what do you do? You look at your big uglies on the offensive line, one week after being used by UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, and tell them, “We’re going to run the football down Florida’s throat and use as much clock as we can.” And that’s what we did. At times, we ran at will. Do you guys realize what a statement that is? This is a defense that will send every starter to the NFL. The only time I remember UT’s defense being that stacked was in 1998 when every starter but Billy Ratliff went pro. Remember how good that defense was? Now think what an accomplishment it is to run the ball with authority against a unit like that. I guess that’s why I was so pumped about our gameplan. Against a team with superior athletes, you stick to your guns (Hardesty, Bryce) use some clock, and hope you catch a few breaks that allow you to win the game. While we did have a few things go our way, unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce towards the orange all day.

See, my dad’s beef with Kiffin was that we didn’t try to make enough big plays to win the game. The rest of my living room’s response? We don’t have the personnel to spring some big plays. As much as I feel like I’m beating a dead horse saying it, Crompton just doesn’t have enough crompfidence to make big plays against a defense like Florida’s. Essentially, our argument was: playing it close to the vest and hoping the breaks went our way gave us a better chance to win than risking a bad play by Crompton. My intent is not to hate on Crompy; that’s just how it is. Some other quick thoughts:

  • Chris Walker terrorized Tebow all day. B-E-A-S-T.
  • Eric Berry strikes! It was a beautiful, instictive interception that took great awareness to get his hand under the ball.
  • Montori Hughes started to live up to the “Albert Haynesworth Jr” moniker that we’ve given him by stripping Tebow in the fourth quarter. Just a great hustle play.
  • Janzen JACK EM UP Jackson had Brandon James counting sheep. The next Eric Berry?
  • You’re starting to see what Bryce Brown can do when he gets the ball in space. Gotta quit dancing around the line of scrimmage, though. And Montario Hardesty? I’ve been saying it all year, and I’ll say it again: thoroughbred. He’s gonna play on Sundays, folks.
  • Before you get frustrated at our receivers, remember our incrompetence at quarterback. That’s just how it is.
  • Just a magnificent performance from the offensive line. Chris Scott beasted on 6’6″ 290 lb Carlos Dunlap all day. Dunlap is a sure fire top five pick in the NFL draft, folks.
  • IF (yes, I’m playing the “what if” game) Gerald Jones keeps his feet in bounds and Rico McCoy doesn’t trip over Wes Brown and tackles Tebow on 3rd down and nobody else scores, we win the ball game, 17-16. (Even though Wes Brown didn’t make that tackle, as a former defensive lineman with bad knees, I loved the effort he gave on that play, chasing Tebow all the way across the field. The fault is 100% on Rico for not making the play. Bravo, Wes Brown.)  
  • The illegal block call was a killer. We didn’t even try to convert the first down. You can’t give away possessions against a team like Florida.

So, there you have it, folks. I’ve gotta say, I’ve never been so encouraged by a Tennessee loss. My dad is a very proud UT fan, and he refused to be satisfied this weekend. “I know you like the rhetoric of it all, but I just hate that we have to be satisfied with losing.” That’s a direct quote. If our coach was still Phillip Fulmer, I would feel the same way. But Lane Kiffin is our coach, and we went into the most hostile environment in college football with a liability at quarterback and were a few plays away from winning. We have a multitude of good young players and as soon as we have consistent quarterback play, we’ll be contenders. On to Ohio. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the weekend, a gem from EB14. And also this: you heard it here first, Chris Walker and Bryce Brown will get redemption against a Tebow-less Florida team in Neyland next year. It’s gonna happen.

“I can’t sit here and tell you that we’re happy right now, but we’re on the verge of being really special here, and I think today showed some of that. We’re not afraid of anybody, and we’re going to keep getting better, so watch out.”

I believe you, Eric Berry. I believe.