Is the battle lost? Fulmer 'working to get it fixed'

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer reacts on the sidelines as the Volunteers fell 29-9 to Alabama on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer reacts on the sidelines as the Volunteers fell 29-9 to Alabama on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

For those Tennessee fans who had been claiming a good “gut feeling” all week, Saturday night was tough to stomach.

Second-ranked Alabama continued on its merry way in the national championship chase with a stifling 29-9 win over the Vols at Neyland Stadium.

It’s official now: Whatever Tennessee (3-5, 1-4 SEC) does the rest of 2008, it will finish without a signature win over a major rival.

After losses to Florida and Georgia, a decisive loss to the Crimson Tide is another black mark on coach Phillip Fulmer’s fight to retain his job.

The Vols lost to their three major rivals by a combined 85-29. UT had never lost consecutive games to Alabama in the Fulmer era.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,’’ said Fulmer. “We’re in a battle from top to bottom, whether it’s recruiting or whatever.

“But I’m more concerned about our team right now.’’

That team generated little offense: 173 total yards and only 36 rushing yards, compared to 366 yards (178 rushing) for the Tide.

And yet the Vols trailed only 6-3 until late in the first half when Alabama (8-0, 5-0) scored the game’s first touchdown on a 3-yard Glen Coffee run to go up 13-3.

With a generous portion of crimson-clad fans in the announced crowd of 106,138, Alabama tightened its grip in the third quarter.

While Tennessee opened the second half with consecutive three-and-out possessions, Alabama added a Leigh Tiffin field goal and a 79-yard touchdown drive.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson squeezed in from the 1 to make it 22-3 with 1:38 left in the third quarter, a cushion that made a successful Tennessee rally unlikely.

Still, there was no answer from UT. Bama next drove 80 yards for Roy Upchurch’s 4-yard touchdown with 9:43 to play to lead 29-3.

Tennessee finally found the end zone with 7:26 to play — assisted by two pass-interference penalties against Alabama.

By the time Nick Stephens hit Josh Briscoe with a 10-yard TD pass there were mostly Alabama fans still around to see it.

“This is the best we’ve played, in my opinion, since the Clemson game,’’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said, referring to the season-opener.

“We played a complete game.’’

Stephens finished 16-of-28 passing for 137 yards. One bright note, Tennessee played turnover-free for the third consecutive game.

Defense and special teams dominated the first half.

Alabama’s Tiffin made both of his field-goal attempts, from 39 yards and 43 yards.

Tennessee’s Daniel Lincoln was only 1-of-3.

Lincoln’s 31-yard success came after Alabama’s Javier Arenas fumbled a punt return after a hit by LaMarcus Thompson.

Dennis Rogan recovered at the Alabama 5 and Tennessee became the final team among 119 in the Bowl Subdivision to recover a fumble in 2008.

But even that field-position gift wasn’t enough to ignite UT’s sluggish offense.

Arian Foster bolted to the 1 on first down, but the gain was wiped out and UT penalized 5 yards for a false start. Stephens was sacked on a third-down blitz, after which Lincoln’s kick tied the game 3-3.

“That was an opportunity right there to make something happen,’’ Fulmer said. “That would have given us great momentum.’’

“That was huge,’’ said Saban, “for the defense to get a stop right there.’’

The next special-teams gaffe belonged to Tennessee. Britton Colquitt shanked a punt 22 yards to give Alabama the ball at the UT 47.

It required only one first down to get in range for Tiffin’s 43-yard field goal and a 6-3 lead.

Alabama’s next punt was partially blocked by Montario Hardesty, rewarding the Vols excellent field position at the Tide’s 32.

Three snaps lost ground to the 34, from where Fulmer first sent the punt team on the field, then called timeout to reconsider.

Instead, Lincoln went out to try what would have been a career-long 51-yarder. It was well short and Alabama took over at the 34 with 5:44 on the clock.

“It (the distance) was a little bit of a stretch,’’ Fulmer said. “But at the 34 if you pooch (punt) and it goes in the end zone, that’s only a 14-yard gain.

“He (Lincoln) hit several of those (50-plus-yard attempts) in pregame but he just didn’t hit it well.’’

And thus left the door open for Alabama’s first touchdown drive.

Two quick completions to Julio Jones netted 54 yards and a first down at the UT 12. On fourth-and-1 at the 3, Coffee powered into the end zone for a 13-3 lead with 2:41 left.

Stephens finally found his range, completing three passes to get inside the Alabama 20.

He then hit Lucas Taylor for a first down at the 9. However, Taylor was penalized 15 yards for offensive pass interference.

“I’m not going to criticize the officials,’’ Fulmer said. “It must have been flagrant. It better have been flagrant.’’

When Lincoln was wide left from 43 yards as the half expired the Vols came up empty.

Another officiating call went against UT in the second half.

The Vols trailed 16-3 when Alabama’s Mark Ingram was hit and lost the football at the Tide’s 47. Eric Berry scooped it up and raced to the end zone.

Officials, however, ruled Ingram down before the fumble. A replay confirmed the call.

Next up for Tennessee is a visit to South Carolina.

“All I know,’’ Fulmer said, “is we’ll keep working to get it fixed.’’

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Comments » 688

FedUpVolFan writes:

First!

chbradshaw writes:

I think Briscoe is still celebrating

loudmouthofthesouth (Inactive) writes:

It is finished.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

See ya', Phil . . .

25lbsack writes:

good bye Phil and staff. You all are an embarrassment to the vol nation. You cannot get out of knoxville quick enough.

jerryj#417452 writes:

Time for a change.

tjunker77#207526 writes:

hoping for a monday press conference

powtuck writes:

once again--great defense, terrible play calling and strategy decisions.
Maybe we need to petition the NCAA to give us a first down after 9 yards and a touchdown after 90.
Was impressed with Stephens throwing. We need to throw earlier in game and earlier in series of downs.

cb4vols#206343 writes:

Fulmer's exit can't happen quick enough..........

Ditchdigger writes:

Now Has Hamilton and the boosters had enough yet.

mikejohn11 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

TommyJack writes:

Just really feel for this once proud tradition.

JohnnyU writes:

Yes, I think this does it. Did anyone hear Todd Blackledge say something about UT having talent, but not performing up to their level of talent the last few years? It's sad, but I think this thing is irreversible

gohawks1 writes:

From the article: "For those Tennessee fans who had been claiming a good “gut feeling” all week, Saturday night was hard to stomach."

Must have been salmonella they were feeling.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

The last ember is out. The fire is stone cold. It is over. No discipline, no spar, no coaching. Any idiot can see that IT IS OVER.

Alumni_06 writes:

IT HAS TO BE PHIL, WE HAVE HAD 2 OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS THAT WERE HANDCUFFED(SANDERS AND CLAWSON) AND CUTCLIFFE GOT TO RUN HIS OWN SHOW AND PRODUCED SERVICEABLE RESULTS, THE COMMON DENOMINATOR=FULMER

FrasierC writes:

Had enough yet? Vols are in free fall.

Get Jon Gruden from Tampa Bay.

asand211#361548 writes:

I am still not convinced that Hamilton has the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on Fulmer's exit.

hallmo11 writes:

HORRIBLE offensive pass interference call in 3rd quarter to take
back our first down.

conr1976 writes:

Now, it's time to see if the rumors were true. Is Phil going to announce that he'll resign at the end of the season?

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

I think even Hamilton has hinted that he's had enough.

mdvol writes:

After this week’s inevitable firing, here are my top 5 wishes for a new coach….

1. Jon Gruden – will bring toughness and discipline which we sorely lack.
2. Mike Leach – offense sells tickets
3. Chris Peterson – would put the best players on offense
4. Mike Gundy – he’s a man. Plus, he would bring back Trooper
5. Jeff Fisher – 4 million and only 180 miles away

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

Spurrier

FedUpVolFan writes:

BRISCOE should be benched or thrown off the team.Even my buddy called to ask wtf he was doing laughing.
Sad!

TommyJack writes:

in response to asand211#361548:

I am still not convinced that Hamilton has the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on Fulmer's exit.

I'm not either. Mikey: Grow a set.

shane6#638715 writes:

I expect to see something changed by the morning. Am I asking for too much? Either the head coach or Offensive Coordinator....somebody has to take the blame.

SmokeDog72 writes:

Hope a hard look is taken at where we are and how far behind our rivals we currently sit.

Leach from Texas Tech (with a good D coordinator) is the answer.

SKO_Vol82 writes:

bless our athletes hearts. if they only had coaches who knew how to put together a realistic gameplan we'd be the NC hunt. why in the lord's name do our DBs play 10 yards off the receivers and the safety is 30 yards off the line of scrimmage? blackledge said there's a big open spot in the middle of the field and bama took advantage. and when are we ever going to get a different offensive game plan. run up the middle. run off tackle. screen pass. flat pass. long pass. pure stupidity. heads must roll. all of them. i don't care if we're a .500 team for the next 5 years with a new coaching staff. get rid of these fat clowns. geez, i'd take ty willingham. that's how bad it is.

mikejohn11 writes:

How in the world is everybody so blind. We suck we will not win more than 5 games this year. How is this acceptable to anybody in the Tennessee organization. We have zero offense after this many games in the season we can't find an offense there is a problem. The poor defense could barely walk after the game from being on the damn field for so long. I'm so over this Hamilton needs to quit talking about firing Phil and do it. WE SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!

gavol2572 writes:

Butch

zachishi writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MustangPackage101 writes:

Bye Phil... give me a call if you need help moving, Ill be glad to help.

vol4good#206163 writes:

Losses to Florida, Georgia, and now Bammer, all in the same season. Wow, hope my boss is as understanding should I fail so miserablly!

VOLsoldier writes:

in response to hallmo11:

HORRIBLE offensive pass interference call in 3rd quarter to take
back our first down.

No Doubt...That's a real shame too, as we might have had a chance to kick a short field goal and Losing 29-12 would have been so much better than losing 29-9. Give me a break.

vol2211insc writes:

I feel just as bad as anyone right now. But I really don't want what clemson is going through right now: A team struggling after finally firing a coach mid season. This is going to sound very crazy but I feel like he deserves to finish the season. The vols need to really evaluate things, but I do not agree with firing a coach in mid season like Tommy Bowden. Fulmer has won alot of games here and deserves to atleast finish the season and not be humiliated.

silvertr6 writes:

Hamilton has no guts or spine. In addition, he owes his job to Fulmer.

OldNumber7 writes:

This is the most inept offensive team I have ever seen in college football. 10 years of agony - let the bleeding stop.

BubbaTN writes:

Goodbye Fulmer. Another season down the tube. Lucky to make a bowl game this year with SC, VANDY and KY in the way. Only Wyoming is worse than UT. Signature wins this year against UAB, N Illinois, Miss St and Wyoming. Wow!

gohawks1 writes:

in response to 1stAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just wondering - who do you suggest?

zqvol writes:

in response to mdvol:

After this week’s inevitable firing, here are my top 5 wishes for a new coach….

1. Jon Gruden – will bring toughness and discipline which we sorely lack.
2. Mike Leach – offense sells tickets
3. Chris Peterson – would put the best players on offense
4. Mike Gundy – he’s a man. Plus, he would bring back Trooper
5. Jeff Fisher – 4 million and only 180 miles away

Keep wishing the chances of any of these are less than slime or none.

If you want a new HC your best option is going to be an unknown OC somewhere. There are no big names that are available that will come here.

volsfansc writes:

i think something is gonna happen monday heard on a sports talk radio show is south carolina that if he lost he was in trouble. so i guess we will see how much of that is true. hope the change is coming this week because we need it. time has passed cpf by. BYE BYE Phil !!!!!!

JohnnyU writes:

I actually did have a feeling that we might be competitive and pull this out. We had chances early to put ourselves in a position to do it, but our offense was completely unable to do it. One is tempted to say: Fire the O line coach, fire the OC, but we've been there before, haven't we? I am sorely disappointed in their competitiveness in this game, not to say the players didn't play hard. I think the death watch has started.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

UT isn't a good team--PERIOD. Yes, the refs made a couple of calls against us, but it wouldn't have made any difference.

We saw how good our D was tonight against a competent offense. 'Bama gashed us for yards anytime they wanted.

I hope Coach Fulmer will choose the honorable thing and step aside. If he doesn't and Hamilton chooses not to fire him after this game, then I don't know what it's going to take for Hamilton to cut him loose.

mikejohn11 writes:

Everybody hear the commentary about the Alabama players caring and approaching everything like it's business and our sorry offesnive players are over on the sideline laughing when they can't get a first down. John Parker gave all credit to his COACH for that attitude. Hmmm wonder why we suck!!!!!

gavol2572 writes:

I swear I just heard a commentator on ESPN laugh at the footage of Lincoln missing the 51 yarder. No one can doubt that UT is the laughing stock of NCAA football at this moment!!

indianacurly writes:

where is welove's stupid butt?

Vol23304 writes:

Sloppy effort by the offence. No discipline. Poor attitude by some of the players.
The lack of leadership is noticeable. I felt sorry for the D. They worked hard but were on the field too long. No help from the “O”.

govols26 writes:

If fulmore is not fired after this season I am gonna be one ticked off vol fan. He hasn't done jack in 9 seasons except for making the program progessively worse. 1998 is the only thing saving his pathetic legacy- and how much is one good year worth anyways?!?

Jshoop writes:

4-0 the rest of the way. 7-5 on the year. Before the season I had predicted 8-4. The UCLA game got past me.

Stocker played well tonight. Berry is Great! Not sure why Briscoe was grinning after losing the first down. Glad to see Stephens take a little control on the sidelines.
7-5 and get a bowl bid. Fulmer keeps his job, with only a slight raise.

Knoxobserver writes:

I'm tired of folks trotting out the tired old argument that Fulmer has won 75% of his games overall. The simple truth is that in the past 10 years we are no longer competitive against ranked teams and we are no longer competitive in the SEC. Please don't try to tell me that UT won the SEC East last year. We all know the only reason they won was that UF and UGA knocked each other out. We haven't won an SEC championship outright in 10 years, we haven't been even close. How many national commentators have remarked this week that UT has comparable talent to the rest of the league? Why are our players not developing like other talent in the league? This program deserves better than mediocrity - ESPN just said it all, UT is 1-8 vs top 10 teams in the last 10 years. For as much as Fulmer has done for this program and this university, how low does it have to go? This is now embarrassing to his legacy.

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