He also got little help from Tennessee's special teams. He had to start two drives at his 20-yard line because of kickoff-return mishaps. Marsalous Johnson and JaKouri Williams each fumbled while fielding kicks in the end zone, resulting in two touchbacks. In between, though, Crompton threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem and directed a 54-yard drive that produced a field goal, giving Tennessee a 10-7 halftime lead.
Crompton's initial third-quarter possession was foiled when two receivers wound up in the same spot, forcing him to scramble for a one-yard gain on a third-and-three at the UT 27-yard line.
He marched Tennessee from its 19-yard line to the LSU 29 on his next series but James Wilhoit – normally deadly inside 50 yards – missed a 46-yard field goal that would've pulled the Vols within a point (21-20).
Crompton's third possession of the second half was sabotaged by a tipped pass that wound up being intercepted.
His fourth possession of the half consisted of one play – a 54-yard touchdown strike to Meachem that gave Tennessee a 24-20 lead with 7:29 to go. By the time he got the ball back, however, he had five seconds to go 64 yards. Mission impossible.
For a guy seeing his first significant action as a college quarterback against the NCAA's top-ranked defense, Crompton's numbers (11 of 24, 183 yards, 2 touchdowns) were pretty solid. Even Phillip Fulmer thought so.
"I thought, for the first game he played significant time, he did really well," the Vols' head man said. "He showed aggressiveness and effort. The two long balls he threw were just outstanding."
Crompton's coming-out party would've had a happy ending except that Tennessee couldn't hold the lead he provided with his long-range bomb to Meachem midway through the fourth period.
"I'm proud of Jonathan Crompton – the effort he gave, the fight he had, the long balls and some of the plays he made," Fulmer noted.
Perhaps Tennessee would've won if Ainge had played the entire game. We'll never know. But we do know this: Whoever plays quarterback this Saturday, the Vol offense needs to be significantly sharper against SEC West leader Arkansas than it was against LSU.
"It wasn't nearly enough to win the game from the offensive standpoint," Fulmer said. "We were 5 of 13 on third down, which makes it difficult to keep the chains moving. The running game wasn't nearly what it needed to be. There were no penalties offensively – which was a plus – but we grossly lost the time of possession."