Derek Dooley on the Vols' OT loss to UNC at the Music City Bowl
Watching with Ward
Tennessee Stat Book
NASHVILLE - Tennessee needed more than a comeback on Thursday night at LP Field. It needed karma.
Instead, all it got was another figurative shot to the gut and a loss every bit as devastating as the one it suffered against LSU way back in October.
The cumulative effect made this one more traumatic.
No wonder UT fans threw bottles at the North Carolina sideline when a game that had apparently ended, began again. No wonder UT defensive lineman Gerald Williams tossed his helmet when Casey Barth kicked a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation in the Music City Bowl.
The official play-by-play will show the game was decided in the second overtime when Barth kicked another field goal, this one for 23 yards and a 30-27 North Carolina victory.
In fact, the game was decided amidst the same kind of chaos that engulfed and bewildered the Vols and their fans at Tiger Stadium.
You can't appreciate what happened in the Music City Bowl without recalling what happened against LSU.
The Vols celebrated a victory that afternoon. The celebration could be measured in seconds.
Officials ruled the Vols were guilty of having too many players on the field for what was seemingly the last play of the game.
LSU was rewarded with another play, which they turned into a game-winning, 1-yard touchdown run by Stevan Ridley.
"I don't know if I've ever had a loss like that," UT coach Derek Dooley said.
Now, he has had another. And it will be every bit as unacceptable to UT fans.
In a more balanced world, you wouldn't lose a game like that one in Baton Rouge and lose another like the Vols did in Nashville.
This time, the Tar Heels had too many men on the field as quarterback T.J. Yates attempted to spike the ball to stop the clock in time for a last-second field goal.
North Carolina was penalized for having too many men on the field.
But the penalty became insignificant after an official review ruled there was a second hanging on the clock when Yates threw the ball into the ground.
It just didn't look right, though. Tar Heels were scrambling hither, there and yon. Some were trying to get off the field. Others were trying to line up in what was a reasonable facsimile of an offensive formation.
If it didn't look right from the press box, imagine how it looked to the UT players, coaches and fans who saw a victory snatched away against LSU.
"It was chaos again," Dooley said. "They run a bunch of guys on the field.
"The umpire let them snap the ball. They get a penalty. So that allows them to get their field-goal team on the field."
As simple as all that, huh?
UT began the overtime at a disadvantage because Williams was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he removed his helmet in disgust after Barth's game-tying field goal. So the Tar Heels started the first overtime with a 13-yard advantage, shortening their route to a touchdown.
The Vols were left with a familiar challenge: another comeback.
They came back from a 2-6 start to win the last four games of the regular season and qualify for a bowl. They came back from a 17-14 deficit against North Carolina with a clutch 63-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
And they still had the wherewithal for another comeback, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to Luke Stocker in the first overtime.
That carried them into the second overtime. It didn't carry them far enough.
After Bray's pass was intercepted, the Tar Heels were set up to win the game with another field goal.
But that's not the field goal UT will remember.
"I thought I had seen it all in Baton Rouge," Dooley said. "I guess I didn't."
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.