The defense made third-string UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft look like an All-American in the second half, when he connected on 14 of 20 for 193 yards. He was 11 of 23 for 66 yards with four interceptions in the first half.
Vol quarterback Jonathan Crompton fumbled a snap on a third-and-one on UT's first possession and missed eight consecutive passes in the second half.
Vol tailback Arian Foster lost a crucial fumble at the UCLA 6-yard line with UT, already leading 14-7, threatening to build a two-touchdown third-quarter lead.
The punt coverage team gave away a touchdown by surrendering a blocked kick that was returned 21 yards for a touchdown by the Bruins' Sean Westgate.
Still, some observers will view Lincoln as the goat for missing his 34-yard kick moments after Kai Forbath's 42-yarder gave the Bruins a 27-24 lead on the first possession of overtime. Ironically, Lincoln was in line to be the Vol hero moments earlier, nailing a 47-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to force the extra period.
Tennessee lost despite limiting UCLA to 29 rushing yards on 30 carries and finishing plus 2 on turnovers (2 by UT, 4 by the Bruins).
Speaking on his post-game show, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said UCLA was "a trap game," noting: "Everybody was crying about how bad UCLA was ... new coaches, and you knew there was going to be a lot of energy around that."
With UCLA's top two quarterbacks injured, Tennessee's veteran secondary was supposed to feast on Craft, a junior college transfer forced to start in his major-college debut. That was the case early, as cornerback DeAngelo Willingham intercepted Craft's sixth pass and Demetrice Morley intercepted his seventh.
Tennessee couldn't take advantage, however. Crompton's fumbled snap doomed the Vols' first possession and Lincoln's miss of a 51-yard field goal ended possession No. 2. When Cunningham's punt was blocked on possession No. 3, the Vols found themselves down 7-0.
Tennessee managed to overcome three false-start penalties on its first possession of the second quarter, going 80 yards in nine plays to tie the score at 7. The big plays were a 41-yard pass to Josh Briscoe and an 11-yard touchdown run by No. 2 tailback Montario Hardesty.
Tennessee appeared ready to take control of the game on its first possession of the second half, but Foster's fumble at the 6-yard line killed the march.
Forbath hit a 42-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the third quarter as UCLA inched within 14-10.
Gerald Jones put Tennessee in position to reclaim the lead early in the fourth quarter by returning a punt 33 yards to the UCLA 26-yard line. After an eight-yard sack and a five-yard delay penalty, however, the Vols punted the ball away.
Craft hit six of six passes for 71 yards on an 80-yard drive that put the Bruins up 17-14 with 6:51 remaining.
The Vols appeared doomed when Crompton was sacked at his own 25-yard line on third-and-eight but a facemask penalty saved the day. Crompton completed three short passes, then Hardesty roared 20 yards to put Tennessee on top 21-17 with 1:54 to go.
UCLA launched its second consecutive long scoring drive, however, going 70 yards in nine plays. Craft hit six of eight passes on the march, including a 3-yarder to tight end Ryan Moya for a TD that put the hosts ahead 24-21 with just 27 seconds remaining.
Brandon Warren returned the ensuing bloop kickoff to UT's 43-yard line. After an incompletion, Crompton hit Austin Rogers for 16 yards and Luke Stocker for 11 to the UCLA 30-yard line, setting up Lincoln's game-tying 47-yard field goal.
Tennessee's defense stopped UCLA cold on the first possession of overtime but Forbath's 42-yard field goal gave the Bruins a 27-24 lead.
Moments later, facing fourth and two at the UCLA 17-yard line, the Vols put the game in Lincoln's hands. His kick was pulled to the left, however, ending the evening.
"It wasn't a kick at the end of the game (that proved decisive)," Fulmer said. "Daniel Lincoln didn't lose this football game. I know our team doesn't believe that. We lost it offensively by not executing and taking care of the football. And, defensively, by giving up plays on third down that kept drives alive."
Crompton finished 19 of 42 for 189 yards with one interception. Foster had 96 yards on 13 carries, with Hardesty adding 66 yards on 12 rushes. Gerald Jones led the receivers with 40 yards on four catches.
Craft rallied from his horrendous start to finish 25 of 43 for 259 yards for the Bruins.
"We watched their quarterback on tape throw for nearly 4,000 yards in junior college, and knew he had ability," Fulmer said.
The Vols outgained UCLA 366 to 288 but converted just 5 of 17 third-down plays to the Bruins' 9 of 19. Tennessee also incurred nine penalties for 55 yards to UCLA's two for 25 yards.
"We had a chance to knock 'em out," Fulmer said. "We were our own worst enemy with the turnovers, the interception, the punt block. We made enough mistakes in this ball game to lose several ball games."
All in all, it was a sloppy opening performance for the 18th-ranked Vols. And that's how favored teams lose games they should win.