No matter how you put it, Tennessee must get improved play by its quarterback if the Volunteers are going to be successful this season.
I wasn't here last year to witness the meltdown, neither was Coach Lane Kiffin or any of the coaching staff.
The common denominator here is senior signal caller Jonathan Crompton.
I had been told prior to today's game that Crompton had the reputation to be a great practice player but cracked or crumbled under pressure in big games. Lack of success at the quarterback position and the offense in general last season led to the 5-7 record.
Crompton threw five touchdown passes last week against Western Kentucky he almost matched that total today in interceptions, looking more like last year's quarterback than last weeks.
Kiffin did his best to shield Crompton from criticism and blame after the 19-15 loss to UCLA, but it obvious that something different has to happen offensively for the Volunteers to be successful in SEC play.
While this was a decent UCLA team, most likely they wouldn't finish higher than fifth or sixth in the toughest conference in the country.
Crompton overthrew a wide open Gerald Jones for one interception, he telegraphed another one. He ended the game 13-26-3 interceptions. Another interception was overturned due to an UCLA penalty.
When Kiffin was asked about the possibility of pulling Crompton, the first year UT coach had this to say.
"No. I thought I didn't do a very good job today of taking care of Jonathan," Kiffin said. "I tried to stay with the run game a lot of times as you can see with the lopsided ratio of run-to-pass. I think we ran the ball 44 times or something. We've got to do better."
Crompton had a swagger and a confidence last week, he had that old look of last year (according to several fans and reporters) after he lost the composure he showed last week. He never got into a positive groove during the game.
"Like the coaches said, we really didn't get into our groove on offense," Crompton said. Obviously when you don't, then this is the outcome. The good news is that we were still in the game in the end. We had four turnovers and still came up one yard short."
Crompton had the defense to thanks for still being in the game at the end. Even after a safety and the ball in Crompton's hand to win the game in the end, that's when he could have redeemed himself, leading his team to a come from behind victory.
He mis-fired three out of four attempts and actually threw another interception that was called back due to a UCLA miscue.
In Crompton's defense, Kiffin added that having two new receivers in the rotation that hadn't seen a lot of practice due to injury could have been one reason for the off timing between the senior quarterback and his receivers.
The Volunteers had several chances to win the game; Crompton must show confidence in himself in those situations. He must earn the confidence from his teammates that he is going to make the plays to win the ballgame in big game situations.
He didn't do that in today's game, hopefully he will learn from this game, and bounce back next week with the best game of his career against Florida.
This team needs him, this fan base needs him and he must improve if this season is going to be a successful one. You want your quarterback to beg to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game and with confidence in him that he will do great things with it.
I for one want to see a winning record and a bowl game, this team still can accomplish that, especially with improved play at the signal caller position.