Bombs away

Given the success UCLA had crowding the line of scrimmage and daring Tennessee to throw deep, it's a safe bet UAB will try the same strategy in the Vols' home opener Saturday at 12:30 in Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee took several shots downfield vs. UCLA but completed only one of them en route to a 27-24 overtime loss. Unless the Vols hit a couple of deep balls early against UAB, they may face the same kind of crowded box they saw from the Bruins.

"If people do as they did – lock up and try to play man-to-man – you need to make 'em pay," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "One or two of those deep balls would've made a tremendous difference in the ball game. We've GOT to make those plays."

Tennessee came close several times vs. UCLA but came away with just one connection.

Lucas Taylor slipped behind UCLA's defense on the second play of the game but Jonathan Crompton overthrew him.

Crompton connected with Josh Briscoe for a 41-yard gain to set up a second-quarter touchdown but the big-play fireworks began and ended with that play.

The Vol quarterback made a great throw on a second-half bomb but Austin Rogers couldn't reel it in. Crompton uncorked another dandy deep ball that Briscoe caught out of bounds.

Tennessee wanted to go long on several more occasions but the line didn't give Crompton enough protection. Far too often he had to unload as the Bruins were belting him to the ground.

"I thought they did a nice job rushing the passer," first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. "A lot of those throws got disrupted earlier than we would have liked."

Had Tennessee connected on one or two more of those deep balls, UCLA might have quit crowding the line of scrimmage. That would've opened up the run game and the short passing game a bit more.

"They were playing a lot of press-man coverage on us," Clawson recalled. "They were getting up in our face there and playing it with an eight- and nine-man box.

"We took some shots to try to back them off (and) I think if you hit one of them it gets them out of it and opens up the short passing game. That certainly was one of the disappointments. I thought we had some guys open deep."

Crompton wound up with just 19 completions in 41 attempts for 189 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers weren't entirely his fault, however. In addition to erratic pass protection from his line, his wideouts weren't always precise in their route-running or sure-handed in their receiving.

"The reason throwing the ball efficiently is a challenge is you've got to be able to do three things," Clawson said. "You've got to be able to protect first. You've got to be able to get open second and then the ball has to be thrown accurately."

Basically, the Vol passing attack broke down in all three areas. The result was more incompletions (22) than completions (19).

"Some of that was protection," Fulmer said. "Some of that was route-running and some of that was the quarterback."

Clawson expressed the same sentiment in different words.

"Could we have protected better? Yeah," he said. "Could Jonathan have thrown the ball a little bit more accurately at times? Yes. Could the receivers have gotten better separation? You take any of those things at any one point (and) it's all true."

The coordinator accepted a share of the blame, as well, noting that he probably should've called for more rollouts, even though Crompton was nursing a sore ankle.

"We all share in success and failure," Clawson said. "Could I have done some things to move the pocket? I probably should have done a little bit more of that.... Certainly looking back at the amount of hits that Jonathan took in the five-step (drop) game, maybe we should have done a little bit more."

Although UCLA used a lot of stunts and blitzes to try and confuse the Vols, Clawson believes the main problem for Tennessee's offensive lineman was physical, not mental.

"At times," he said, "we just didn't win some individual matchups."

Ultimately, UCLA challenged Tennessee to win the game throwing the football and the Vols weren't up to the task.

"Being efficient in the passing game is one of the hardest things on offense to get good at," Clawson said. "I'm hoping that, by repping these plays over and over, that's only going to get better."

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