The Agony of defeat

This has been a history making season for Tennessee - for all the wrong reasons.

The Vols lost to Vanderbilt - 28-24 Saturday - for the first time since 1982. They lost to Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium for the first time since 1975. They allowed Vanderbilt to score more than 14 points in Knoxville for the first time since 1987. They will miss a bowl for the first time since 1988.

And if they don't beat Kentucky this Saturday in Lexington, they could become just the second team in Tennessee history to lose seven games in a season. The Vols were 4-7 in 1977 - Johnny Majors' first year as head coach.

Tennessee (4-6) hasn't had many six-loss seasons. In the modern era, it has happened six times: 2005, 1988, 1980, 1962, 1958 and 1954. It also happened in 1906 and 1909.

How did Tennessee get so bad so fast? How can a team that played for the SEC Championship last season and was ranked No. 6 at the end of the regular season in 2003 fall so far?

Answer: Lack of discipline.

A woman identifying herself as the parent of Tennessee tight end Chris Brown had harsh words for coach Phillip Fulmer and the program on the Sports Sound-Off program I host Sunday morning on WIVK and The Sports Animal.

``The discipline is terrible,'' said Tammy. ``We have a major problem. Coach Fulmer needs to take charge. . It starts with discipline.''

Tammy suggested the players should move back on campus and not be allowed to have off-campus housing. She said she saw players talked to people in the stands during the game and that her son said this lack of discipline is evident at practice.

``I enjoy Tennessee football,'' Tammy said. ``It's a wonderful program. But the discipline is gone.''

Tammy pointed out that her son got in trouble last year - he was caught for shoplifting. So, she said, she believes in second chances. But she said too many players lack discipline.

That was evident not long ago when Tennessee, as it usually does on a Friday night before a game, took players to see a movie at Pinnacle Theatres in Turkey Creek. UT had rented one theatre to watch a movie and players came in through a back door to avert any potential distractions. But a number of players wanted to watch something else, ``Get Rich or Die Trying.''

Players went into the lobby and were seen acting unruly and cursing, according to a security guard on site and another witness.

Then came the embarrassing display after the Vanderbilt loss. According to a source, up to 10 UT helmets were left on the field after the game. Albert Toeaina, Rick Clausen and Richie Gandy were seen throwing their helmets.

Toeaina did not retrieve his helmet. It is not known if Clausen or Gandy left theirs. Toeaina reportedly spit on a camera man.

Fulmer told The Tennessean that Toeaina would not play against Kentucky if the helmet and spitting incident prove true.

Fulmer should go one step farther. He should not play any player throw threw his helmet after the game and left it on the field - even if it's Clausen or Gandy.

You've also got to question the leadership of Clausen. He almost quit the week of the LSU game because he was benched. He said after the Memphis game he didn't care if he played or not. Then, he throws his helmet in disgust after losing to Vanderbilt.

And this guy is a team captain?

Vols Suffer First Loss With 200-Yard Rusher

For the first time, Tennessee lost a game in which a running back surpassed 200 yards rushing.

Arian Foster had 223 yards on 40 carries. He scored two touchdowns. He had a 66-yard scamper.

But when he needed a key yard or two in the second half, he couldn't get it. And the offensive line didn't help him get it.

Tennessee made two critical play-calling mistakes that were costly. Midway through the third quarter, with Vanderbilt ahead 21-14, the Vols had the ball at the Vandy 5-yard line, second-and-3. Rather than continue to pound away, Clausen checked to a pass to Jayson Swain. Clausen threw a fade, Swain ran a slant. Incomplete.

Foster got 2 yards on the next run, then was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1.

The Vols lost a golden opportunity to tie the game and seize momentum.

After UT did knot the score at 21, a punt return gave UT excellent field position at the Vandy 37. Foster ripped off a 17-yard run. With Vandy's run defense reeling, the Vols went to the air. Clausen threw an incompletion on a bomb. How many bombs has Clausen completed this season?

Two plays later, UT had fourth-and-2 at the 12 and settled for a go-ahead field goal, making it 24-21 with 8:25 left in the game.

Those two pass calls cost Tennessee a win.

Arkansas Contacts Cutcliffe

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has contacted David Cutcliffe about joining the Hogs' staff. Cutcliffe declined comment.

At this point, Cutcliffe surely would not accept an assistant's job at any other school than UT.

Don't be surprised if Fulmer and Cutcliffe reach an agreement this week. Not being bowl eligible could hasten the process for hiring an offensive coordinator so the Vols can get refocused on recruiting.

Also, don't be surprised if Cutcliffe commands a salary of about $300,000. If so, then defensive coordinator John Chavis also would deserve to make $300,000.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

The thumbs up:

Foster's 223 rushing yards. He has 628 yards in four starts and 765 yards this season. He may get to 900 if he has a big game against Kentucky.

Special teams. The Vols had 153 return yards compared to Vandy's 21. Jonathan Hefney had 76 yards on five punt returns with a long of 43. Lucas Taylor had 77 yards on two kickoff returns with a long of 47. Dustin Colquitt averaged 46.7 yards per punt. The thumbs down: UT couldn't convert on short yardage plays and couldn't run out the clock despite two chances in the final 5 minutes.

Players leaving their helmets on the field after the game.

Defense couldn't make the final stop and couldn't stop the slant pattern.

Allowing Earl Bennett, Vandy freshman phenom, to catch 14 passes. He entered the game with 65 catches and ran his total to an SEC-freshman record 79.

Clausen running the ball from the 17 to the 11 in the final seconds, rather than throwing the ball away. That cost UT precious seconds.

Actual attendance of about 80,000. Late in the fourth quarter, fewer than 70,000 remained in the stands.

The two pass calls from the Vandy 20 and 5 yard line in the second half.

GAME NOTES: Tennessee has scored 19 offensive touchdowns this season, averaging 7.2 yards per score. The Vols don't have a TD run of more than 3 yards. . Vanderbilt's defense entered the game having given up at least 34 points in five straight games. Only two other seasons has Vandy had a worse defensive stretch: 2001 (249 points in five games), 1990 (224 points) and 1975 (254 points). . Having lost to Vanderbilt, UT holds the nation's second-longest winning streak over an opponent - 20 against Kentucky. . In the fourth quarter this season, Jay Cutler had 12 fourth-quarter TD passes and 1,170 yards. He had four games with at least 170 passing yards; he had 101 against UT in the final period. . Vandy also scored 102 fourth-quarter points this season after getting just 20 all of last season.


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