Better Late Than Never

Tennessee's offense wasn't in position to redeem itself for a sad season in a single game against Kentucky but it did demonstrate that designer, Dave Clawson, didn't lack for imagination instead he had too much ambition and too few playmakers.

Clawson just didn't have the time needed to implement an intricate offense with a new nomenclature. He wasn't able to stretch the field vertically to force safeties to play pass first. The quarterbacks didn't appear ideally suited for the system and none were experienced, but all were capable of productivity if the other support elements were functioning properly. They weren't — receivers couldn't consistently beat press coverage, the O-line didn't provide good protection and the running game would frequently disappear.

Turnovers, penalties, forced passes, dropped passes, poor passes, blow assignments and miscommunication were the seeds of Tennessee's destruction. The system had a steep learning curve causing uncertainty which undermined confidence and contributed to the system's failure.

However it had it's moments against Kentucky. There was better timing than previously seen particularly in the running game. The team played a tighter game by playing more loose. Jonathan Crompton finally looked healthy as he showed on a couple of first down dashes and his pass to Denarius Moore was his best of the season. The G-Gun produced a 52-yard touchdown and Eric the Great was Berry good. Whether it was the light finally coming on or just a last gasp effort is not clear and never will be.

It's tempting to think it would have worked next season or that a few plays this season would have provided that opportunity. But the magnitude of miscalculation called for heads to roll and changes to be made. Phillip Fulmer cleaned house on the offensive staff after the 2005 season and he understands that is the nature of the beast. The fact he chose Clawson over some more established candidates was a risk he willing embraced while fully aware of the consequences.

Soon the Vols will see the experiment demolished and the third new offensive coordinator with the third different system in as many years going up in its place.

The epitaph of the 2008 offense will read: "We shot ourselves in the foot."

Here are the top to bottom grades for the season finale vs. Kentucky.

QUARTERBACKS (93) This is the highest grade the QBs received this season and why not? They accounted for three of Tennessee's four touchdowns with Gerald Jones scoring on a 2-yard run that he set up by a 55-yard gallop. Crompton got a touchdown on a fourth down sneak on the last play of the first quarter and then hit Moore for a touchdown on the third play of the second half. He ended up connecting on 6 of 8 for 101 yards. Besides Jones and Crompton, Eric Berry added 26 yards to the Vols rushing total giving UT's QBs a grand total of 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries. That's a total of 211 total yards in 24 plays. The rest of the Vols produced 100 yards in 37 plays. There were also no turnovers.

LINEBACKERS (90) Tennessee's top three tacklers were linebackers Ellix Wilson (9), Rico McCoy (8) and Nevin McKenzie (7) including a sack. Nick Reviez added a couple of solo stops as well.

DEFENSIVE LINE (88) An excellent game from the defensive line which helped hold Kentucky to under 100 yards rushing in 37 carries. The Cats longest run was just 16 yards. Robert Ayers and Demonte Bolden had six and five tackles respectively.

SECONDARY (87) No interceptions which is rare for the Vols secondary. Berry continues to hit like a linebacker and cover like a corner. He had five stops including two behind the line of scrimmage. McKenzie had a 12-yard sack another tackle for a five-yard loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS (85) KIckoffs were short but Britton Colquitt averaged 44 yards on four punts forcing Kentucky to go the long way. A missed field goal cost the Vols a chance to tie the score in the first half.

RUNNING BACKS (82) The Vols running game was the difference in this contest. Arian Foster closed out his career with 59 hard earned rushing yards in 21 carries while Lennon Creer had 24 yards in six carries with a touchdown and Montario Hardesty gained 19 net in eight carries.

OFFENSIVE LINE (79) The O-line allowed too much penetration against a UK defense that was average at best. Two more sacks bringing their season total to 25 sacks for a loss of 170 yards. Last year the line gave up only five sacks in 14 games.

RECEIVERS (77) There wasn't a lot to see here since the Vols only threw eight passes the entire game. Moore's TD catch did, however, provided the winning points.

OVERALL (85) The degree of difficulty in this game and Vanderbilt wasn't as great as it was against Alabama and Florida, but the way the Vols controlled both the Dores and Cats it makes you wonder how they lost to Wyoming.


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