5 Thoughts - Outback Bowl
Tennessee 21 ...
Tennessee 21 ...
- 2008 CFN Outback Bowl Preview
2008 Outback Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More
1. Sometimes you
have to trust your defense. Wisconsin had a chance with just under
seven minutes to play to cut a 21-17 lead to one, went for it on
fourth down, and missed. Taylor Mehlhaff is one of the nation’s
elite kickers and could’ve nailed anything from 50 yards and in to
win the game on the late Badger drive, but instead the offense had
to go for a touchdown. As Herm Edwards would say, you play to win
the game, but it’s not like Badger QB Tyler Donovan had been on all
game long to have gone for it on fourth down. Donovan wouldn’t have
had to push the ball deep late in the game, leading to the
game-sealing interception for the Vols. All Wisconsin would’ve had
to do was go another ten to 15 yards and it would’ve likely won
23-21 had it taken the earlier points when it had the chance.
2. It’s all about the pass rush. Wisconsin didn’t get one on
Tennessee QB Erik Ainge and paid dearly. Average quarterbacks can be
elite when they get time to operate, while terrific passers, like
Ainge, carve up even the best of defenses when they’re able to get
comfortable. Ainge was able to set up, survey the field, and hit his
receivers in stride way too often. Wisconsin wasn’t able to adjust
and force him to hurry. On the flip side, Tennessee sold out to hit
Donovan whenever it had the chance and was able to beat him up with
shot after shot. Part of the reason was Donovan rolled out and
exposed himself, but the main reason was Tennessee’s defense.
3. The game showed the value of a veteran quarterback. Ainge has
been through the wars for four years, and he played like the calm,
cool triggerman on third down after third down. Few things are more
crushing for a defense than to give up third and long plays, and
Wisconsin had to the boulder to the top of the mountain time and
again only to see it come rolling back down. For the Badgers,
Donovan took his licks, but was able to gut it out to hang in and
lead his team for a full sixty minutes. While he didn’t make the
plays Ainge did, he did enough to keep the Badgers in the game.
4. Always go with your fastball. In the NFL, offensive coordinators
have to change things up series to series to match up with the
defensive adjustments. In college, one team’s strength can be
unstoppable. Even when the defense knows it’s coming, it can’t
handle it. Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill was rumbling at will on the
Volunteer defense. The other Badger backs couldn’t seem to get on
track, but the big, tough Hill pounded his way for big yards every
time he had the ball. So what does Wisconsin do? It takes the ball
out of his hands and goes to the passing game. For Tennessee, Ainge
was on fire early on and had the offense in a position for a sure
score, but a trick play went awry on a bad handoff. It wasn’t
needed. If Ainge had been able to keep throwing, the Vols would
likely have gone in for a touchdown.
5. Will people actually realize that Tennessee didn’t win this game
on speed over a perceived slower Wisconsin? The Badger defense
chased down Tennessee receivers time and again, and there wasn’t any
real problem with handling the overall Vol athleticism on either
side of the ball. Wisconsin was just as fast and just as athletic,
but it simply lost the game. It was a great battle between two good
teams that went down to the wire, but on the overall scorecard, it’s
an SEC win over a Big Ten team. That’s all that matters.