Heartbreak kids

Considering the adversity Tennessee football's seniors endured in the previous four years, it probably was inevitable that they would close their college careers with a gut-wrenching loss.

Thursday's 30-27 two-overtime setback to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl certainly qualified as a heartbreaker. Still, it was almost fitting that the Vols' 2010 seniors suffer one last kick in the teeth.

Consider:

- They lost seven games and lost the head coach who signed them, Phillip Fulmer, in 2008.

- They lost six games and another head coach when Lane Kiffin abruptly bolted for USC mere days after the 2009 season ended.

- They lost seven more games in 2010, with two of them (LSU and UNC) coming after the Vols left the sidelines to celebrate apparent victories.

And that's not even counting the 2009 Alabama game, when Tennessee was a blocked field goal away from upsetting the top-ranked Tide.

Given all of the above, pardon the 2010 Vol seniors if they feel a bit jinxed.

"It's crazy, man," senior receiver Gerald Jones said following the Music City Bowl. "First, it was Alabama last year and you get a field goal blocked. Then it's LSU, and now this. This is the most bizarre two years I ever had in my life."

The 16-14 loss at LSU in October was tough because the Vols thought the game ended with them on top 14-10. The North Carolina loss may have been even tougher, since the referee announced "The game is over" with the Vols on top 20-17. Jones said that wasn't the greatest disappointment for him, however.

"No, it makes it tougher because this was the last game of my career in an orange jersey, and I wanted to go out with a win," he said. "So did a lot of other seniors.... We was looking forward to leaving on a high note. Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

When asked if he felt gypped that the replay official put one second back on the clock after time had expired, enabling the Tar Heels to kick a field goal that sent the game into overtime, Jones glumly replied, "Not my call," and walked away.

Senior tight end Luke Stocker also was hurting about losing his final game as a Vol in the minutes immediately following it.

"It's a weird feeling," he said. "I don't even know that it's hit me yet that I won't be back in the orange again. Really, the only emotions I feel right now are the emotions of a tough loss."

The controversial finish to the Music City Bowl caused dozens of Vols to exit the post-game locker room with tears running down their cheeks. Asked if he hated to see the seniors go out on such a sad note, head coach Derek Dooley shook his head.

"I hurt for that whole football team," he said, nodding toward the locker room. "There's a bunch of guys in there crying. I told 'em I was proud of 'em. You don't always define yourself as a competitor or as a man by results that happen. I hope this team won't because they've been fighting like heck since November."


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