ATLANTA – New coach, but an old story Thursday night.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl ended the way every other Tennessee football game in the Georgia Dome has for the past decade.
The 12th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies thoroughly dominated the Vols in a 37-14 victory to keep Tennessee winless in the Dome since 1998.
That’s three SEC championship game losses, and, now, a matching set of three bowl losses.
Lane Kiffin’s first season at UT ends 7-6, disappointing a Tennessee majority in the sold-out Dome crowd of 73,777.
“Very disappointed in the outcome today,’’ Kiffin said. “For whatever reason we didn’t play well.’’
Virginia Tech (10-3) did, and finished with 10 wins for a sixth consecutive year.
Once Tech’s Ryan Williams scored from 1 yard out with 6:56 left in the first quarter, Tennessee trailed all the way except for an 18-second interval near the end of the first half.
Both UT scores came in the second quarter, a 4-yard run by Montario Hardesty and a 2-yard pass from Jonathan Crompton to Denarius Moore that tied it 14-14.
But the Hokies squeezed in a last-second field goal for a 17-14 lead at intermission and resumed their domination in the second half.
“We talked at halftime about being mentally tough and physically tough,’’ Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said, “and that’s exactly how I would describe Virginia Tech in the second half.’’
Tech’s four touchdowns all came on short runs, two by Williams, who was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and David Wilson scored one apiece.
The Hokies stuffed UT’s running game — 5 net yards.
That miniscule total was arrived at by subtracting 55 yards on the six times Tech sacked Crompton.
Hardesty carried 18 times for 39 yards in his final game in a Tennessee uniform. The only daylight he saw was 79 receiving yards, most of them coming on a couple of screen passes.
“I was surprised we weren’t able to run the ball better,’’ said Kiffin.
Tech rushed for 229 yards and won the total offense battle by a 438-240 margin.
Crompton’s career ended painfully, being sacked hard on fourth-and-10 in the final minute. He was taken to a hospital after the game with concussion-like symptoms.
He managed 235 yards passing but also two turnovers — an interception and a fumble on a sack that set up Virginia Tech scores.
The first half ended on a bizarre note.
After UT’s touchdown tied it 14-14, only 9 seconds remained. Tech’s Taylor found Jarrett Boykin behind the Vol secondary for a 63-yard bomb. Boykin went down at the 3 and the scoreboard showed no time left.
Both teams headed to the locker room, but the officials brought them back, determining Boykin’s knee touched with 2 seconds left.
Tech’s Matt Waldron hit a 21-yard field goal — one of three on the night — and the Hokies took a 17-14 lead at halftime.
“We were expecting them to take a shot and for whatever reason we gave up the big play,’’ Kiffin said.
And they didn’t answer with any big plays in the second half.
The Vols got the ball first in the third quarter but couldn’t muster any momentum. Then the Hokies rammed a 74-yard drive down UT’s throat to make it 24-14.
Williams ran for the first 73 yards and Taylor scored on a 1-yard keeper.
“He’s a really good back,’’ said UT freshman safety Janzen Jackson. “He really pounded away at us.’’
To the tune of 117 yards on 25 carries before leaving due to an injury.
Next, Waldron kicked a 46-yard field goal to make it 27-14 with 13:33 left.
Tennessee’s chance to cut into the lead vanished when a wide-open Moore dropped what would have been a 59-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
“That,’’ said Kiffin, “really took the wind out of our sails.’’
The Hokies then resumed the pounding, crunching out an 80-yard drive.
Williams had been helped off the field earlier but it didn’t slow the assault. Wilson finished the drive with a 3-yard TD to make it 34-14 with 5:14 to play.
On Tennessee’s first snap after the kickoff, Crompton was sacked and fumbled.
Tech recovered and added Waldron’s third field goal.
The evening began with Tennessee fans swarming downtown Atlanta in high spirits.
It didn’t take long after kickoff, however, for the Hokies to exert their will.
They dominated the first 18 minutes of the first half en route to a 14-0 lead.
Tech’s first score was set up when Crompton threw an interception to Rashad Carmichael that gave the Hokies good field position at the UT 44.
Crompton suffered through an awful first quarter in which Tech outgained the Vols 93-13 in total offense.
After the Hokies’ second score, a 1-yard Williams run, the total offense battle was 136 yards to 11.
Tennessee’s offense finally awoke, staging an 80-yard drive for Hardesty’s score to make it 14-7.
Then Janzen Jackson’s interception and 29-yard return put UT at the Tech 48 with 1:11 left in the half.
Crompton and Hardesty connected on a 47-yard screen pass, to set up the 2-yard score to Moore.
After the kickoff, there were only 9 seconds left, but that was enough for the Hokies to catch the Tennessee defense sleeping and scramble back into the lead.
The Vols would have no answers in the second half.
“This year was a great start for us,’’ said freshman linebacker Herman Lathers. “Just because we lost doesn’t mean it hurts our momentum.’’