Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mystified

Tonight’s game had a lot of moments worth examining, but in all my years of watching college football I have never seen an SEC team try not to win a game that was still within some reasonable semblance of reach.

Sure Tennessee probably wasn’t going to win with 6 minutes left and down by 10 points. But Lane Kiffin and the Volunteers didn’t even try. How else can you explain the following sequence of plays –





As they had all game Tennessee enacted a clock exhausting ball-control drive. They succeeded in driving 27 yards before finally throwing the ball downfield while taking 4:10 off the clock, essentially eliminating any chance of winning the game.

I am truly confounded. Down only 2 scores to your conference rival on the road, you don’t try to win the game?

Sure Florida didn’t beat the Vols as bad as the oddmakers expected, and there was much not like about how the Gators played. But I have never seen an opponent virtually give up with the game still winnable, no matter how unlikely.

We didn’t cover the spread. Tennessee, on the other hand, was essentially gutless. I’d be furious if I was a Tennessee fan.

UPDATE: Dr. Saturday posted on Coach Meyer’s comments that essentially mirror my observations of Saturday – that Tennessee didn’t play to win the game.

I continue to disagree with the take of Dr. Saturday, Tennessee fans and some of the commentators here. This is not a simple matter of choosing between running the ball and “throwing it downfield”, as if those were the only options available to Tennessee. (Or, as the Dr. put it, “sometimes, handing off is trying to win.”)

Where were the out passes? Why not work the sidelines in an effort to drive the ball while managing the clock?

Take a look again at the drive chart I posted above. There was no urgency in that play calling. That is, until, urgency was forced upon UT with a 4th down play at the 2 minute mark where they then HAD to throw it downfield.

Does Tennessee have no two minute offense?

I can’t see this as a simple binary choice between “throwing it downfield” and running the ball. There are a myriad of plays that come somewhere in between that can facilitate clock management.

I can’t find any logical explanation other than that Tennessee didn’t try to win. They didn’t try to win against the number one team in the nation, an archrival, while on the road. With 6:01 on the clock, down by 2 scores, they ran out the clock.

I wouldn’t want to believe it either if I was a UT fan.

9 comments:

Checed said...

I respectfully disagree with your post. The Tennessee football team is severely handicapped by awful quarterback play. The UCLA game showed how poorly the Tennessee quarterback play has become. The TN coaching staff simply cannot trust the quarterback to be a positive force in the offense or to win a football game. Today's game showed that the Tennessee offensive coordinator had to manage his quarterback to minimize his potential damage to the team.

In my humble opinion, the decision to play conservative had nothing to do with not wanting to win or not having guts; it is a decision based on the reality of the TN quarterback situation.

ScottN said...

I think the post is absolutely correct. Sure, if they throw downfield it might be an interception. But what if there is a breakdown like last year's Ole Miss game?

Gutless. And all the talk about how much better UT will be next year omits the fact that more than half the starters are seniors.

BTW, I seem to remember an Arkansas team that tried to lose close to USC a few years ago.

Mergz said...

Maybe "gutless" was excessive, but what you (Checed) is saying is that Tennessee is uncapable of competitive football past a certain point. That they are lacking the basic "2 miniute" offense.

I assumed Tennessee's game plan was to try to keep it close, which they did by defense and ball control of offense, then try to win at the end. You are saying they were incapable of the last part, which might be true, but shouldn't they have even tried? I guess the argument here is they shouldn't have tried.

The last drive by UT was essentially a "we surrender" momment. It was "we would rather lose by 10 and run out the clock then try to win and lose by 17". If that is good with UT fans, it is great with me.

Andrew said...

They threw 2 passes past the line of scrimmage, and both went to somebody in blue. What else can you try?

jj gator said...

Some Gator fans need to get a life.

We WON the fucking game, yet there are those who still go into meltdown because it wasn't a RUTS win. Jesus, we managed to win in spite of the fact that Tebow fumbled during a drive which likely would have resulted in more points on the board for us, we had hardly any depth at wideout, some of our guys had the flu, and the officiating was piss-poor - what more does everybody want? We kept that pissant Kiffykins from singing "Rocky Top" all night long and forced him to eat his words - so much for some of those hacks calling it a "moral" victory for UcheaT.

You know, the Spurrier-worshippers still pee in their cornflakes over his not being hired back after the Zook firing, but they don't stop and think that one of the reasons he left UF after the 2002 Orange Bowl was over the ridiculous expectations of some of our fanbase. Sure the guy has an ego, but on the other hand some Gator fans want to eat their cake and have it too.

Cut the crap, Gator fans, No matter how ugly it may be, a W is a W. Nuff said.

SecondSon said...

JJ- not sure why you left this comment on this post. From what I read, it is about if Tennessee was playing to win or not and has nothing to do with Gator fans' high expectations. But, you are correct, noone should be upset about the outcome of the game.

Floridan said...

jj: ". . . the officiating was piss-poor"

Can anyone explain why we got an excessive celebration penalty after a QB sack and Tennessee didn't? Looked to be about the same degree of "celebrating."

The bigger problem is the rule itself - it should be restricted to taunting.

Mergz said...

The refs were terrible. If you call one excessive, you have to call the other, especially when players run on the field.

They also missed an obvious intentional grounding by UT. But to our benefit they forget to stop the clock when UT fumbled out of bounds.

jj gator said...

If Penn Wagers and his crew were paying close attention, there should have been FOUR fifteen-yarders called on UcheaT - two for face-masks, one for intentional grounding by Crompton and an unsportsmanlike conduct call for somebody showboating after a play was made.