September 27, 2005

Turning it Around…UT saves their season.

I stand corrected. Rick Clausen is the starter for the University of Tennessee from now until the end of the season. For Erik Ainge its time to grab the clipboard and master the offense for seasons beyond this year.

Clausen came in after Ainge threw an ill-advised desperation pass from the back of his endzone. Avoiding the safety, Ainge gave up a defensive touchdown when LSU defensive end Kenneth Hollis plucked the ball out of the air. Game. Set. Match. The Tigers would go on to build a 21-0 halftime lead and Death Valley was rocking. It could have been more, but the Tigers missed their chances. No matter I figured. Fulmer was a dummy for flying and playing on the same day. He is too conservative. I could hear my friend Scott in the Air Force all the way in Germany complaining while watching the destruction.

I work third shift and I figured it was time for a quick nap. 21-0 Tigers and the place rocking, forget about it. I snoozed after watching Clausen complete a few passes but also to see Tennessee cough up the ball. This was over. Tennessee was headed to ruin as written in the previous entry.

I catnapped, and when I awoke the screen read: LSU 24, Tennessee 14. Fulmer usually keeps it close and it appeared the Vols had made a valiant comeback with 9 ½ minutes left. However, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I noticed the telltale sign that things had changed. Tiger Stadium was silent. I mean crickets in the fields are louder than the noise being generated by the stadium famous for setting off seismographs in 1988 against Auburn.

The game had changed and right on cue, ESPN puts up Clausen’s numbers. Over 60 percent completed, 170+ yards and a touchdown. Stability had come to Tennessee and momentum followed. It would jump on board with two feet after Tennessee made an interception and returned it to the two-yard line. Suddenly its 24-21 and the place is deafeningly quiet. My eyebrows curiously raised. Tennessee was going to win. LSU needed to make a big play on the next drive or else they were going to see this slip away. LSU ran the three most boring plays of your life and they were forced to punt. Tennessee now had the ball and the 91,000+ in attendance knew what was coming. Could LSU at least hold the Vols to a field goal and get overtime?

To shorten this entry, they did. 24-24, 2:02 left when LSU runs three more conservative plays, the last one a pass which stopped the clock for UT. Again, my eyebrows furrowed. Tennessee was now going to win in regulation. Then the Orange Crush tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Clausen made his only mistake and LSU picked off the pass at their own 46-yard line. Again, shouts from Germany could be heard all the way here in central Kentucky. Then the Tennessee defense stood up, sacking JaMarcus Russell and forcing overtime after a desperate Hail Mary. No miracle this time Tiger fans.

I hate college overtime. Regardless of the victor it simply is not the complete game. I could go on and on, but there is no point. The Tigers would kick a field goal and UT would score on a Gerald Riggs one-yard run.

Game, set, match, and out the door I went, wondering what has happened to Erik Ainge and all his promise. This is not the same kid as last year. Going into this year, I had told my friend Scott that Erik Ainge was the key to the season. With him, they were a Top 10 team, without him, Tennessee was mediocre. Its not the first time I have been wrong. Tennessee found their quarterback and saved their season.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.