Still high off their big win in Baton Rouge, the Volunteer football team got back to Knoxville at some ungodly hour Tuesday morning. Rocky Top was buzzing about Rick Clausen’s come-off-the-bench, come-from-way-behind victory against his former team, and there was no question that he was the quarterback and the undisputed leader of the team. In the midst of all of this attention, Clausen let it slip that he had had fleeting notions about packing up and leaving town the previous week when the coaches had named Erik Ainge the starter after Clausen had basically outperformed him. He added that he had quickly dismissed the thought, as he felt he owed it to his teammates to play his role, whatever that might be. Fans and the media didn’t dwell for too long on this line of questioning, as Clausen was currently king of The Hill, but it would come back to haunt him later.
The talk of the town all week was where the LSU game ranked as one the team’s all-time best games and whether there was life after Death Valley for Erik Ainge. There was almost no talk about the team’s next opponent, the Ole Miss Rebels. The situation was ripe for a let down.
There was, however, no let down. Look at all of those wonderful solid orange lines. Fifty-six yard drive for a touchdown. Fifty-three yard drive for a . . . missed field goal. Oops. Forty-six yard drive for a field goal. Twenty plus yard drive for a . . . blocked field goal. Oops again. Add to the picture an interception for a Volunteer touchdown, and things were looking pretty good. Britton Colquitt didn’t even punt until the last Tennessee drive of the first half.
The second half was more of the same. Colquitt opened the second half with his second and last punt of the afternoon. After that, the Vols drove the field pretty well. Ole Miss didn’t seem to have as much trouble driving down the field as they did in the first half, but they did give up a fumble that led to a Tennessee touchdown and cap off a 95-yard drive by throwing an interception to Corey Campbell in the endzone. In the end, the Vols had 172 yards rushing (127 from Gerald Riggs) and 206 yards passing. Ten different players caught passes, including six receivers, three running backs, and one tight end.
All that said, the game seemed to some . . . well, boring. Blogger John Pennington didn’t get around to posting his post-game “blahg” for two days, and I must have been similarly induced into a state of stupor, as I didn’t post anything about the game. For all of the efficiency displayed by the team, there was a distinct absence of big plays. The longest play of the day was a 25-yard reception by running back Arian Foster. The team was efficient, but the fans were bored.
Over the course of the next four games, however, bored would be looking pretty good. Georgia Bulldogs up next.