Game recap: Tennessee 34, Ohio 23
Football isn't supposed to be this confusing.
You're supposed to celebrate victories and mourn defeats. But you couldn't prove it by the last two weeks of Tennessee football.
Just a week after the Vols distinguished themselves in a 10-point loss to No. 1-ranked Florida, they executed a disturbing flip-flop in a 34-23 victory over Ohio University on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.
Answer: So disturbing that you probably were having flashbacks to 2008.
Ohio's Chris Garrett returned a first-quarter kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and threatened to bust another one. UT's secondary often looked more amiss than its special teams.
Bottom line: Midway through the last quarter, the Bobcats were still within a touchdown and two-point conversion of tying the game.
For perspective, you have to check Ohio's body of work. The Bobcats were a 23 1/2-point underdog whose crowning achievement in the first month of the season was a 31-30 overtime victory over North Texas State.
For more perspective, that's the same North Texas State that got waylaid by Alabama 53-7.
UT's performance against Ohio offered more puzzlement than perspective. Remember how it tied Florida's passing game in knots a week earlier? It repeatedly suffered secondary breakdowns against the Bobcats.
Another passing game is worth mentioning. Compared to its last two outings, UT looked downright competent throwing the ball against Ohio.
But even while UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton was having his best game since the season opener against Western Kentucky, he still had the usual lapses under defensive pressure. He threw an interception and came within inches of a game-altering fumble.
If Ohio linebacker Noah Keller hadn't stepped out of bounds with one foot just as he picked up a Crompton fumble, he would have had a touchdown, and a surprising game would have been upgraded to the shocking level.
If you were going to give UT backup quarterback Nick Stephens a chance, this was your opportunity. Instead, coach Lane Kiffin basically spelled it out: "Crompton is my guy - for better or worse."
Good luck with that over the next four games when you play Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina in succession (with a one-week break between the Bulldogs and Tide).
That stretch would look less daunting if middle linebacker Nick Reveiz hadn't suffered what likely is a season-ending knee injury.
The former walk-on has emerged as one of UT's best players in his junior season. He also has picked up quickly on the nuances of new coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense and become a team leader as well.
Moreover, he has filled a position of need. UT's linebacking corps was short on experience to begin with and already had been weakened by injuries.
From the moment Reveiz went down, there was no encouraging evidence. He grabbed a knee as soon as he hit the ground, and the injured leg was dangling helplessly as he left the field.
As unimpressive as the 34-23 numbers might have looked on the scoreboard, they at least signified a victory, albeit against a Mid-American Conference opponent.
But as you watched Reveiz leave the field on crutches, you realized the Vols likely had suffered a big loss on the same night that they had achieved a small victory.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.