Vols inept in loss

Seldom has a Tennessee team looked so inept and been so embarrassed.

This was the year Tennessee would be able to run on a young Florida defensive front. This was the year the Vols could engage in a scoring shootout. This was the year the Vols were hoping to get back to the Georgia Dome.

Forget about it.

Tennessee laid an ostrich egg in The Swamp, where Urban Meyer continues the Urban Legend – he's 16-0 at Florida Field.

``Just bad play,'' Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said after being routed 59-20 on Saturday. ``We just didn't play well and I take responsibility for that.''

Tennessee was awful running the ball and the line got dominated. UT rushed 21 times for 37 yards. Arian Foster, averaging more than 100 yards, was held to 26 yards on 11 carries. LaMarcus Coker had 5 yards on five carries.

Didn't Florida's defense lose nine starters?

Maybe they replaced them with Wilbur Marshall, Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter.

``It was really disappointing and surprised me,'' Fulmer said of UT's inability to run the ball. ``I give Florida credit. They do a lot of good things. But I thought we'd made progress.''

Maybe against Southern Miss. But not Florida.

``They just controlled us too much at the line of scrimmage on both sides,'' Fulmer said.

And Meyer ran up the score in Steve Spurrier fashion. Meyer didn't call off the dogs. He unleashed them.

The Gators poured it on by outscoring the Vols 24-0 in the fourth quarter with Tim Tebow playing until the final 5 minutes. Florida went for a fourth-and-1 from it's 35 with eight minutes remaining.

The spot was questionable. The message was not.

Meyer wanted to score at least a half-a-hundred on Tennessee. He did. He rubbed it in UT's face and the Vols couldn't do anything about it.

And the way Florida controlled the line of scrimmage, you wondered if that was Tennessee Tech instead of Tennessee.

The Gators rushed for 255 yards on 46 carries. They gained 554 yards. They averaged 8.5 yards per play. And they shut down UT's run game. The Vols vowed redemption for gaining minus-11 rushing yards a year ago. They didn't get it. UT averaged .5 yards per attempt in the first half and 1.8 yards per rush for the game, with help from some garbage yards late in the game.

Tennessee didn't get a first down rushing. The Vols couldn't convert on short yardage with the line getting stuff by a young group of Gators.

If UT can't run when Florida has a rebuilt front four, when can it?

The Vols put backup quarterback B. J. Coleman in a Superman cape as he played the role of Tim Tebow on the scout team.

Tebow played the role of Superman during the game. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 67 yards and two scores. He looked more like the premier quarterback in the SEC than Erik Ainge.

Not that Ainge played poorly. He was 26 of 41 for 249 yards and his first interception in 183 passes. But he didn't make enough big plays and he didn't have anyone like Percy Harvin to help him out.

Harvin is one of the most dynamic players in the country. He had 120 yards on four catches and ran for 75 yards on nine attempts. That's 195 yards on 13 touches, an average of 15 yards per play.

Tennessee doesn't have a player like Harvin. Tennessee doesn't have an offensive line like Florida. Tennessee doesn't have a defensive line like Florida.

And based on what happened Saturday, Tennessee doesn't have coaching like Florida.

Last year, the Vols led the eventual national champions by 10 points in the second half. But two minutes into this one, the Vols trailed by seven on a punt return and never caught up.

They did rally, cutting a 28-6 deficit to 28-20 on Eric Berry's 96-yard interception return for a touchdown.

But on UT's next possession, a fumbled exchanged between Foster and Ainge – trying to hand off left-handed to protect his broken right little finger – backfired and Florida returned it for a score.

It was over.

The Vols showed no more fight, allowing Florida to score on four of four fourth-quarter possessions while failing to score on offense in the second half.

In the end, Tennessee looked more like a five-win team than a 10-win team.

``We can still have a great season,'' UT linebacker Ryan Karl said. ``We just have to grow as a team.''

Grow? How about trade for Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson and Cosey Coleman and Fred Weary and Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis and Peerless Price and Donte Stallworth?

It's more evident now than ever that Tennessee doesn't have the talent it had when it was winning 45 of 50 games in the 1990s.

The defeat to Florida ran UT's record to 4-15 in its last 19 games against SEC teams with a winning record.

That's unacceptable. It's embarrassing. And it's testing the patience of UT fans and Phillip Fulmer loyalists.

If Tennessee loses to Georgia on Oct. 6, the Vols will be out of the East Division race and destined for another mediocre bowl – if that.

And the fans will boycott in record numbers down the stretch.

``We can't let this loss ruin our season,'' UT tight end Chris Brown said.

The only way to avoid that is to beat Georgia in two weeks.

But based on what Tennessee did in The Swamp, it's hard to see the Vols snapping Georgia's three-game winning streak at Neyland Stadium.

And if that happens, the seat for Fulmer will get hotter than ever.


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