|Tennessee again finds itself in 1-2 hole|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 21 September 2008 12:53|
``This one's on me. I'm a big boy with broad shoulders. I can handle it,'' said Fulmer after the Vols (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) lost 30-6 to the No. 4 Gators (3-0, 1-0) on Saturday.
What remains to be seen is if Fulmer can handle another season of trying to turn his team's season around as Vols fans question his effectiveness as a coach.
It doesn't look promising for Tennessee. In the next three weeks, the Vols must travel to No. 15 Auburn, which is sure to be disgruntled after a close loss to LSU, and No. 3 Georgia.
Fulmer was already reminding reporters in his post-game press conference about how his team responded last season to its 1-2 start. After a solid win over Georgia and a blowout loss to Alabama, Tennessee won its last five games to capture the SEC East title.
f other people had given up on us early,'' Fulmer said. ``We won't give up, and we've got a chance to be there yet. It's just a little bit harder road.''
It's not just the Vols' schedule that makes the road harder this season. Last season's comeback came at the hands of fourth-year veteran quarterback Erik Ainge and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.
This season, Jonathan Crompton is leading a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. Crompton has shown the ability to put together long drives but has a habit of making huge mistakes at crucial moments.
Crompton, who has four interceptions and only two touchdown passes this season, turned the ball over twice after driving the Vols to the Florida 1 on Saturday. Scores on both possessions would have put Tennessee right back into the game.
In the second quarter, Crompton dropped the ball after bumping into a teammate and Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap fell on it. The next time down, he was picked off in the end zone by Janoris Jenkins right before halftime.
To be fair, it wasn't just Crompton holding the team back.
ames - who returned a punt for a touchdown - and averaged only 37.5 yards on four kicks.
``We stopped ourselves,'' Crompton said. ``Our defense played a good game. If we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, we don't give up that many points.''
It's a familiar refrain. Mistakes cost the Vols a 27-24 overtime loss in the season opener to UCLA and kept Tennessee from putting more points up in a 35-3 win over UAB.
The scenario is all too familiar for Fulmer, who is now 5-12 against Florida. Since winning the 1998 national championship, he's 20-25 against ranked opponents and 13-14 against Florida, Georgia and Alabama combined.
That's not enough to appease the Tennessee fans, who peppered Knoxville sports radio shows and football message boards Saturday night calling for Fulmer's resignation and moaning the Vols' mediocrity.
Fulmer received a new contract in the offseason worth an average $3 million annually over the next seven seasons. He receives built-in raises each season, raises for an SEC championship or BCS bowl appearance and an automatic one-year extension for every eight-win season.
He's got a lot of work to do if he wants a shot at that SEC championship-triggered raise or an eighth win.
Otherwise, he may be spending the postseason at the Independence Bowl or even at home.
ulmer said. ``We've played three ball games, and there's a lot of football yet to be played this season.''