Balancing act

News flash: Tennessee can throw the football successfully ... sometimes.

With Ohio University overplaying the run, Vol quarterback Jonathan Crompton completed 15 of 28 passes for 173 yards in the first half of Saturday night's game at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols planned to continue filling the air with footballs until the second play of the fourth quarter. Crompton was sacked and stripped of the ball, which was returned 46 yards for an apparent Bobcat touchdown. Although the lost fumble was overturned on review, the play put such a scare into UT head man Lane Kiffin that he allowed Crompton to throw just two more passes the rest of the game.

So, after throwing 28 first-half passes, the Vols tried just six second-half passes. Their head coach would like to be more balanced but simply feels he lacks that luxury at this time.

"It's very frustrating," Kiffin said. "You'd love it to be like the first drive."

The first drive saw Crompton complete 3 of 6 passes for 51 yards in a nine-play, 69-yard touchdown march. A fourth pass would've been complete if not for a drop by tight end Luke Stocker.

"That dictated why we kept throwing the ball," Kiffin said. "He (Crompton) threw the ball very well on the first drive, and the passing game was moving. That's why we had 16 pass attempts in the first quarter, compared to one the week before (at Florida). That was a product of us doing well at that point."

Still, the passing game was horribly erratic. Crompton threw an interception on possession No. 2. Brandon Warren dropped a pass on possession No. 3 and Crompton overthrew Marsalis Teague on the same possession. Bryce Brown dropped a pass on possession No. 4.

"When you start adding up drops - Bryce's wheel route that was a drop and Brandon's comeback that was a drop - those things add up," Kiffin said. "There's 40 more yards there on two plays."

In spite of three drops in the first quarter, the head man kept calling pass plays in the second quarter. Crompton completed 6 of 12 attempts for 71 yards, and had a 20-yarder dropped by Teague.

Once Ohio U closed to 24-20 late in the third quarter, however, Kiffin basically turned the game over to his ground attack and defense.

"When you're a play-caller as a coordinator, it's almost impossible to put the team first because you're locked in," he said. "You're not even watching what's going on on defense. (You're thinking) 'How can we move the ball?' instead of 'How can we best win the game?'

"As a head coach, it's different. I've seen myself become different as a play-caller at Oakland and Tennessee. When you start turning the ball over or your quarterback's not playing well, instead of trying to throw them through that - which some coordinators do - I go back the other way. I think, 'What's the best way to win the game?'"

Kiffin would love to "win the game" a few times this year by having the Vols throw the ball as efficiently as they run it.

"Hopefully," he said, "there will be a game coming up here where we can keep moving it through the air, and we can change up with some runs at times."


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