It was the first game I could remember that really didn’t mean anything at all. Thoughts of the Rose Bowl and the National Championship had been chucked out the window long ago, and with the ugly loss to Vanderbilt the prior week, the 2005 Tennessee Volunteers had lost any chance at post-season play.
With one game remaining, the sole remaining goal was to avoid taking up residency in the cold, damp cellar of the SEC East usually reserved for Vanderbilt or Kentucky.
The Vols had lost to the Gators. Lost to the Bulldogs. Lost to South Carolina. Lost to Vanderbilt.
Only Kentucky remained, and horror of horrors, its offense appeared to be twice as efficient as the Vols’.
NOTE: A larger version can be found on the Animated Drive Charts page.
Quarterback Erik Ainge got the start and played the entire game going 17 of 25 for 221 yards and two long touchdown passes. On UT’s first drive, Ainge’s fifth consecutive completion resulted in a 50-yard TD pass to Robert Meachem.
On Tennessee’s first drive of the second quarter, Ainge hit another: a 32-yard pass to receiver Chris Hannon for a touchdown. All in all, Ainge had a decent, but not spectacular, game. He did not throw an interception, but he did lose two fumbles, and he gave up a safety when called for intentional grounding while attempting a pass from the end zone to avoid a sack.
Arian Foster also had a good game, better even than his 114 net yards on 26 carries would indicate. On UT’s second possession, Foster’s 55-yard dash to the end zone was nullified by a motion penalty. Later, a screen pass to Foster, which he took 78 yards to the end zone was reduced to a net gain of 39 yards due to a holding penalty.
The defense contributed three interceptions, one for a touchdown by Justin Harrell.
And that was it. It was all over but the shouting by Thanksgiving weekend. All that was left to do was to further sift the coaching staff, send an apology letter to fans, and say “wait until next year.”
As the Knoxville News-Sentinel put it, it was the End of an Error.