1 — Doormat . By virtue of their 31-16 loss to Tennessee, Vandebilt capped off a perfect 0-8 record in conference play, thus solidifying, once again, that Vanderbilt is the doormat on which the rest of the SEC wipes its cleats. In true Vandy fashion, though, the Commodores took being the worst to a whole new level, ranking dead last in the conference in every measurable offensive category. Making fun of Vanderbilt is easy because, well, they’re Vanderbilt, but that doesn’t make it any less amusing.
0 — Tennessee offensive touchdowns in the second half of the last two ball games. For whatever reason, an offense that hits on all cylinders in the first half has been running out of gas in the second. The Vols have a grand total of 10 points during the second half of the Ole Miss and Vanderbilt games. A 27-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal and a defensive touchdown courtesy of Wes Brown in the waning moments of the Vandy game are their only second-half points to speak of. In the upcoming game with Kentucky, the Vols will need to have much more offensive success in the second half or they could see their 24-game win streak against the Wildcats snapped.
3 — As in points for a made field goal. It’d been so long since the Vols had an adequate place kicker, most Vol fans probably needed a reminder. Due to those struggles, Kiffin called for open kicking tryouts this week. Who won the tryout? Devin Mathis, who practiced for a week and was able to do what Daniel Lincoln could not: make kicks. Kicking isn’t the most difficult thing to do, made simpler by the fact it’s their only assignment, and Mathis proved as much Saturday. Mathis, who lives with Crompton and Brown, had previously been a member of the team prior to this season before deciding to hang up his cleats. Or so he thought. When Tennessee’s call went out for kicking help, Mathis, who’d been out of the country studying abroad until June, answered. By doing so, the redshirt junior may have provided the short-term answer the Vols were searching for at kicker.
4 — Seniors worthy of a standing ovation:
94 - Wes Brown — Star recruits arrive from all over the country to wear the orange and white, promising to give their all for Tennesssee. Some, however, grow up on Tennessee football and “giving their all for Tennessee” takes on a whole new meaning. For those select few, it might as well be the gospel. Like former Vols Will Overstreet and Al Wilson before him, senior defensive lineman Wes Brown is one of those guys — a gutsy bunch of guys who put their heart into UT football in a way that separates them from even their hardest working teammates. For those guys, Tennessee football truly is a way of life. That is why it couldn’t have been more fitting, a better strike of luck or run in with karma, for Brown to romp, carrying Vanderbilt defenders and refusing to be denied, into the checkerboards, subsequently giving his all for Tennessee one last time in Neyland Stadium by scoring the Vols final touchdown, on his Senior Night no less. Thanks to Brown’s gravel guts, the chronic bad knees and various other obstacles that have plagued his career haven’t slowed him down. When most other players wouldn’t even give it a go, Brown has been a pillar of strength for the Vol defense this year, on a defense with few pillars left standing.
2 - Montario Hardesty — His 171-yard performance against Vandy doesn’t seem like it. Not because that isn’t an outstanding day at the office, but rather because it’s what Vol fans have come to expect of Hardesty. After all, it’s what he’s been doing all season. Following his outburst against Vandy, Hardesty has 1,127 yards on the season and 2,173 for his career. Given the multitude of injuries and the inexplicable years where he played behind underachieving Arian Foster, it’s a testament to Hardesty to persevere his way to such a stellar career. Couple that with the toughness he displays and the attitude with which he runs, and it’s easy to see why Hardesty received the loudest ovation of all the seniors Saturday.
8 - Jonathan Crompton — There may not be a better story in college football this season than the way Crompton has resurrected his career. Left for dead and oft threatened by fickle Vol fans, Crompton has responded with a flourish in his final season. Against all odds, predictions and so-called experts that ached for backup Nick Stephens to play, Crompton has thrown 25 touchdown passes this season — the fourth most in school history — with two games still to play. The single-season record belongs to Peyton Manning with 36. Erik Ainge is second with 31 and Casey Clausen is third with 27. With two solid games down the stretch, it’s not unrealistic to think Crompton could end up second on that list. He’s also thrown for 3,732 yards in his career, the ninth most all time by a Tennessee quarterback. Alan Cockrell’s 3,823 and Heath Shuler’s 4,088 career passing yards remain within Crompton’s reach. Also after throwing 10 interceptions in the first four games, he enjoyed a streak of 142 passes without an interception. Unfortunately Crompton’s streak was snapped Saturday, one pass shy of Casey Clausen’s school record of 143. After last season and an ominous start to the 2009 campaign, it’s hard to believe and worthy of applause that Crompton will be remembered amongst the program’s best in their illustrious quarterback history. Touché, sir.
5 - Rico McCoy — It seems the reoccurring theme from Saturday is Tennessee seniors stepping up despite injury - or adversity-riddled careers. It was no different for McCoy Saturday. Listening to Lane Kiffin at Wednesday’s practice, I didn’t even expect McCoy, who’s banged up with various ailments, to play against Vanderbilt. Not only did he play, but he led the team in tackles with 15, as he’s done throughout the season. McCoy has amassed 99 tackles on the season to pace all Volunteer defenders, and he’s also forced four fumbles. One after the other this season, Tennessee’s linebackers have fallen by the wayside, but McCoy has stood tall, leading the way for the Tennessee defense.
Monday Morning Scoreboard
Published: Mon Nov 23, 2009