Tennessee Stat Book
Tennessee fans left Neyland Stadium so fast early in the fourth quarter, you would have thought the public-address announcer had issued another severe-weather warning.
It wasn't the weather. It was Oregon.
A lightning storm struck in the first half, delaying the game for more than an hour. The seventh-ranked Ducks struck in the second, scoring on one long-distance play after another en route to a 48-13 victory Saturday night.
At the 11-minute mark of the fourth quarter, most UT fans had seen enough.
By then, they had seemingly witnessed two games in one. The first was full of optimism, hope and turbulent weather. The 12-point underdog Vols led that one 13-3 in the second quarter.
The second was a blowout the likes of which UT fans have rarely seen at Neyland Stadium.
Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators never scored this many points on UT's home field. Neither have Urban Meyer's Gators.
Georgia was the last team to score 40 or more points in Neyland Stadium, hitting 41 points in 2003. Washington State was the last team to score more than Oregon did in the same stadium, piling up 52 points on the 1988 Vols, who started out 0-6.
What was an aberration at Neyland Stadium was just another day at the office for the Ducks.
Only six teams have scored 40 or more points on UT's home field. Oregon has scored 40 or points in nine of the last 15 games.
It wasn't just how many points the Ducks scored. It was how fast they scored them.
With three minutes to play in the first half, the Vols led 13-3. In the next 33 minutes, Oregon scored 45 unanswered points.
The Vols hadn't suffered a scoring deluge of that magnitude since Florida scored 48 consecutive points in The Swamp in 1995.
The topsy-turvy nature of UT's second game magnified its weaknesses.
You knew this team didn't have great depth. You also knew it didn't have as many playmakers as the best teams on its schedule.
It was impressive how well UT nullified Oregon's big-play guys in the first half. The Vols parlayed a surprisingly forceful running game with a sure-tackling defense in taking a 10-point lead.
But once Oregon pushed the accelerator on its hurry-up offense, UT fell further behind with almost every possession.
The Ducks' fast-break offense winded UT's defense in the last few minutes of the half. Their skill players took it from there in the second half.
The game turned on a 72-yard touchdown play by Oregon running back LaMichael James in the first five minutes of the second half. James started right, seemed hemmed in, then reversed his field and sped 72 yards for a touchdown.
UT had no counter-punch, just one faulty possession after another, starting with a wayward Matt Simms pass that Cliff Harris returned 76 yards for a touchdown.
The Vols can take consolation from their first-half performance and Tauren Poole's 162 yards rushing behind an offensive line that began the season with five new starters. They can take more consolation from the schedule. There's probably no one else on it with an offense as explosive as Oregon's.
The Vols proved they could hold their own with a top-10 team for a half. Now, they have to prove they can bounce back from the disastrous half that followed.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.