The Chattanooga Times Free Press’ Wes Rucker does an admirable job of capturing the essential weirdness of the reactions to the results of the Florida-Tennessee game.
The mood outside the University of Tennessee’s locker room Saturday night was surreal.
UT had just lost by 10 points at archrival Florida but, with few exceptions, the Volunteers and their coaches seemed nearly satisfied.
Florida coach Urban Meyer had to coax smiles from his Gators in the postgame locker room. He remarked about reminding his seniors that they’d just capped an undefeated career against the Vols.
“I think there’s so much pressure on this team to perform perfectly, which is good,” Meyer said. “I’d rather be on that end than on, ‘Boy, great job, we lost by 10.'”
That last sentence isn’t far from what the Vols’ body language suggested.
All that’s left is for Junior to get a contract extension and a raise.
Also not to be missed is Meyer’s rationalization for playing down to Junior’s level:
“When I saw them start handing the ball off, you didn’t feel like they were going after the win. So we kind of, they wanted to shorten the game and that’s kind of, I think, the plan. I remember looking out there and there’s 10 minutes left in the game and there’s no no-huddle (offense being run by UT). They are down by, I think it was 23-6 and the urgency … .
“I do have respect for their defense. Eric Berry is a great player, I just watched his interception (of a Tim Tebow pass on Saturday), great play. So why put yourself … ‘Let’s find a way to win the game.’ … we’re not trying to impress the pollsters we’re trying to win the game. I think a lot of it had to do with the way they were playing. That made our life a little easier.”
All of which is true, and may very well be an effective counter on the recruiting trail to Kiffin’s likely braggadocio about the game’s outcome. But in the short term, it sure sounds like sour grapes about not being able to pound the upstart in the manner that the Gators and their fans had clearly hoped for.