Geoff Calkins: Tennessee's Lane Kiffin exonerated at Florida

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Just before Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin disappeared into the tunnel after the game, he looked up into the stands packed with Florida fans.

They booed. Lustily. A woman held a sign above her head.

"Shut Up Kiffin in Ben Hill Griffin," the sign said.

So Kiffin waved.

A cheery wave. A confident wave. A wave hello more than a wave goodbye.

Kiffin's team had been expected to lose to Florida by 30. The game was supposed to be less a contest than a pummeling.

One misguided columnist -- OK, it was me -- said Tennessee would be clubbed like baby seals.

But as Kiffin delivered his farewell wave, the massive scoreboard read Florida 23, Tennessee 13.

"I think we have a powerful message for the country," said Kiffin.

How about them Fighting Seals?

And how about Kiffin, the center of it all, who went into the game as a national punch line and came out as a coach to be reckoned with.

Those Kiffin jokes don't seem so hilarious now, do they? Those Kiffin predictions/taunts don't seem so rash.

"I thought it worked perfectly," Kiffin said. "Our players got to play free. ... They had no pressure on them, 30-point underdogs. I thought it helped our players a lot."

Now, you are free to be skeptical of this bit of rhetoric. The guy really made a false accusation about Florida at a signing day breakfast in an effort to take the pressure off his players in a game seven months down the road?

It sounds preposterous, doesn't it? But to the victors -- or is it the close-losers? -- go the spoils.

Kiffin can say whatever he wants right now. Because Kiffin did something nobody thought he could do.

He walked into Ben Hill Griffin and walked out smiling.

He led a young and shallow Tennessee team against Urban Meyer and his mighty Gators and lived to joke about it.

"There were a lot of F-words that weren't 'Florida' being yelled at me," Kiffin said.

When Kiffin first walked onto the field, he saw a cluster of Florida fans, leaning over the railing.

"A guy held up a picture of Al Davis," he said. "I laughed at that."

And then the game started. Sure enough, Florida returned the opening kick 50 yards.

This would be ugly. This would be hideous.

Except, it wasn't anything like that.

The Tennessee defense repeatedly unloaded on Tim Tebow. Hit him as hard as he's ever been hit.

If you had any questions about how Monte Kiffin's skills would translate to college football, you can forget about them now.

The elder Kiffin studied Florida all summer. Looked at every snap the Florida offense took last year.

"Early on we did exactly what we wanted to do," said the younger Kiffin. "That took a long time to get done."

But even that wasn't as impressive as what happened in the second half, as Florida -- up 23-6 -- threatened to put the game away.

First, Dennis Rogan snapped up a Tebow fumble at the Tennessee 2 and ran it out to the 37. Six plays later, Montario Hardesty slammed 17 yards for a touchdown.

The Tennessee staff went nuts on the sideline. The Florida fans looked on in quiet disbelief.

Everyone came to the stadium to see a slaughter; what they got, instead, was a taut and physical football game.

With two minutes left, Tennessee still had a chance to win the thing. Faced with a fourth-and-six at the UT 49, Jonathan Crompton, well, he threw an interception.

So there are definitely things to work on. Tennessee needs more talent. Tennessee needs a quarterback.

Kiffin will eventually have to start winning these games.

But on this day, a loss was a victory. A public humiliation became a public vindication instead.

And if Kiffin said he wasn't going to be singing "Rocky Top" after this one, he didn't exactly sound like a coach who was about to shut up.

"I'll come back for the basketball game with Bruce (Pearl)," Kiffin said. "He's been 7-1 vs. Florida."

To reach Geoff Calkins, call 901-529-2364 or e-mail calkins@commercialappeal.com.

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 130

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Time to gear up for the Ohio U.

We need a W in the worst way.

Coach 'em up. HCLK!

softball writes:

get em coach we are behind you!!!!!!!

volsfannsc writes:

How many SEC teams scheduled to play UT later this season are now studying film? Funny, all of a sudden our coaches appear to be brillant. Two weeks ago everyone was second guessing CLK's play calling inside the 5 against UCLA. Make up your minds- either pull for this team AND its staff or get on another message board. Florida is now second guessing its powerhouse. If not for Tebow, what???? Recruits are now being drawn to UT like a moth to a porch light. I laughed at Kiffin's baseball quote- "Just wait until next year". Yep. Just wait until next year.

HallowedHill writes:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

writer#358485 writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

Amen on the swap. At least this guy admits when he was wrong, something Adams has a terrible time with. And he also can coin a phrase pretty well, something Adams never mastered. Better thinker, better writer--someone start negotiations with the Commercial Appeal!

crimsonviper writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

One can only hope. The Commercial Appeal will certainly want cash in the deal.

CRFVols writes:

Nice video. Lou Holtz is losing his marbles.

Love the Spartans comparison....THIS IS TENNESSEE!!!!!! lol

armyvol22 writes:

I don't understand the naysayers. You’ve got to remember Coach Kiffin inherited a team what the other coach got fired for, and I liked the other coach. But you got to give Coach Kiffin time, because he has to learn how his team will react in games. And what I have seen so far he looks like a quick study. Western Kentucky was a practice game and we could do no wrong, but we had no tuff competition. UCLA upped the level of competition. We could have won that game despite all the interceptions. Coach Kiffin learned a little more on what his team can do. (Remember he inherited this team). He had this team ready for Florida. We did not win, but I think he will have this team ready for the rest of the games. The team is learning him and the other coaches and coach Kiffin and the coaches are learning the players. And Coach Kiffin is learning what plays this team can run. The signs of a great coach is knowing what you have and working within that.
Go Vols!

balloonman writes:

Welcome to the Commonwealth of Tennessee!

RHJ1203 writes:

Vol fans...keep drinking that Kool-Aid (or is it moonshine). I am glad I support a team that isn't happy...or delirious...when they losse by 10 points.

Heres to many more "moral victories" the rest of the year.

RHJ1203 writes:

Exactly when do my comments get posted? When I say something good about UT?

BrassMonkey writes:

If we had beaten UCLA in week 2 the spin on a 23-13 loss would be the opposite.

CoverOrange writes:

Coach UM is making excuses now:
"They weren't trying so we didn't try."
"We were ill all week."
"I wasn't out to impress the pollsters."

rocky_topper writes:

The sun rises and sets on CLK! I love this coach! I am so incredibly proud of our vols and our coaching staff!!!!!

HighlandVol writes:

I find it funny. Hey, Urban, you won! Why do you feel like you have to make excuses?

Oh, wait, is it because your mighty team failed to destroy the lowly Vols to get revenge for some nasty comments? Is it the national media expected you to do more? Perhaps you honestly thought that a rivalry game would be a cakewalk like previous years?

Shame on you! We're Tennessee, not some FCS school with no history. Enjoy it for the moment, we're getting up off the mat and the next round may not go the way you want.

I smell damage control.

panties4tebow writes:

And Coach Lane Kiffin still has them weeping down in fl!!!!!!!!!! LOL....I love it, read story in gainesville newspaper by clicking on link below:

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20...

GO VOLS--------------ALL OF AMERICA KNOWS WHO REALLY WON THIS GAME....THE VOLS AND KIFFIN AND COMPANY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TENNESSEE IS IN THEIR HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rocky_topper writes:

By the way, I was at the game this past weekend. It was much like the game in 2001. Believe me when I tell you, the Gator fans were stunned, and instead of celebrating their victory, they hung their heads and quietly walked from the stadium--except for those you could hear cussing and ranting for their embarrassing win! Yep, it was an embarrassing win for them! They were made to be a laughing spectacle on a national level Saturday after talking all their beatdown on vols, 100 points, timeouts til the very end phooey! I was proud to be a Vol on this day.

There weren't many Vol fans there for the game, although I understand why. For those of you who once traveled with the Vols, consider picking up this tradition once again. Our future is the brightest I have seen it in a decade!

Go BIG Orange

Docrok writes:

in response to HighlandVol:

I find it funny. Hey, Urban, you won! Why do you feel like you have to make excuses?

Oh, wait, is it because your mighty team failed to destroy the lowly Vols to get revenge for some nasty comments? Is it the national media expected you to do more? Perhaps you honestly thought that a rivalry game would be a cakewalk like previous years?

Shame on you! We're Tennessee, not some FCS school with no history. Enjoy it for the moment, we're getting up off the mat and the next round may not go the way you want.

I smell damage control.

We can only hope he sticks around and doesnt bolt UF for the Jaguars. I read an article on Yahoo last week that kind of makes sense. It stated that the owner of the Jaguars was polling local residents about the possibility of drafting Tim Tebow and if that would raise attendance to the game! The Jaguars are unable to get people to attend the games and may have to move the team but the owner prefers to stay in Jacksonville. According to the article the owner seemed to feel drafting Tebow would raise the appeal of the team to the area and increase attendance! The article also raised the question of whether Meyer would be then be the coach! And I never bought into Meyer leaving FL for ND but with his ego I could definitely see him testing the NFL waters especially with his "stallion" there! That being said I only hope he doesnt because the thought of a coach goig undefeated to my Vols makes me almost as sick as the idea that Tebow will finish his career 4-0 against the Vols!

gslaton#227127 writes:

Brash or not, planned or not, CLK was pretty smart to become the human pinata for Gator fans. As he said, 'to take the pressure off of his players and put it on him'. He accomplished what he wanted, the Vols played loose for the first time in a long time. Only Crompton looked 'tight'. I feel for the guy.

rocky_topper writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Coach UM is making excuses now:
"They weren't trying so we didn't try."
"We were ill all week."
"I wasn't out to impress the pollsters."

This shows Meyer to be nothing but a liar! When has anyone known Meyer to NOT try to run the score up on any foe, much less Tennessee or anyone else in the SEC! When has anyone ever known Meyer to NOT try to impress the pollsters by putting every point he could possibly get onto the scoreboard. He's a coward. I still look for him to haul A## following this season as he knows what's ahead of him from Tenn, from UGA after running the score up on them last year, and with USC, KY coming alive....he knows what's ahead for him and his team.

tennesseebee writes:

Tell me Kiffin ain't some kind of guru. To have the Big Orange nation happy about a loss shows just how down our program had gotten. This staff WILL pull in the talent. Freshmen who play right out of the package? I'm still fired up about Bryce Brown and Jansen Jackson. Here is the theme song we should sing to the Great Eric Berry at season's end: "Oh, wont you stay-y-y just a little bit longer? Please,please stay-y-y just a little bit more".

10volunteers98 writes:

in response to volsfannsc:

How many SEC teams scheduled to play UT later this season are now studying film? Funny, all of a sudden our coaches appear to be brillant. Two weeks ago everyone was second guessing CLK's play calling inside the 5 against UCLA. Make up your minds- either pull for this team AND its staff or get on another message board. Florida is now second guessing its powerhouse. If not for Tebow, what???? Recruits are now being drawn to UT like a moth to a porch light. I laughed at Kiffin's baseball quote- "Just wait until next year". Yep. Just wait until next year.

Agreed 100% ! GO,VOLS!!!

Go4Two writes:

Has anyone seen the grades for the Florida game.

10volunteers98 writes:

Where are all the arrogant loud-mouthed lizard lopers? We told them it was coming.Now,they see it too after the game Saturday.Next year,little lizards.The swamp lizard should now be on the endangered species list.Wait `til our top-five recruiting class with Tyler Bray.GO,VOLS!!!

kiffins_chicken writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree...He sold the Vols on keeping it close. Look at last year we outgained Fla. and lost. Keeping it close is good for the Vols? I do not get it! Look at last years stats vs this year. It was the end of the world last year.....this year it is a "great loss"? Someone please explain. Lil Lane and his 3 million dollar coaches get a pass? WOW.....AMAZING!!!!!!

jsm67vol writes:

in response to volzone919:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

In case you haven't noticed 919, we have trouble completing a pass even when the D is playing the run. At the end of the game, I was a bit surprised that the vols didn't
throw the ball and try to get TD to really make it a tight game. But with our QB struggles right now, an intercepted pass and return by the gators would have negated any confidence Cropmton might be able take from this game. Since it appears CLK is determined to stick with JC this season, he will try to protect this QB from any further setbacks to his confidence. I think thats why The Vols didn't throw to the endzone at the end of the game. JC will become serviceable enough to beat the teams we are supposed to beat, IMO. But it will be unnerving to vol fans to watch him vs the likes of bama,uga,au,olepiss this season. Any time he throws a pick we will all wonder if that is going to be the first of several in the game or will he be able to forget about it and move on.

CrankE writes:

in response to CRFVols:

Nice video. Lou Holtz is losing his marbles.

Love the Spartans comparison....THIS IS TENNESSEE!!!!!! lol

Lou Holtz had marbles?

On the Berry/Tebow article on GVX Saturday, I posted something regarding Leonidas and his 300. It went over a few heads, but "MOLON LABE" = "Come take it". That's the attitude that UT had this week.

Down here in Bammerham, they sat up and took notice of Saturday. Primarily the comments have been that UT provided a blueprint for beating UF. If that's all they saw, then they only got half the picture. When they meet this Tennessee team on the field, perhaps they'll see the other half. If UT can do this to the Gators whom everyone has placed at the top of the pedestal and do it in their house, then when they repeat it on some of the "lesser" teams, they might very well walk out winners. With two more AP top 5 opponents over the horizon, I don't think it'll be the last time UT will have a 300 attitude this year.

Elkabong1940 writes:

1. I am glad the folks that bet on Florida and gave the Vols 28+ lost their money.
2. The press is a total bunch of A-holes. How many times this week have we seen the clip of Kiffin on his hiring day? Plus how bad the Vols were going to be beat by the Gators? Welcome to the 100% Wrong Club you idiots!
3. If the Vols had a quarterback they would be dangerous. Kiffin said after the game that Crompton was going to get better? He’s a fifth year senior! He is not going to get better. The guy is a basket case! His best pass was the one he threw into the stands with no receivers within 30 yards. Put in Stephens! He couldn’t be any worse!

CrankE writes:

in response to kiffins_chicken:

I agree...He sold the Vols on keeping it close. Look at last year we outgained Fla. and lost. Keeping it close is good for the Vols? I do not get it! Look at last years stats vs this year. It was the end of the world last year.....this year it is a "great loss"? Someone please explain. Lil Lane and his 3 million dollar coaches get a pass? WOW.....AMAZING!!!!!!

So...Kiffin should really be put down for not cooperating in allowing UF to run wild all over us. We really should have been airing it out with a QB that's not that good so that Florida could take advantage of him not being that good.

Let's not change the subject, how does Kiffin's offensive play calling have anything to do with Florida's offensive output? Where's the promised beatdown, Gatrolls?

iowavol writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

You got my vote. This is one of the better, team oriented articles we've seen out of KNS. And yes, Kiffin will be reckoned with yet this season. This team needs confidence and I'd say they gained some Saturday. On the other hand, Florida will lose - maybe more than once.

Vol86 writes:

Article should of said "Recall on Tebow Panties-Defective Chasity Belts" Subtitle- Florida gets F-----D.

NeylandWest writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

Ummm....you should read more about Calkins before you go asking for that. He's a TN hater. Has been for a while. Loves it when the Tigers beat us or play us close. Of course, if my zipcode were in Memphis and my approval ratings were based on my audience I would be too...just sayin'

iowavol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Coach UM is making excuses now:
"They weren't trying so we didn't try."
"We were ill all week."
"I wasn't out to impress the pollsters."

Spot on. He started the rhetoric as he was leaving the field. The way he talked you'd of thought they just won by 50. His team was exposed and he knows it. Without Tebow or with an average offense on our side, we win this game.

VolsRoadRash98 writes:

Judging by Urban's comments after the game, I think he realizes that UT isn't going to be a cakewalk any more.

lmvolfan writes:

I LOVED KIFFIN'S COMMENT AT THE END,"I'LL BE COMING FOR THE BASKETBALL GAME WITH BRUCE" "HE'S 7-1 VS FLORIDA." I LOVE IT! GO VOLS!

volaholic45 writes:

in response to kiffins_chicken:

I agree...He sold the Vols on keeping it close. Look at last year we outgained Fla. and lost. Keeping it close is good for the Vols? I do not get it! Look at last years stats vs this year. It was the end of the world last year.....this year it is a "great loss"? Someone please explain. Lil Lane and his 3 million dollar coaches get a pass? WOW.....AMAZING!!!!!!

Truest thing in this post is that chicken doesn't get it. Neither does volzo "coaching clinic" 919. I hope for their sakes they are simply spinning to grind the axe against Kiffin. If they actually believe themselves, they are incurably stupid. Probably a coin toss on which one it is - or maybe some of both.

gbeejr#1354500 writes:

in response to NeylandWest:

Ummm....you should read more about Calkins before you go asking for that. He's a TN hater. Has been for a while. Loves it when the Tigers beat us or play us close. Of course, if my zipcode were in Memphis and my approval ratings were based on my audience I would be too...just sayin'

Agree! It was a relatively supportive article, but make no mistake about it, calkins is a wolf in sheep's clothing. I live south of memphis and this guy is a pain in our side. And where he really shows out is when bb season arrives and he shows you his contempt for the Volunteers.

volfan#207874 writes:

in response to supersmo18:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hmmmm...in reading these posts, it appears to me that too many gave up on "Hooked on Phonics" and settled for "Stuck on Stupid."

VOL03_NC writes:

It comes down to Tebow. He is awsome! If it was not for him, UT would have won the game. Why else would Coach Cryer have him run 76 yards!
Also,I do not think Kiffin is content with the outcome of the score. He and the rest of the team expected a "W". The fact that we had so many young TRUE FRESHMEN playing against a returning National Championship team the odds was against us on paper. NEXT YEAR BABY...NEXT YEAR!
GO VOLS!

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

Can we swap John Adams for this guy?

aman

Adams must go

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to A_VOICE_OF_REASON:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

dude your an idiot. You have no reason to voice. Our 5th year qb stinks, the nation knows it. If e have a ounce of a decent qb, Kiffin calls plays for his team to win.

You comments are dumb

GerryOP writes:

Seeing Trimmin' Time take a knee to end the game? Priceless!!!!

Fear The Kiffin...

VOL03_NC writes:

A_VOICE_OF_REASON writes:
And don't forget morons...it Tebow doesn't uncharacteristically put it on the ground, the game goes to 30-6 and who knows what happens after that. You idiots basking in the glow of moral victory are as embarrassing as your Crapton QB!!
.
IF A FROG HAD WINGS HE WOULD NOT BUMP HIS ARS WHEN HE JUMPS!
If you go back and actually watch the game, the ball was striped from Tebow. This is a defencive move not an accident by the Mighty Tim.
GO VOLS.

HOMEBOY writes:

Can you imagine if we had a decent quarterback, we might have beat the Gators. Kif needs to put Crompton on the bench and leave him there.

CRFVols writes:

The thing I didn't like is that Kiffin didn't trust Crompton enough to throw it when we were backed up with the penatly...so we just ran it up the middle working our way to a punt. If you distrust your QB that much.....then put another one in and game test them. Stephens wasn't worse than Crompton last year.....so give him a chance on the field.

volaholic45 writes:

The "he-didn't-try-to-win-the-game" crowd are the same types who get sooo frustrated when their bball team doesn't jack up threes against a run and gun opponent, even when they don't have any three-point shooters. They would take the coaching genius Jerry Tarkanian over the dunderhead Dean Smith, I guess.

On Saturday, their strategy would have led to the blowout they not-so-secretly were longing for. WD is right to observe that their tone is not as gleeful as it would have been had the gayders covered the spread, or better.

Vol_in_Texas writes:

Like one poster said earlier, if the UCLA game had went differently people would not be as happy about the close loss to FU. I can't bring myself to be happy about lossing especially to the Gators, however a bit vindicated in my support of our new coaching staff and excitment about the what the future holds is in order. Those long kick ruturns may have went for 6 last year with the lack of emphasis on special teams, and in the end it came down to our QB needing to make a play and the lack of talent there showed again. So here is to the future, next week and next year... Go Vols!

Vol_in_Texas writes:

in response to A_VOICE_OF_REASON:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And if the Vols had listen to the Odds makers and not shown up maybe the Gators could have ran up the score. That's why they play the game for the "If's and Buts" BTW: did he not also "uncharistically" no have a TD pass in this game???

Go Vols!

djstatik writes:

Why can't the News Sentinel have quality sports writing like this? Go Vols! And Go CLK!

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