Adams: A bad day could've been much worse

ATHENS, Ga. - Tennessee dropped to new depths under coach Phillip Fulmer, and it showed slight improvement on the same afternoon. What does that tell you about this season?

The Vols fell to 2-4 for the first time in Fulmer's 16 seasons as head coach. They eliminated themselves from the SEC East race in a 26-14 loss at Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon (Don't bother raising the mathematical possibilities; you can't lose to Georgia and Florida and win the East).

But on a day of losses, UT gained something, too. It didn't turn the ball over offensively, and it hung in a game that it had no business being in.

By this team's standards, that's significant progress.

Georgia held the Vols to 1 yard rushing. It had 19 more first downs and more than doubled UT's yardage.

Yet, just when you thought a blowout was brewing, the Vols made a play that prolonged the suspense of a game that Georgia led 13-0 and 20-7.

Georgia had a hand in UT's survival. Quarterback Matthew Stafford tainted a career game of 310 yards passing by throwing two interceptions when Georgia was inside the UT 15.

Wide receiver A.J. Green cost the Bulldogs a touchdown with a dropped pass in the end zone. And the Bulldogs repeatedly had to settle for field goals, which freshman Blair Walsh executed perfectly, hitting from 34, 20, 41 and 28 yards.

Georgia mistakes withstanding, UT's defense inside the 20 was commendable, especially since it was beaten so decisively for much of the game.

Its game-long struggle against the Bulldogs proved that its No. 5 national ranking in total defense obviously had as much to do with the opposition as UT's effectiveness.

Confronted with an opponent that could run and pass as effectively as Georgia, the Vols were on their heels from the outset. Moreover, they looked as clueless in Georgia's 97-yard touchdown drive to end the first half as they did in UCLA's two second-half touchdown drives.

In preseason, I regarded UT's secondary as solid even without star strong safety Eric Berry. I was wrong.

Berry had another All-SEC afternoon, making seven tackles and returning an interception 54 yards to set a scoring drive in motion. But Georgia receivers got the best of UT's secondary time after time.

They often weren't just open. They were wide open.

You could blame the front end of UT's pass defense as well. Forget the zero sacks. The Vols weren't credited with so much as a "quarterback hurry."

On a day when the defense lost ground, UT's usually dormant offense at least deserved polite applause. There were no fumbles and no interceptions, a significant step for a group that seemed bent on self-destruction during the first month of the season.

Clearly, UT has a better chance of not losing a game when it has Nick Stephens at quarterback and somebody other than Arian Foster at tailback. Foster's fumbles simply are too costly for an offense with such a slim margin for error.

In his second start, Stephens handled himself well against a formidable defense in a hostile environment. Although he completed only 13 of 30 passes, he threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns in his first start on the road and first start in the SEC.

Stephens plays with more poise and has greater field awareness than his predecessor, Jonathan Crompton. And if you're looking for something less subtle, he's also a more accurate passer.

Unfortunately for the Vols, Stephens' virtues went undetected by UT's brain trust until the season already had swerved terribly off course.

The Vols can't win the East. They can alter the course of their season.

But if they hope to turn a losing season into a winning one, they can't dwell on lost goals. They have to set new ones.

Mississippi State next Saturday now qualifies as a big game. And the Liberty Bowl qualifies as a rewarding postseason experience.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 53

VWCJR writes:

For Heaven's sake people, the problems are quite simple:

1. Lack of discipline;

2. A nauseatingly cavernous gap in talent with Top 20 teams caused by no less than 7 years of weak recruiting (Yes, weak recruiting! All the people who say "Fulmer sure can recruit" must care more about what Rivals.com says than the Florida, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Alabama scoreboards.)

3. Lack of team/player leaders (see 1 and 2)

I have been a Fulmer defender for 15 of his 17 years but I cannot defend him or anyone on his staff any longer (Sorry Chief) because the only way to correct the problems is to sweep the program clean. (See Bruce Pearl for reference. Remember? Pearl came here and started kicking players off the team immediately because he had a vision.)

Fulmer no longer runs the Football Program. It runs him. His successor list should be very short as we cannot afford to experiment with OC's/DC's or coaches who have a "good year". We need a program builder, nothing less:

1. Bob Stoopes;
2. Butch Davis;
3. Mack Brown;
4. Frank Beamer.

Fulmer's buyout is $5.8 million. If we need a bridge coach to get us through a couple of years until we can pay him what he has earned and pay a one of the coaches above enough to lure him away; I suggest Cutcliff for help in discipline or Tommy Bowden for a recruiting name. Neither of these guys should have more than a two year K loaded with incentives. If the program clicks, great. If not, we go after the Men of the Game.

God bless the team, players and coaches. It's strictly business. UT Football is the only real Football interest in the State. Ask yourself as a fan, what would you rather have? Three Titan Superbowl Rings or another UT National Championship? Thanks. I've said enough.

CRFVols writes:

If we had had Stephens at quarterback we might have one SEC win in the game against Auburn...all we needed was a field goal and Crompton couldn't get us that far...I bet Stephens could have....but of course our staff can't judge talent to save their lives.

raynochonspeed#212632 writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Blaming this loss on the refs would be like blaming the financial crisis on global warming - no relation whatsoever.

TommyJack writes:

Yeah, but for the bad officiating we would have won it. Good grief. One yard net rushing should win most games.

Pullingguard writes:

Vols cannot take the best 5 defensive backs in the nation and play decently... Why? Because the defensvive backfield coach is a joke... Fulmer should have fired him last year but he lets Chavis control the situation and now Fulmer probably has lost his job... The staff at present is not getting it done and the offense just stinks, so who do you blame for that... Is is talent, coaching, bad plan, or a combination of all... Probably all that and more... I have been a long time fan,, but the time has probably come for a house cleaning...And don't get no fill in coach... Go after the best...

Colliervol writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"UT stepped it up ." What???

Evidently you were watching some game in an alternate universe.

Colliervol writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sorry, my friend, but they don't give points for close. (And it really wasn't that close.) Just another "L" as far as I'm concerned. Continue to make excuses if you like. I won't do it any longer.

FedUpVolFan writes:

This is a suck a** team that should have been down 28-0 at halftime.
The rest of the season will be a nightmare!
Sad!

30233vol writes:

Pathetic! Fulmer and his entire staff must go!!!!!!!!!!! I wonder who he will point the finger at and blame for this loss? He has really become a joke around the country. On ESPN gameday today, in Dallas, just over Chris Fowlers shoulder was a sign mocking Fulmer and today at the game in Athens, GA he was being called "Otis Campbell" by the UGA fans! The University of Tennessee deserves much better!

TommyJack writes:

Stoops is a lifer. Brown is a lifer. Davis probably not interested. Beamer is 112 years old.

eduardo writes:

Hey Don in Sheepwater when did you move to Florida? Officiating had nothing to do with the course of the game. What had the most detriment to the game was the fact the great pumpkin was on the sidelines. Coacho Oacho must go!

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Vols cannot take the best 5 defensive backs in the nation and play decently... Why? Because the defensvive backfield coach is a joke... Fulmer should have fired him last year but he lets Chavis control the situation and now Fulmer probably has lost his job... The staff at present is not getting it done and the offense just stinks, so who do you blame for that... Is is talent, coaching, bad plan, or a combination of all... Probably all that and more... I have been a long time fan,, but the time has probably come for a house cleaning...And don't get no fill in coach... Go after the best...

Wow, the 5 best defensive backs in the nation---didn't know that

slade and chavis both need to be gone and take the OL coach with them

arkyvol writes:

with stephens at q.b., the u.c.l.a. and auburn losses don't happen. yep. that's quite a 'brain trust.'

FedUpVolFan writes:

Texas overcame 11 points handed to the Sooners by the refs.
Thats what champions do!!!!!!!
Please stop whining about the officiating.
This team sucks!

FedUpVolFan writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What game were you watching???
5 or 6 guys buster their a*ss.The rest like Foster looked like they were in slow motion and had no clue!
Give me a break!

newtonrail writes:

Les Miles for Head Coach.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

With all due respect, the officiating in Athens did not alter the outcome of this game.

The flag against Morley for the hit near the end of the first half was a terrible call, but we made that TD possible when McKenzie continued to tackle the GA receiver when he was already out of bounds.

Officials aren't our problem. We have no discipline--and for several seasons our bonehead penalties have killed us.

We would have lost today's game if it had been played in Neyland.

CoverOrange writes:

The secondary is good, nothing gets behind them. Most teams know to attack our LBs across the middle trying to keep up as their WRs run through the LB's zone of coverage.

Georgia doesn't score the TD before half if they get the PF on Morely right and I bet Willingham doesn't pull the bonehead PF right after that. Refs did affect the game.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

The secondary is good, nothing gets behind them. Most teams know to attack our LBs across the middle trying to keep up as their WRs run through the LB's zone of coverage.

Georgia doesn't score the TD before half if they get the PF on Morely right and I bet Willingham doesn't pull the bonehead PF right after that. Refs did affect the game.

Our secondary may not let anyone get behind them, but they sure play soft coverage 8 yards off the line of scrimmage for a crew dubbed "UT's best" by the coaches.

Willingham's play was dumb. Without that, UGa likely plays for the field goal instead of the TD. Are you going to blame the refs for Colquitt's late hit?

Look, we've been doing this phooey for years. Parys Haralson and Kevin Burnett were notorious for late hits on the QB and/or out-of-bound that kept drives going. Plenty other guys have done it, too.

These problems are mental mistakes, and that all points back to coaching.

mlbrown5454 writes:

Willingham played like an idiot all day.

Open TD.
Personal foul.
Moreno knocked him on his A@@.

Maybe the Moreno hit is what messed him up.
Someone needs to teach these kids not to tackle with their helmets. Hard to tackle when you can't see where you are going.

graphpro#231211 writes:

Tennessee football is at the level of Vandy in the 90's
How can we let this continue..... We need to boycott the rest of the season....
The buyout should come out of Hamiltons personal paycheck.

30233vol writes:

in response to graphpro#231211:

Tennessee football is at the level of Vandy in the 90's
How can we let this continue..... We need to boycott the rest of the season....
The buyout should come out of Hamiltons personal paycheck.

Graphpro my tickets will go unused for the rest of the season! I will not make another trip back to Knoxville as long as Foolmer is coach! Let the boycott begin!

Hudro writes:

in response to newtonrail:

Les Miles for Head Coach.

look at what Trooper Taylor is doing as OC at Okla State.
They are scoring in bunches and we let him go. To boot he was probably the best recruiter we've had since Rodney Garner. Why Foster was on the field at the end is very puzzling. Since the game was out of reach why didn't they play some of the young guys like T. Poole? I don't understand why freshman are playing all over the league but we seem to be stuck with a senority system.

highVOLtage writes:

UT won't make it to a bowl game this season.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

East does it...VOLS are lucky they did not lose by 45 points to a team that was rated best in the nation in pre-season ratings...The Vols up against a far superior team fought a gallant fight...a tradition of the Volunteers.

murrayvol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Stoops is a lifer. Brown is a lifer. Davis probably not interested. Beamer is 112 years old.

Actually Beamer's my age. Damn, he is old.

snowvol writes:

in response to VolnFlorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UT stepped it up? Are you kidding me? Did you read today's box score or were you confusing it with last year's?

And your blaming the refs? UT got 10 penalties for 97 yards, UGA got 11 for 76. What else, in your view, conspired to send the Vols to defeat? Were too many fans wearing red...surely everyone knows the Vols don't like playing in front of crowds wearing red because the color hurts their eyes. Was it too sunny? Too cloudy? Did the weather suck, too?

Honestly, some of you folks desperately need to take off the orange-colored glasses and see this team and program for what it is: 2-4. They are 2-4, but I'm sure some - maybe you - at one point or another today said out loud, "hey, we're just 41 points away from being undefeated."

TheVolMan writes:

Where are the anti-Adams Weenies? I mean, John caused this defeat didn't he, with his "negative" articles? I can't hear you? Oh, perhaps you DON'T think Fulmer will "turn it around?"

Well, put your heads back in your holes. Our players deserve better coaching. The fans deserve it to.

MrBamSeydu writes:

John Adams owns Phil Fulmer and his staff. That's all there is to it.

He's been right all along and now EVERYONE who said otherwise and wanted him fired is eating freshly baked crow!!!!

hglover40#234154 writes:

What kind of idiot thinks any of these coaches would leave where they are -
1. Bob Stoopes;
2. Butch Davis;
3. Mack Brown;
4. Frank Beamer.

Maybe only Butch Davis.

I agree with whoever said - "Fulmer either plays favorites or can't judge talent during practice." Remember last year it took him 5 games to let someone besides Hefney return kickoffs or punts.
We do have great talent in the secondary, but their coach, who I understand is a fine man, must be none to smart. How else do you explain people being that wide-open. And not just this one game!

I say turn it over to Clawson NOW; as in Monday morning.
Let Clawson be intern HC until the end of this year.
We'll never know what Clawson can do unless Fulmer gets out of the way. I don't think Clawson was even given enough authority to decide who starts on offense!
I think Clawson and the guys he brought in are great recruiters too. Let him have a chance for the rest of this year anyway.

Adams was still wrong to call for Fulmer to be fired after the season last year; Fulmer did turn last season around on the field and to call for his job because of a few off field incidents was BS. I say judge the coach by what happens on the field - and I say - FULMER needs to go!!!
Chavis too!!!

Volgrad777 writes:

VWCJR---Youre off your rocker man. Stoops , maybe worth a shot but realistically a 10percent chance he would leave and it would be a massive paycheck to make it happen. Mac Brown--- A joke , not leaving Texas , never would. Makes as much money now as he needs and has already built a program. Frank Beamer--Same story not leaving Tech for here , thats what you dont understand and ill say it again to force feed it on you. WE HAVE SLIPPED TO MEDIOCRITY. These coaches with exception of Butch Davis , see UT at best as a lateral move. Their programs are all better than ours at this point. Theyre not going to leave that. You have to realize the job isnt quite what it once was or what we think it is in college football anymore. Butch Davis-- A possible choice although i disagree with everything you say. We dont need an older coach who is set it ways and could possible bolt for the next best job. To get this done its gonna take NEW, Young, blood with fire. Cutcliff is another bad idea. Ok here disiplines well but we need to get as far away from this current staff as possible. That means no ties whatsoever. My vote of course. Will Muschamp

ezvolfaninga writes:

I now agree it is time for Fulmer to go ,but give him the rest of the season,he deserves that. Do not promote anyone from this staff, we need to start fresh.If the fans stop feeling up the stadium that will be all they need to make a change.This will be the biggest decision for the AD, maybe he can pull off another Pearl. Go Vols keep your heads up and finish the season with pride.

pms151 writes:

For those who have historically ranted against JA. Give him an atta boy this time. He is on target.

johnlg00 writes:

The situation near the end of the first half, with GA 3d-&-8 on their own 5-yd line, just after we had scored and GA had mishandled the kickoff, crystallized the last seven years or so of this program for me. If there was ever a decisive time to bring the house on the pass rush and press the receivers man-to-man, THAT WAS IT!!! There are a dozen ways we could have scored in that situation or at least held them without a first down and made them punt, for one of the few times all day, from their own end-zone. There were only three ways they could have made the play they needed. In the interest of brevity, I won't list them all, but any knowledgeable fan should know them, not to mention the TV commentators, everyone in the stadium, and everyone watching on TV. So what did we do? THE SAME DARNED THING WE ALWAYS DO--WE WIMPED OUT!!! Gave a half-hearted rush by the four DL's and put all the DB's BEHIND the 1st-down line and let Stafford coolly survey the field until he found the (inevitable) open man for the easy pass completion. At that moment, I KNEW we had lost the game because the coaches LOST THEIR NERVE!!! The ONE time in the game we had a real chance to turn it around by MAKING A PLAY, we DIDN'T EVEN TRY!!! That one play was the dictionary example of PLAYING NOT TO LOSE, with the inevitable result that we did indeed LOSE. Oh, I can hear all kinds of excuses why we did it that way, but the worst one would be the truth, which is "Well, that's what we always do!" SOME of the guys played hard, but Colquitt, Williams, Willingham, and some others played not only stupid but dirty. Can it really get any worse than that? By the way, the big hit Berry laid on Moreno really SHOULD have been called as a personal foul--helmet-to-helmet, as the audio and the replays clearly showed--but the call on Morley was bogus, made by an official behind the play. I have been disappointed by our performance on WAY too many occasions in my 50+ years as a Vol fan, especially the last seven, but not until this season have I been ASHAMED to be one. Thanks Phil, Mike, Chief--I've officially HAD IT with all of you. Wake me up when basketball season starts.

TommyJack writes:

in response to pms151:

For those who have historically ranted against JA. Give him an atta boy this time. He is on target.

He usually is. Just a tad caustic. OK by me.

waterskier3#226480 writes:

remember ADAMS article on Fulmer needs to be fired in the spring............ if will squeak out a couple of more wins but forget SC and ala..... maybe kent and miss state and wy and vandy will be 50/50......

so 2 more loses and we end 6-6... does mikey fire him??? i'm afraid he doesn't and fulmer fires everyone on his staff to save himself one more year... NOW THAT'S OUR WORST NIGHTMARE....

jovols writes:

How about Bill Cowher sitting over in NC? Could he be respected enough to build a program here at Tennessee??

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to Hudro:

look at what Trooper Taylor is doing as OC at Okla State.
They are scoring in bunches and we let him go. To boot he was probably the best recruiter we've had since Rodney Garner. Why Foster was on the field at the end is very puzzling. Since the game was out of reach why didn't they play some of the young guys like T. Poole? I don't understand why freshman are playing all over the league but we seem to be stuck with a senority system.

Les MIles??? you must have went to bed early last night!

TommyJack writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

Les MIles??? you must have went to bed early last night!

1. Not sure what Trooper IS doing at OK St.
2. If Les Miles goes anywhere, it will be to MI.
3. LSU won't be the last team to be run over by FL this year.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

1. Not sure what Trooper IS doing at OK St.
2. If Les Miles goes anywhere, it will be to MI.
3. LSU won't be the last team to be run over by FL this year.

Amazing what happens to this "great" defense when you play some one decent.

Combined with an incredible time of possession difference, holding Ga to 438 yds was not all that bad.

Slade is the biggest non-coach on the planet. How wide open can Ga's receivers get?

Hamilton just announced attendance at MSU game of 98,436.

ssmith82#219353 writes:

The thing that really tells me we are in trouble and the laughing stock of the SEC is the number (or lack thereof) UT fans in the stands last week and at the game yesterday. It is a sad state of affairs when we have a coaching staff that cannot seem to take players when they get here and coach them so they impove...instead we seem to make them worse. I remember when we used to have 20,000 people outside the Neyland after the game started because they could not get a ticket, and also had 12,000 to 15,000 at every away game. I myself am one who gave up my tickets after we lost to LSU in the SEC Championship game the first time, because we could not adjust to a second string QB....sound familar?

As I told our current AD and previous AD when they came to me after that season and asked why I gave up my tickets and stopped sending in my VASF donation, I could not support a program that was not competing as it should, I would still send money to the general scholarship fund, but not the VASF until changes where made. One has been made and the results are great with basketball, time to move on to football.

Colliervol writes:

in response to pms151:

For those who have historically ranted against JA. Give him an atta boy this time. He is on target.

I don't particularly think JA got any smarter than he ever was. For a sports writer, this situation is like hunting next to a baited field. It's not very hard.

vol2211insc writes:

Put denarius moore in please!!!!! Let montario get most of the tailback duties...and for crying out loud...keep looking for that deep ball...they have nothing to lose and a quarter back that is obviously more suited for the job than J. Crompton.....they really need to try to get six wins somehow

FedUpVolFan writes:

CBS POLL:
Vols-66th
UCLA-65TH
Miss St- 57 th
STay the course!

vance2002#327500 writes:

The problems with the program are much deeper than W's & L's - and - who plays what position. Remember, we still have not faced the best team on the schdule.

Now that the program has lost the ability to be competitive, the question now becomes: When does the team start to quit?

It would appear to some that the offensive line either refuses to block - or - simply cannot block. But again, that's the least of the problems within the program..stay tuned....

TommyJack writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Amazing what happens to this "great" defense when you play some one decent.

Combined with an incredible time of possession difference, holding Ga to 438 yds was not all that bad.

Slade is the biggest non-coach on the planet. How wide open can Ga's receivers get?

Hamilton just announced attendance at MSU game of 98,436.

98 thou, huh? Then there will be 30,000 dressed up as empty seats.

Knoxobserver writes:

The refs didn't cause us to lose this game. Were there bad calls, sure. Goes with the territory. Did anyone see the OU/UT(exas) game? Some majorly blown calls on both sides. So what. As is being reported in some papers, the UGA defensive line says they knew what UT was going to run based on how UT lined up. This is called preparation. This is called breaking down the film, coming up with a game plan and then getting out on the practice field and working your tail off to make it happen on the playing field. That, my friends, is good, solid coaching. The UT players can say all they want about how good their practices are, but the simple truth is you play the way you practice. Period. Execution is not about talent, it's about practicing until you can't get it wrong. It's about focus and concentration. If practice is so good, please explain to me why we still have the O-line jumping the count in the 6th freaking game of the season. If practice is so good, please tell me why Gerald Williams didn't know he was supposed to be on the field for a punt. If practice is so good, please explain to me how we were called for 4 (FOUR) personal fouls particularly at crucial points in UGA scoring drives. Plain and simple, you play the way you practice. The practices are not what the players think they are. The coaching staff is not providing the direction and discipline needed to reach the level of play required in this league. The mistakes we make are simple fundamental mistakes that high school players make. We expect a higher level of discipline, concentration and intensity. Those things must be coached into a team, not everyone has an innate ability for them. The job [coaching] is not getting done. We know where the responsibility lies. We know what needs to be done. Thank you Coach for the many wonderful things you have done for your teams, the university and TN, but it is time to go. No, you didn't get stupid, you have just been left behind.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

"A bad day could have been much worse".

Not much when you give up 438 yards and 10 penalties.

trace5254 writes:

As a Bama fan, I am enjoying watching the UT & AU programs implode. I hope you continue to boo your team, not show up for games and write hundreds of comments on web sites such as this. The recruits are watching and you are assuring your own destruction.

My suggestions to replace the Fat Boy are Lane Kiffin (young, offensive mind battle tested), Will Muschamp (probably not ready for UT - see Mike Shula) or the guy from Oklahoma State (Mike Gundy). Gundy is a hell of a coach - forget about the rant.

stroker writes:

in response to CRFVols:

If we had had Stephens at quarterback we might have one SEC win in the game against Auburn...all we needed was a field goal and Crompton couldn't get us that far...I bet Stephens could have....but of course our staff can't judge talent to save their lives.

They not have needed the field goal had Crompton and Forrester not laid it on the ground in the end zone.

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