ATLANTA Ñ Entering its
matchup with Virginia Tech,
Tennessee had lost two straight
Chick-fil-A Bowls in AtlantaÕs
Georgia Dome.
On New YearÕs Eve, the Hokies
made sure to keep that streak
intact.
Tennessee found few answers
for Virginia TechÕs game plan in
the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl, falling
to the Hokies 37-14 in the
Georgia Dome on December 31.
After the loss, VolsÕ coach Lane
Kiffin had trouble pinpointing an
explanation for Virginia TechÕs
dominant performance.
ÒI thought our guys had prepared
extremely well for this
game,Ó Kiffin said. ÒBut for whatever
reason, we didnÕt play well.Ó
Tennessee (7-6, 4-4 SEC) lost
its first bowl game under KiffinÕs
tenure as head coach, while
Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC)
capped the programÕs sixth consecutive
10-win season.
HokiesÕ freshman tailback
Ryan Williams spearheaded a
lopsided rushing battle, recording
117 rushing yards and two
touchdowns against the Vols.
Virginia Tech tacked on 229 total
rush yards, while Tennessee
could only manage five yards on
the ground.
Williams, Kiffin said, was the
difference maker in the contest.
ÒHeÕs a great back,Ó Kiffin said
of Williams, who also broke
Virginia TechÕs single-season
rushing record in the contest.
Ò(Williams had) 1,500 yards as a
freshman this year without even
having an extra championship
game. HeÕs going to be a phenomenal
back for a long time.
For sure an NFL player.
ÒI would imagine if the rules
were different, heÕd be ready to go
at the next level right now.Ó
Despite Virginia Tech building
an early 14-0 lead, the game
stood tied at 14-14 after UTÕs
Jonathan Crompton found
Denarius Moore for a touchdown
with 18 seconds remaining
in the first half. After the ensuing
kick, Hokie quarterback Tyrod
Tayler connected with wideout
Jarrett Boykin for a 63-yard
bomb to the Tennessee 4-yard
line as time expired.
Tennessee rushed toward the
locker room. But after a review,
two seconds were put back on
the clock, allowing TechÕs Matt
Waldron to nail a 21-yard field
goal to give the Hokies a 17-14
halftime lead.
ÒTo give up three points like
that is inexcusable,Ó Kiffin said.
The second half was all
Virginia Tech. The Hokies
outscored the Vols 20-0 en route
to 438 yards of total offense on
the night.
ÒWe got gassed,Ó defensive
end Chris Walker said. ÒWe got
tired, you could tell, especially on
defense. We werenÕt making the
plays we were making the first
half.Ó
Kiffin noted several players
who became shaken up in the
game, forcing second-team players
into key situations. He admitted
addressing depth will be a top
priority during the offseason.
ÒAs soon as we get winded,
there arenÕt a lot of answers to go
to,Ó Kiffin said. ÒWeÕre going to
try to build our roster and build
our depth, so we may not see the
same issues.Ó
TennesseeÕs Montario Hardesty,
the VolsÕ leading rusher on the
season, finished with 35 rushing
yards to lead a stagnant ground
game. Crompton completed 15
of 26 passes for 235 yards but
was sacked six times.
ÒI was surprised we werenÕt
able to run the ball today,Ó
Kiffin said. ÒTo give up six
sacks completely blows me
away.Ó
Virginia TechÕs defense,
which entered the contest
ranked 14th in the nation in
total defense, kept the VolsÕ
offense from hitting its stride.
ÒWe came into this game
expecting to run the ball, then
get them with the playaction,Ó
receiver Gerald Jones
said. ÒBut they blitzed. When
you do a good job of shutting
down the run, then itÕs hard to
pass the ball.Ó
The Vols ended their season
in front of a crowd of
73,777, the fourth-largest
Chick-fil-A Bowl attendance.
The loss left many players
wishing for a better outcome
for UTÕs departing seniors.
ÒI think this is one of the
toughest losses IÕve had,Ó
Walker said. ÒIÕve made so
many friends as seniors. Wes
Brown, Jacques McClendon,
Jonathan Crompton, those are
my boys. For us not to win the
game for our seniors, itÕs really
disappointing to me.Ó
The squadÕs seniors werenÕt
the only ones waving goodbye
to their time at Tennessee. All-
American safety Eric Berry
announced after the game his
intentions to enter this yearÕs
NFL Draft.
Berry is heralded by many
draft experts as the top-ranked
player in the draft, but the junior
admitted the decision wasnÕt
made lightly.
ÒI really donÕt want to leave,
but I feel like itÕs something I
need to do to help my family,Ó
Berry said, whose parents
both lost jobs this past year.
ÒJust to see how hard my parents
have worked over the last
18 years, raising my brothers,
I fell like this is something I
can do to help them just sit
down and relax and show my
appreciation for what theyÕve
done for me.Ó
Though the loss prevented
an 8-win season for the Vols,
players arenÕt overlooking the
entirety of KiffinÕs first year at
Tennessee.
ÒIt isnÕt how we wanted to
finish it, but we did a lot of
great things this season,Ó tight
end Luke Stocker said. ÒWe
canÕt look past that.Ó