Cowboys KO punchless Vols

Given how horribly they played in Saturday's 13-7 homecoming loss to Wyoming, the Tennessee Vols probably should've gathered at midfield and apologized to their fans. Instead, they left that chore to Phillip Fulmer.

In the wake of a loss that ranks with the most humbling in program history, quarterback Jonathan Crompton said the Vols were hoping to vindicate their head coach, who was forced to resign last Monday.

"We wanted to prove that they (school brass) made the wrong decision," Crompton said.

Instead, the Vols proved that they may have the worst offense in major college football. They were outgained 266 to 219 in yards by a Wyoming attack that ranks dead last among the 119 NCAA Div. 1-A programs in scoring.

As putrid as his team's performance was, Fulmer said the players had no reason to apologize for it. He felt compelled to, however.

"They don't owe me any kind of apology," the outgoing head man said. "If anything, I should be apologizing to the fans and everybody for this whole week coming about."

The loss drops Tennessee's record to 3-7, ensuring the second losing season in Fulmer's 16-year tenure. It also ensures that the Vols won't be playing in a bowl game.

For the second week in a row Tennessee's offense not only failed to carry its weight but gave the opponent a pair of gift touchdowns.

The first came when defensive end Mike Neuhaus batted and intercepted a Nick Stephens pass, then returned it 55 yards to the Vol 4-yard line. Chris Stutzriem completed a quick toss to Greg Genho on Wyoming's first offensive snap, producing a 7-0 lead.

The second TD came when linebacker Ward Dobbs intercepted Stephens and rambled 24 yards to paydirt, padding the lead to 13-0 in the second quarter.

The Vols, who entered the game ranked No. 114 nationally in scoring at 17.0 points per game, mounted just one productive drive all day – an 11-play, 64 yard march on their first possession of the second half. Otherwise, their offense was downright putrid.

Even against a Wyoming defense that surrenders an average of 30 points per game, Tennessee managed just 118 passing yards, 101 rushing yards and one score.

Although first-team tailback Arian Foster missed the game due to a thigh bruise, backups Lennon Creer (16 carries, 82 yards) and Tauren Poole (11 carries, 44 yards) proved quite capable.

The same could not be said of the quarterback play.

Stephens, who had almost as many of his nine passes caught by Cowboys (2) as by Vols (3), was benched after his second pick.

"You get beat if you turn the ball over … (for) scores especially," Fulmer noted.

Although he conceded that his players may have been emotionally drained by his resignation, the head man noted "That shouldn't cause the ball to be intercepted."

Jonathan Crompton replaced Stephens and provided a mild spark, completing 11 of 27 passes for 91 yards. His eight-yard TD toss to Gerald Jones capped Tennessee's first possession of the third quarter. Crompton could generate very little thereafter, however.

"Our quarterback play has been less than what we would like to have," Fulmer said. "I did think Jonathan came in there, threw it around and competed."

Although the Vol offense was horrendous, the defense deserved a share of the blame. It enabled a Cowboys team that has virtually no passing attack to convert on 9 of 17 third-down plays, pile up 167 rushing yards and keep the ball 31:03 to Tennessee's 28:46.

"They ran the ball on us better than I thought they would," Fulmer conceded. "Overall, though, I thought our defense played well enough to win the game. Offensively, we just didn't get it done … again."


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