Then there was the Music City Bowl game vs. North Carolina. Down 20-17 with 16 seconds left and the ball on UT's 25-yard line, the Tar Heels gained eight yards on a rushing play, then hurriedly tried to get their field-goal unit lined up for a potential game-tying kick. Failing miserably, they tried to get the kicking unit off the field and spike the ball before the game clock expired. This failed, too, as the Heels had at least 12 men on the field when regulation play ended.
Nearly a minute after the referee announced "The game is over," however, replay officials decided that Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates managed to spike the ball with one second left. After a second was put back on the clock and a five-yard procedure penalty was assessed, the Heels kicked the game-tying field goal, then won 30-27 in two overtimes.
Given the fluke nature of the two setbacks, the Vols are understandably enraged. Rather than telling them to move on, their head coach is encouraging them to feed off that frustration throughout the months ahead.
"I hope it lingers in the offseason; I told the team that," Derek Dooley said. "Every time they want to lay in their bed and not work in the offseason they'd better think about how they feel.
"I hope they bottle this feeling up after the game. I hope they bottle that feeling up after Baton Rouge and I hope they bottle that feeling up after a whole lot of other losses.
"I know I will."
Although senior tight end Luke Stocker won't be back next fall, he's convinced the lingering effects of the LSU and UNC games will spur the Vols in the 2011 season.
"I don't know how this feeling in your stomach couldn't eat at you and motivate you," he said. "If guys will buy into that and really use this as motivation, I think it can be something helpful."