Music City Miracle Part Two Crushes Tennessee as North Carolina Triumphs
NASHVILLE -- This time the Tennessee team lost in the Music City Miracle, Part Two.
In an end of game scenario that will be dissected as closely as the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, Derek Dooley, the unluckiest head coach in college football history, managed to lose another game after he'd already won it.
And this one hurt even more. Cut deeper. Left Volunteer fans staring forlornly at the heavens wondering what in the world the fan base has done for karma to so completely desert the program. As Tennessee fans rained down bottles and other paraphernalia on the officials leaving the field, North Carolina's coaching staff exploded out of the coaches booth screaming along in tune to Rocky Top: "Sloppy Top, Sloppy Top, you'll always be a**holes to me!"
The loss left Dooley nearly speechless. "Well," he said, pausing for a moment, "I thought I'd seen it all in Baton Rouge."
So did Tennessee Vol fans who'd watched Tennessee lose to LSU on a final untimed down after being flagged with 13 men on the field. Once more Dooley's Tennessee Volunteer football team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. With 31 seconds remaining and no timeouts left, North Carolina took possession of the football at its own 20, trailing 20-17. The Tar Heels were still in the game because Daniel Lincoln, the Vols senior kicker, had his extra point blocked after a go-ahead touchdown by Tennessee.
Already the Vols had stopped one Carolina drive with 1:30 left in the game, prompting this Tweet from me: "Vols win! This is the loudest LP Field has been all year. Huge win for Derek Dooley. Hair still immaculate."
This is the Tennessee football version of Dewey Defeats Truman. Yep, maybe I jinxed them. Somebody had to.
On first down, North Carolina's T.J. Yates dropped back and lofted a pass down the right sideline complete for 28 yards. On the play, Vol defender Janzen Jackson delivered a violent hit that was flagged for an additional 15 yards. In his post-game press conference Dooley remarked that he didn't know a helmet hit delivered to the back was illegal. But it was flagged and gave the Tar Heels the ball at the Vol 37.
Then chaos arrived on the banks of the Cumberland River.
Carolina completed a pass, but the officiating crew ruled that a replay review had already begun before that play. After a 12-yard gain to the Vol 25, Butch Davis made the inexplicable, Les Milesian-like decision to run the football on 2nd and 10 with no timeouts remaining. Asked why he made this decision, Davis said, "We thought we could pop a run for six or seven yards and clock it." The Vols tackled running back Shaun Draughn and it was deja vu for the Tennessee Vols. Only this time the Vols had the right number of players on the field and it was their opponent in full-on panic mode.
With the clock rolling, North Carolina panicked. It looked like a North Carolina fire drill on LP Field. Multiple players from the field goal team rushed onto the field while the offense remained on the field as well. Ultimately, Yates grabbed the football from his center and attempted to spike it before the clock expired. Later he would say, "I thought just give it a shot and spike it and see what happens. And we got lucky."
But that would be in the future.
First, the lead official announced that the game was over and Tennessee had won. Players from both teams flooded the field and, nearly three months after the LSU loss, Vol players celebrated a redemptive victory. Amazingly the Vols had won with UNC unable to get the play off and with too many players on the field. Only, you guessed it, the officials announced that the final play was under review. When the head official came back and announced that one second remained on the clock and that North Carolina would be penalized five yards for 12 players -- after film review I believe there were not 12, not 13, not 14, but 17 different Tar Heels on the field for the final play -- the crowd, 95 percent of which was wearing orange, came undone. Bottles rained down on the UNC sideline and Tar Heel players grabbed their crotches and engaged in cursing fits with Volunteer fans.
For a moment a riot seemed possible. (There probably would have been a riot if all the Tennessee fans in attendance had realized that the officials also missed an illegal formation penalty on North Carolina for the final play).
Then UNC made a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 and overtime ensued. But not before a Volunteer football player ripped off his helmet and threw it in disgust. That 15-yard dead ball penalty carried over to overtime. And in double overtime, after both teams had scored touchdowns, the Tar Heels intercepted Vol freshman quarterback Tyler Bray and then kicked a field goal from 23 yards to give UNC the 30-27 victory after the loss.
Tar Heel running back Shaun Draughn reached for a more celestial actor, "God was in the midst," he said.
"ESPN Classic will be showing this game 100 years from now," Butch Davis added.
Tennessee fans will be ruing the loss for that long as well. And in the meantime fans across the country will wonder why, unlike the NFL, college football doesn't have a 10-second runoff in the event of penalty that benefits the team that was penalized. Otherwise you're effectively rewarding the offensive team for its own incompetence.
Dooley (photo, above right) certainly believes there should be a change in the rules.
"It's why they have the 10 second (run off) rule in the NFL. And we probably should have it in college," he said.
Not surprisingly, Davis, who has been a head coach in both the NFL and college, disagreed. At least he does after winning the game because of the rule's absence. Asked whether he believed that college should have the same rule as the NFL, Davis replied succinctly, "I do not," he said.
Whether this bowl game changes anything in the college football rulebook remains to be seen. In the meantime, Volunteer fans are left to wonder why they've become the most star-crossed fans in sports. How many programs in America have twice been announced the victor in the same season only to lose both games? Welcome to the 2010 Vols, an 8-5 team before the officials enter the replay booth to review the final play of the game. All over downtown Nashville, Volunteer fans listening to sad country songs in honky tonks stared deep into the depths of their beers and asked themselves over and over again, "Why the hell do I care so much?"
Meanwhile, Dooley, the only coach in football history to lose a game because his own team had 13 on the field and because the opposing team had 17 on the field, was asked whether he felt like the unluckiest coach in America.
Tennessee's head coach shook his head. "No," he said, "I'm lucky to be at Tennessee."
Whether that's true remains to be seen.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail back on a weekly basis, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.