>UCLA 19, Tennessee 15

>I’ve been sitting here, trying to figure out which is the more frustrating experience–opening the season with a loss to UCLA last year before having a romp at home or starting out with a romp at home before losing to UCLA.

Either way, I don’t have a good feeling as we head into the Florida game next week….

It’s the first stumble of the Lane Kiffin era and a pretty huge one. I think UCLA exposed a lot of weaknesses in our offense that you just know a good defense will have a field day with next week. And we failed in one of my hopes for the season–to begin the work of reclaiming Neyland Stadium as an intimidating place to play. I’ll give the crowd credit for being into it, even when the offense wasn’t exactly rewarding them for their cheers and passion.

After the offensive clinic we put on last week, our offense today was just plain offensive. Jonathan Crompton reverted to the form of last year, throwing interceptions and putting the defense in a bind time and again. Of course, I suppose we should be grateful that on the interceptions that he actually got the ball to someone since it seemed during long stretches of the game that he forgot his guys were in the orange uniforms. Maybe he was looking ahead to Florida next week when we’ll be in the road white….I’m not sure. I realize that this is the guy’s fourth offense in as many years, but at some point he has step up and do something and not be a liability. Too many times when a first down was needed, Crompton threw to no one….that was blindingly apparent on the last two plays by the Vols. He’s even given a chance for redemption on the last play by an offsides by the Bruins and….he still does the same boneheaded error.

Of course, that would all be a minor point if the Vols had punched it in on the series before. I may not be a high-paid coach but when you’ve got a guy in Montario Hardesty who is pounding the rock and getting positive yards and leading the team, why do you sub him in and out with the freshman sensation who wasn’t getting it done in crunch time during the game. And don’t even get me started on his spin-move when he should have put his shoulder down and got the first down instead earlier in the quarter.

So, it appears the new era lasted exactly one week. And this week, it was back to the frustration, futility and gut wrenching of last year. Maybe it’s just that it stings badly right now because I got my hopes up too high. But then again, it’s UCLA, a second-rate team from the Pac 10 that the Vols should easily have handled both years.

And yet, two years in a row, we’ve got on out and laid an egg playing them.

I’m disappointed for a lot of reasons.

The biggest is that this new era looks a lot like the one we saw last year. And maybe, just maybe the problems that were cropping up last year weren’t a certain as much to be placed at the feet of the coach who was let go.

One thing I will take away–the team seemed to be rallying and trying to come together several times. But I have to wonder how long the defense will put up with playing their guts out only for the offense to go three-and-out on multiple series before that boils over and creates some animosity between the two team units. I hope it doesn’t happen.

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