Derek Dooley comments on Antonio 'Tiny' Richardson
Sometimes this Tennessee football team, if not coach Derek Dooley's tenure in general, seems snakebit.
That it just can't catch a break. Murphy's Law in shoulder pads.
Take Tiny Richardson's afternoon in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
The Vols ran 71 plays against a South Carolina defense that was ranked among the best in the country. Richardson could take the results from 70 of them and walk away a happy man.
"To watch how he competed the whole game,'' Dooley said Monday, "it just breaks your heart that the guy made an incredible play that last play and it happens to be the one they are going to show on ESPN.''
In the one they showed on ESPN, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney gets past left tackle Richardson to rake Tyler Bray's passing arm, forcing a fumble that essentially allowed the Gamecocks to hang on for a 38-35 win.
Richardson had predicted last week his personal match with sack-master Clowney would be a clash of titans. It was. Two future NFL players butting heads.
Richardson was further motivated by a couple of pregame Twitter posts attributed to Clowney. Even though the Twitter account did not actually belong to Clowney, it was fuel on the fire.
"We jawed the whole time,'' Richardson said. "I'm not going to repeat what was said. It got a little personal.
"At the end of the day, I think he respected me as a player and I respected him as a player so that's all that matters.''
Despite playing on a dinged-up knee from Alabama that UT kept quiet, Richardson did fine. He did better than fine.
"When two good players go against each other,'' said fullback Ben Bartholomew, one is gonna win and one is gonna lose. You can't win every snap.
"You could look at a hundred other instances where (Richardson) was owning him.''
Ah, but the one Clowney owned, that's tough for Richardson to get past.
"He hit me with an inside head fake, then he went back outside,'' Richardson said. "It's the same move he'd been hitting me with all day.
"I don't know, for some reason, I just bit on it.''
Result: Clowney gets the his first sack of the game and forces the fumble.
Result: The Vols are still winless in the SEC.
Richardson took to Twitter to apologize for his breakdown that he felt cost his team the game.
His teammates were quick to console. So was Dooley:
"I told him we would never have had 35 points on the scoreboard, that we would have gotten blown out of the park if it wasn't for him.''
As bad as UT's defense is, the only hope is to score and score some more.
The offensive line, collectively, is the team MVP. Richardson, a first-year starter, has been a stalwart at left tackle protecting Bray's blind side.
He has more than held his own against All-America candidates like Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Clowney.
Perhaps Clowney's ultimate compliment to Richardson was assuming he was a senior rather than a sophomore.
"No,'' Richardson replied, "I'm in your class, dog.''
Which, in its way, provides Richardson an outlet to resolve his regrets about the one bad play out of 71.
"You've just got to personalize it,'' he said, "and wait 'til next year.''