Instant Analysis - Sept. 12
UCLA 19 ... Tennessee 15
19 ... Tennessee 15
It'll be easy to
look at the stat-line for UCLA QB Kevin Prince and
assume he had a lousy game.
11-of-23, 101 yards, one touchdown.
No, it wasn't Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI against
Denver, but it was the type of game that should make
a young freshman quarterback a man over the next
several games and the next four years. He hung
tough, got beaten up to a pulp against a Tennessee
defense trying to rattle him, and he didn't make any
huge mistakes. In front of over 100,000 fans and the
Monte Kiffin Tampa 2 defense, he didn't throw any
picks and he was able to lead the offense to a
16-point mid-game run that turned out to be enough
to get by. Of course, the Bruins need Prince to
start doing far more, and yes, the sack in the final
moments for a sack wasn't a plus, but a win is a win
is a win, and now the coaching staff knows the
quarterback can take a beating and still pull out a
And then there's the flip side. Lane Kiffin hitched
his wagon to Jonathan Crompton to run the offense,
even after a disastrous 2007, and after a fantastic
opening day performance against Western Kentucky, he
reverted back to form. The senior will take the
brunt of the blame for the loss, after throwing
three picks and failing to lead the team to a
game-winning drive, but he didn't get a lot of help.
However, he went 13-of-26 for 93 yards and lost. The
freshman didn't throw any interceptions and got the
Is this the turning point for Rick Neuheisel at UCLA? While it's a little too early for that kind of chatter, beating Tennessee in Knoxville will go a long way to bringing the Bruins back.
The Volunteers were supposed to win this game. They seemingly had more offensive firepower, momentum from the opening day rout, and the energy from the home crowd. They needed more, like facing a defense other than UCLA's.
This win goes to the Bruin D and first-year coordinator Chuck Bullough, which kept Tennessee out of the end zone over the last three quarters and held it to 212 total yards. Oh, those four takeaways were also pretty darn important. Who says Pac-10 teams other than USC lack toughness? Yeah, UCLA has a long way to go, especially on offense, before seriously challenging the Trojans, but gut-check wins, like the one at Neyland Stadium, are instrumental for improving morale and attracting the right recruits to Westwood.
1) Taking into account the fact that a UCLA fumble in the Bruins' own red zone accounted for Tennessee's only touchdown, the Vols' offense mustered a legitimate total of only six points against a Pac-10 opponent on home turf. Lane Kiffin, meet Jim Donnan: You might want to realize that in the SEC, you don't talk a big game until you've earned the right to do so.
2) The endgame strategy in this contest was brutally bad. Kiffin had no business wasting his final timeout on a coach's challenge that clearly had no chance of working. Everyone watching in Neyland Stadium (not just on national TV) could tell that the UCLA running back fell into a scrum, was stopped cold, and then—following a three-second pause--went back to cover up a loose ball well after the play had ended. If you're going to use your final timeout in the last two minutes of regulation, you need to use it for a very good reason, and with a reasonable expectation of success. When Tennessee's final drive fizzled, an extra timeout would have been a nice poker chip to own. Enjoy Florida week, Lane. Have fun.
Lane Kiffin's large mouth was sufficient to create excitement and controversy during the off-season, but it isn't enough to mask the fact that Tennessee has a lot of work to do to become a big-time SEC factor. No matter how much Kiffin tries, he can't create a winning team simply by mouthing off. His Vols hung up a million yards and a thousand points against poor Western Kentucky last week, but UCLA was a much different story, since the Bruins actually play defense. And how about that for irony? Head coach Rick Neuheisel is an offensive guy, but his team is 2-0 this year because of the D. And even without coordinator DeWayne Walker, UCLA remains stout on that side of the ball. The Vols will eventually be good and perhaps great, but Saturday they ran into a team with a head start on the turnaround, and no amount of home cooking or bravado could prevent them from losing to a motivated, talented visitor.