No dream season

He spent his teenage years dreaming of quarterbacking the Tennessee Volunteers before packed crowds at Neyland Stadium. So far, the reality isn't matching the dream.

Making his fourth career start, Jonathan Crompton heard some boos in the second quarter of Saturday's 30-6 loss to Florida after throwing two interceptions on one drive. The first pick was nullified because the Gators had 12 men on the field. The second came six plays later on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. About to be sacked, he threw an off-balance pass that was intercepted mere seconds before the teams went to halftime with Florida leading 20-0.

"It was fourth down," he explained. "You've got to do what you've got to do."

As for the fans who booed, Crompton shrugged them off, as well.

"You don't pay attention to them," he said. "We play for our football family, and that's each other. We know what we're capable of as an offense. I know what our defense is capable of. That's who we care about the most."

Crompton completed 18 of 28 passes for 162 yards against Florida but – rightly or wrongly – was blamed for two turnovers that killed Tennessee's chances of winning. The first was a fumble that occurred when his right hand collided with fullback Kevin Cooper's left elbow on a second-and-goal at the Florida 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Whether Crompton did a poor job of shielding the ball or Cooper veered inside his lane as the lead blocker is unclear.

"Actually, I don't know exactly what happened," Crompton said, adding: "It was a bang-bang play and, obviously, we came out on the wrong end of it."

Crompton also heard a few boos one week earlier, when Tennessee's offense managed just 14 first-half points against a UAB defense ranked dead last among 119 NCAA Div. 1-A programs.

The Vols' head coach wishes Vol fans would show a little more patience with Crompton, a junior who scarcely left the bench in 2007.

"Jon's doing some really, really nice things. He's a young quarterback and he's got to continue to improve," Phillip Fulmer noted. "Jon's a competitor, and he made some really nice plays today but he also missed some opportunities. That's something that has to get better. As coaches, we've got to do the things he can do and do them well."

With Tennessee trailing 30-6 midway through the final quarter, many observers figured Fulmer would pull Crompton and give backup quarterbacks Nick Stephens and/or B. J. Coleman a chance to get some experience. Fulmer elected not to do so.

"I wasn't interested in getting a turnover or something," the head man said, "and it (score) be worse."

In addition to Crompton's 162 passing yards, Tennessee ran the ball 31 times for 96 yards. That isn't a great total but it's a significant improvement over UT's rushing totals vs. Florida in 2006 (-11 yards) and 2007 (37 yards).

"I thought we had some success offensively," Fulmer said. "We just shot ourselves in the foot. If we go into halftime with 14 points – because we're right down there (at the goal line) – it's a heck of a ball game."

Crompton expressed the same sentiment using the same metaphor.

"A lot of times we were clicking," he said. "We moved the ball but a lot of times we stopped ourselves. That's what we're doing: We're shooting ourselves in the foot, especially down there where we need points."

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