Posts Tagged ‘UCLA Bruins’

The Long Road Back

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

Tennessee FootballLosing is never fun.

I think that must be an axiom.  If not, then it should be.  Still, there are degrees of losing — certain nuances to the old black and white world of one team wins and one team loses.  The Tennessee Volunteers, their coaches, their fans, and yours truly have become increasingly more familiar with the details of these degrees of losing this season.

That is not necessarily a bad thing…

On the one hand they lost two games — against the UCLA Bruins and the Auburn Tigers — which, by most measuring sticks, they should have won.  Each of those contests were marked by an anemic passing game and a defense which was exhausted at the end of the game.

In each of these games, the Vols offense floundered early in the game — spotting their opponent a substantial (though not insurmountable) lead lead, only to rebound too late in the game to have enough time to mount a complete comeback.

That is the darker side of defeat.

Then there was the “moral victory” of a ten-point loss to the Florida Gators.  Most folks had the Vols written off as dead before the opening kickoff — near 30-point underdogs.  Yet, when the final whistle sounded, the men in orange had defended their honor and managed to show the Gators that they would not go quietly.  Though they lost by 10, Tennessee left everything on the field and left Urban Meyer answering questions about why the vaunted Gators had not annihilated the out-manned Volunteers.  It was a loss — no question about it — but it was respectable.  It marked a small step forward.

The reality in that game was, however, that though the Vols were never truly “out of it,” they were likewise never truly in a position to win.  They hung around till the end, but really never had what it took to get the victory.  I suppose that is the sort of loss where you simply say, “well, they gave it their best.

Then there is the Alabama game…

Make no mistake about it, the Alabama Crimson Tide won the game and won it honestly.  Alabama did what they had to do to win…

…but so did the Vols.

Unlike the Florida game, Tennessee was very much in a position to win and, with only a little bit of luck, everyone in Big Orange Country would be smiling right now.  The Vols did not win, but they were there at the end of the game fighting for the chance to bring it home.

This represents an amazing leap forward for this program, for this team, and for this staff.  This shows — clearly in my mind — that with a little time there are very special things to come for the Tennessee Volunteers.  The future looks even brighter than it did after the Vols victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Are the Vols “back“?  No.

…but they are getting closer.

– So it goes…About Lawvol

2009 CBS Sports BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Week 6

Here’s my ballot for this week’s CBS Sports BlogPoll Top 25 hosted by — as you might imagine — CBS Sports.

Week 6

Through 4 October 2009

After the games of this past weekend, my ballot seems to have settled down a bit near the top, but the back end continues to be a bit of a rollercoaster.  Most of these should be fairly obvious.  Either way, here’s my BlogPoll Top 25 ballot for week 6 of the 2009 season:

My Ballot for the Week

Rank Team Delta
1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Alabama
5 Boise State
6 Southern Cal
8 Ohio State
9 Penn State 2
10 Iowa
11 Virginia Tech 1
12 Mississippi 1
13 Miami (Florida) 6
14 Cincinnati
15 Notre Dame 2
16 Kansas 4
17 Oklahoma 8
18 Oklahoma State 3
19 Auburn NR
20 Nebraska 2
21 Wisconsin NR
22 Oregon NR
23 Pittsburgh 1
24 Missouri NR
25 Georgia 10
Last week’s ballot
Dropped Out: UCLA (#16), Houston (#18), California (#23), Michigan (#25).

Explanations after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry

Vols 63, Western Kentucky 7: The Day After

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

It was Western Kentucky and lawvol did an excellent job with his version of this post (as in better than mine’s going to be), so I’ll keep this relatively brief.

Judging by the atmosphere on campus before the game and during the game in the student section, you would in no way have thought Tennessee’s opponent was possibly the worst Division I-A team in the country. I found this out on the long walk from my apartment down the Cumberland Avenue “Strip” and through the heart of campus on my way to the Vol Walk. I managed to get an up-close spot fort the spectacle, and I’ll have a video from it at the end of this.

The new JumboTron is awesome, especially when they take the ads off and make it full screen (click to enlarge)

As for the game, I’ll start with Jonathan Crompton. Sure, the tipped balls are worrisome and the first interception he threw – though not his fault, said Lane Kiffin – was the awful kind of pass he would have made last year. Other than that, he really didn’t have that many incompletions.

He looked confident. He looked poised. He managed the offense very well (I can only remember one substitution penalty and procedure penalty). He was 21-of-28 and threw five touchdowns for goodness sakes. Sure, it was mostly the short passing game.

But if your quarterback struggles with making multiple reads (as Crompton did in 2008), you don’t make him do that. You let him take the snap and throw it to a wideout against a corner playing off the line and let the playmaker get some yards in space. You throw the short hitch. You get Crompton rolling out with options short, medium and long. Heck, Crompton even slid when he had to scramble.

The receivers played well enough to make you forget the injuries. Luke Stocker caught two scores. Marsalis Teague led the way as a freshmen and is going to be a great player. Quintin Hancock deserves a shout-out.

But this day belonged to the offensive line. Crompton had time to throw and that only helps him. And the line opened enormous holes and got great push on just about every play, as was evidenced in the stats. Hopefully they stay healthy throughout the year, because watching them open lanes for Hardesty, Bryce, Oku and Poole (let’s not forget about Toney WIlliams, either) could be really fun to watch if they are able to keep it up.

The defense was swarming and Western Kentucky had no time to do anything – at all. I thought the linebackers played pretty well, but we’ll have to see how they go up against stronger, faster opponents in the future. Janzen Jackson was the first freshman to see the field defensively, and, like Teague, he’s going to be a great player. I thought Wes Brown also played very well: well as in fresh, considering everything we’d heard about him all preseason were the bad condition of both of his knees.

To conclude, anytime you dominate a team 63-7 and outgain them by the margin Tennessee did, you feel good about it. But if nothing else, it’s a game where you get some confidence, especially on offense where those guys are trying to make us all forget last year’s atrocities. It’s a chance for the freshmen and new players to get some game action, as every little bit of experience helps. Western Kentucky was the perfect opponent for Lane and Company to open up with.

My view from Section F (click to enlarge)

Looking ahead, I think this team could be pretty tough to beat in Neyland Stadium this year. If the crowd was like it was for Western Kentucky – and those of you who were there hopefully agree with me on this – how will it be when Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina come to visit?

Which leads me to my next bold statement: I see absolutely no way UCLA comes into Knoxville next week and beats Tennessee.

There, I said it. First off, anytime you travel across the country to play, you’re at a disadvantage. See LSU last night at Washington, Maryland getting rocked at Cal, our own Vols the past two seasons and Cal coming here in 2006. Kevin Prince is UCLA’s starting QB. He was 18-of-29 for 176 yards, and threw two picks against one touchdown. That was at home, against San Diego State.

Next week he’ll be dealing with the Tennessee defense. In Tennessee’s stadium. Against a group of players and coaches and fans that want to right the wrong of last year’s embarrassing loss. And do it emphatically in front of a national TV audience on ESPN.

Yes, yes, I know we all said the same exact thing last year. But if not for horribly inept coaching (throwing 41 passes Dave Clawson and letting Kevin Craft dink-and-dunk you down the field John Chavis), Tennessee wins that game. UCLA has certainly improved, but this time they get the dubious honor of making the long trip. We all already are aware (boom, alliteration!) of the importance of this game to the rest of the Vols’ season. Tennessee absolutely has to beat UCLA next Saturday.

As soon as the Vols had the first couple of touchdowns yesterday and settled into the complete domination they displayed, my thoughts were already on UCLA. Hence why I’ve spent the last half of this post talking about next Saturday.

Anyways, here’s the video I took of the Vol Walk from yesterday (please know it’s long and my camera steadiness was lacking…you try holding your arm up that high for that long):

YouTube Preview Image

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

From the Ashes Rises a Phoenix: Western Kentucky Postgame Thoughts

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

Western Kentucky vs. Tennessee












Well, there are so very many positive things to say about this game that it is hard to really know where to start, thus, I’ll just start at the top, here are the stats for the game:

Team Stats
Western Kentucky Tennessee
First downs
3rd Down Efficiency
1-for-11, 9%
7-for-9, 78%
4th down efficiency
0-for-1, 0%
0-for-1, 0%
Passing Yards
Return Yards
Sacks-Yards Lost
Fumbles Lost
Penalties – Yards

The stats speak loudly.  Tennessee racked up a whopping 710 total net yards.  Last season the Vols managed only 3,225 yards on the season, today they produced over 20% of last season’s total yards in a single game.  They scored more points than they have since the 2000 game against the Arkansas Razorbacks.  Even more surprising was the balance in the offensive yardage between the pass and the run.

Read the rest of this entry

2009 Big Orange Roundtable: Week 8 — The Kickoff Edition

Gate 21 is proud to host this week’s Roundtable!

It’s Time…

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by … ummm … oh, yeah, it’s our week.  We here at the Gate are proud to host the 2009 kickoff edition of the Big Orange Roundtable as we all get ready to tee it up and kick it down for the 112th season of Tennessee Volunteers Football.

With that lovely prospect in mind, let’s get down to business:

Week 8

1) (From HSH)  We’ve talked through the past month or so about just about everything we could talk about regarding this Tennessee team: the quarterbacks, offensive line, freshman, Eric Berry, finding healthy wide receivers, freshman again, etc. So the simple question is this: what do you expect or what specifically are you looking for from the Vols against Western Kentucky this Saturday?

bullet HSH: First things first, Western Kentucky is not going to be anything close to resembling a quality football team.  They were recently a power in 1-AA, but this is their first full year in 1-A, and have the potential to be one of the worst teams to come to Neyland Stadium in a while (yes, I’m including Wyoming).  They went just 2-10 last year (the wins were Eastern Kentucky and Murray State) and return just 12 starters from that team.

So if Tennessee hangs 60 points on the Hilltoppers, oh, well it was just Western Kentucky, right?  Not exactly.  I want to see Tennessee score lots of points Saturday afternoon.  I expect Lane Kiffin will want to pound the rock with the running backs.  I want to see a confident Jonathan Crompton that doesn’t make any mistakes and crisply runs the offense.

Defensively, I want to see which freshmen make an early impact in their first games, and how they handle playing for real.  On both sides, I want to see swagger—OK, it’s WKU, but we could be playing my high school’s team and I would still want to see our players have a wealth of confidence in themselves and their coaches that creates said swagger.

bullet Lawvol: I expect and hope to see a few things.  First, I am not exactly expecting grandeur for this first game of the 2009 season, but what I am expecting to see is poise and purpose.  I am hoping that this team brings their attitude—one which was sorely missing last season—and refuses to play down to the level of their opponent which they should beat under almost any circumstance.

Let’s be honest, Western Kentucky went 2-10 last season which made even the Vols’ 5-7 campaign seem decent.  Prior to 2008, however, Western Kentucky had a streak of 12 straight winning seasons, and look to be on the upswing.  That said, The Vols have got to play with a little spark and bring their best game to their opponent—regardless of the quality of that opponent.  The Vols have to play their game and not let it be dictated to them by their opponent.

Most of all, I am looking to see a team that is glad to be on the field playing once more.  I hope that we begin to see the development of the new Kiffin system and hopefully get a huge relief when the quarterback play is surprisingly crisp and effective.  This is a confidence game which is only a good thing if you perform in a manner that inspires confidence

Read the rest of this entry

2009 Big Orange Roundtable: Week 4

This Week’s Roundtable is hosted by:

Vol Junkies

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by Vol Junkies, who has served up another installment of questions burning in the minds of the citizens of Orange Nation.

Thus, here are our thoughts for the week:

Week 4

1) What is your thought on Eric Berry’s Heisman chances?  Should he play on offense in-order to increase his chances?  Is Kiffin being to selfish saying Berry will not practice offense?

bullet HSH: I’m not exactly how real Berry’s chances of actually winning the Trophy—which I deemed meaningless after the Manning debacle.  Not only does he have the obstacle of being a defensive player, he has to basically beat Colt McCoy from Texas, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma and some guy named Tebow.  I don’t think Lane Kiffin should play Berry on offense just to help his Heisman chances.  If our offense is seriously sucking, then sure, desperate times call for desperate measures.

That said, I have absolutely no problem with the University doing the whole campaign thing.  Berry is obviously a special, once-in-a-while player with a great attitude.  Seeing him in person on and off the field the past two years has been something I’m glad to have been a part of—now if only he might consider staying for his senior year…

bullet Lawvol: I have very mixed (albeit not necessarily negative) feelings on this.

First of all, I personally believe that Eric Berry is more than deserving of a shot at the Heisman Trophy.  In two short years he has pretty much become the man-beast of SEC defenses and is, hands down, the best defensive player in the toughest conference in the country.  I personally believe that he is the best defensive player in any conference, anywhere.  That, however, is just my opinion and I will be the first to admit that I am biased.  Still, there is no arguing with the fact that Eric Berry has earned the right to be considered among the top players in the country this season and to be considered for the Heisman.  I am unequivocally behind the Tennessee’s campaign to promote Berry’s Heisman candidacy.

That said, I am less that optimistic about his chances…

I say that because, since only one truly defensive player has previously won the Heisman—which I am sure every Tennessee fan remembers all too well—the precedent is somewhat weak.  Furthermore, given the national media’s love affair with Tim Tebow, I expect that every possible machination that can occur to ensure Tebow winning the trophy for the second time will be brought to bear, if at all possible.

There is also the fact that exaggerated hype often leads to less-than-stellar performances since, with everyone talking about how great a particular player is, the target on their back gets even bigger when facing opponents.  That is not to say that I doubt Berry’s ability to produce in the same way he has in the past, but recognizes that opposing teams will be gunning for him … and staying away from him.

Read the rest of this entry

2009 Big Orange Roundtable: Week 1 – the “Welcome Back” Edition

This Week’s Roundtable is hosted by: MoonDog

Once more unto the breach, dear friend…

This week marks the return of the Big Orange Roundtable and is hosted by MoonDog over at MoonDog

Given the fact that I have been tied up with re-modeling and am just generally incompetent, HSH and I have decided to both jump in on the Roundtable and offer our points as a team.  In the event we disagree, I’m wrong…

Here are our thoughts for the week:

Week 1

1)  In my mind, this season’s success—or failure—centers around one man, Jonathan Crompton.  What is your opinion of Crompton’s ability to run Lane Kiffin‘s pro style offense?  Can Crompton overcome his miserable 2008 season and lead the Vols to a winning record?

HSH: Crompton absolutely cannot be much worse, right?  A common theme in the answers you’re likely going to see here will say something along the lines of Crompton’s main responsibility of managing the game—and doing quite a bit of handing the rock off.  You would think that in Lane Kiffin’s offense he won’t be throwing the ball too much, assuming the Vols are able to run the ball well.  Obviously the running game can help make Crompton’s job easier, although the WR injuries this week aren’t helping his Heisman hopes.

The optimist in me says that most of Crompton’s issues last season were due to the overall overwhelming ineptitude of Dave Clawson‘s offense.  However, the Auburn debacle, which I placed almost direct blame on Crompton, has me hesitant.  Tennessee wasn’t too far away from being at worst 8-4 last year , so even marginal improvement by #8 should get the Vols above 6 wins.  I’m willing to give him another chance, but hopefully for everyone’s sake he doesn’t throw a pick or botch a handoff in the first series at Western Kentucky come September 5…

Lawvol: It’s a funny thing.  Last year—based solely upon his performance while filling in for the injured Eric Ainge in 2006—I was expecting great things from Crompton.  In fact, I was actually convinced that the Crompton would wow the Vol faithful with a new look as a mobile quarterback who is not afraid to make contact with defenders.  At one point last year I actually predicted that, after an 8 or 9 win season in 2008, the Vols would potentially contend for a national championship in 2009 behind Crompton and the much vaunted Clawfense.

This proves two things.  First, it shows that rising to the occasion in a moment of need—which I think Crompton did admirably while standing in for Ainge—is not the same thing as being a starter.  The second thing it proves is that I am a moron.

All that said, I too agree that Crompton’s biggest goal is to just play cleanly.  In 2008, there were times when it seemed likely that he might trip over the yardlines or deliver a handoff to a blitzing linebacker.  Personally, I think that much of this owed to a fundamental lack of understanding of the Clawfense by the offense as a whole—which pretty much just peed down its leg for the entirety of the 2008 season.  This is not to say that Dave Clawson was not a good coach or that the Clawfense could not work, it simply did not work in 2008 for the Vols.

Not to be overly critical, but Crompton does not (or at least has never shown) that he has the mental game of Eric Ainge or any of the other quarterbacks that preceded him in Orange.  Crompton likes to play loose and makes plays based purely upon athletic ability and less upon great decision-making ability.  As he made clear when filling in for Ainge (famously dropping his head and planting a “T” in the chest of an LSU defender), Crompton is an instinct guy.  I don’t think he cares much for his mind getting in the way of him playing football.  Perhaps that is why he often seemed to have the deer in the headlights look when trying to work through the permutations of the offense last year on the field.  As a result he made bad decisions, held the ball for what seemed like ten minutes in the pocket, and generally failed to meet expectations.  I just do not believe that he “got it.”  Thus, I suppose the 2008 season was the proverbial “Perfect Storm” that was destined for disaster from an offensive perspective.  On one hand there was an offense inspired by the theories of Niels Bohr and Stephen Hawking and on the other a quarterback who is not exactly known for his mental toughness.

If Kiffin and Jim Cheney can keep it simple, allowing Crompton to simply play, I continue to believe that he has the ability to be a decent quarterback.  I actually think he has the ability to be a competent passer (that is if there are any receivers left for him to throw to), so long as the system is simple.  For Crompton, I think it is all about just letting him play.  Hopefully that is what they will let him do.

Read the rest of this entry

Support Gate 21
Search the Gate
Categorically Speaking…
As if you cared…

Some of the Best!

Support Gate 21


Some of Lawvol's Favorite Links from across the web!

Tennessee FanDome

Tennessee Fandome:
Football | Basketball
Our Humble Gate…
Subscribe to
Subscribe to Gate 21

Enter your email address to receive Gate 21 via email:

We will NEVER use your email address for ANY purpose.
Powered by FeedBurner


Awards & Nominations

2007 CFBA Nominee: Best Looking Blog
2007 CFBA Nominee: Best New Blog

Support Gate 21
Best Football Sites
Powered by MyPagerank.Net

Gate 21 Graphics

Like Gate 21? Gate 21 is free to read, but costs a great deal to publish. Feel free to donate securely via PayPal:
Search the Gate
Older Ramblings

Tennessee Videos

Lawvol's Funnies

Support Gate 21


Yardbarker Network