Peach: No day at the beach

Just when consecutive victories over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky raised the hopes of UT's football faithful, Tuesday night's 30-3 Peach Bowl loss to Maryland came along and dashed them.

This wasn't a defeat; it was a debacle. The Vols didn't go down; they laid down. This wasn't an embarrassment; this was a nationally televised humiliation.

The 27-point margin was the worst bowl loss ever for the Big Orange. The previous low-water mark was a 25-0 spanking by Southern Cal in the 1945 Rose Bowl.

The tone for the evening was set on the game's opening scrimmage play, when UT missed a block that resulted in a nine-yard sack of Casey Clausen. It was the first of six times the Vol QB would be sacked on the evening.

After a three-and-out by UT, Maryland marched 67 yards in 13 plays, aided by back-to-back penalties on Vol defenders for roughing the passer and personal foul. These moved the ball from the UT 23-yard line to the 5. Four plays later, Terp QB Scott McBrien's one-yard naked bootleg made it 7-0.

A 10-yard holding penalty on third-and-one short-circuited UT's next possession, then Clausen overthrew a screen pass that was intercepted by Maryland defensive back Curome Cox and returned 54 yards for a TD that widened the gap to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Tennessee closed to 14-3 on a 38-yard Alex Walls field goal but Maryland responded with a field goal of its own to go up 17-3. Tennessee moved into scoring position late in the half but Walls misfired from 41 yards just before the break.

Incredibly, Maryland had just 107 yards of total offense at the break, yet led 17-3.

The Terrapins got another field goal midway through the third quarter, then added the clinching touchdown early in the fourth. McBrien did the honors, scoring on a six-yard option keeper to pad the lead to 27-3 with 12:55 remaining.

Most Vol fans were in their cars headed for home by the time Maryland's Steve Suter returned a punt 79 yards, setting up Nick Novak's third field goal of the game.

Essentially, Maryland won by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

"It's been a long time since we've been physically whipped," Clausen conceded.

The only time UT threatened to make a game of it came when safety Mark Jones recovered a third-quarter Maryland fumble and returned it 18 yards to the Terp 41. But Derrick Tinsley eventually fumbled at the 7 and Maryland recovered. The Terps then drove for a field goal. Thus, Tinsley's fumble resulted in a 10-point swing. Instead of trailing 17-10, UT trailed 20-3.

McBrien completed 11 of 19 passes for a mere 120 yards but he added 36 rushing yards and scored two of Maryland's touchdowns.

Clausen finished 23 of 37 passing for 242 yards but had several catchable balls dropped. He also got little help from the ground game, which managed just 45 net yards on 27 rushes.

The only bright spot for UT was the play of receiver C.J. Fayton. After catching just six passes in 12 regular-season games, Fayton caught five passes for 68 yards.

UT's 8-5 finish is the program's worst since the 1988 Vols went 5-6.


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