SEC: Daniel Lincoln

North Carolina defeated Tennessee 30-27 in double overtime Thursday night in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: The Vols seemingly had the game won, but imploded in the final 31 seconds of regulation. The Tar Heels, with no timeouts left, connected on a 28-yard pass down the sideline and then picked up an additional 15 yards when Tennessee’s Janzen Jackson was whistled for a personal foul penalty for leading with his head. The Tar Heels tied the game on Casey Barth’s 39-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, but only after the officials put one second back on the clock after a review from the booth determined there was still one second remaining when North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates spiked the ball. The Tar Heels were penalized for having too many men on the field when their field goal team tried to run onto the field, but they still got one last play because there's no 10-second runoff in college football similar to the NFL. Another 15-yard penalty on the Vols occuring after Barth's game-tying field goal gave North Carolina the ball on the 12 in the first overtime. After both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was intercepted by Quan Sturdivant in the second overtime, and Tar Heels won it on Barth’s 23-yard field goal.

Turning point: Tennessee took the lead with 5:16 to play on Bray’s 8-yard touchdown pass to freshman Justin Hunter, but Daniel Lincoln’s extra point was partially blocked. That made the score 20-17 and left the door open for North Carolina to tie the game with a field goal, which the Tar Heels were able to do on the final play of regulation.

Turning point II: Giving up the 28-yard completion on North Carolina’s first play there at the end of regulation was unforgivable. The only thing that beats you there, especially with the Tar Heels out of timeouts, is a big play, and the only thing worse than that was giving up a big gainer that becomes even bigger because of an ill-advised personal foul penalty.

Player of the game: Bray’s late interception was a killer, but he has a great future and made some big-time throws against the Tar Heels. He finished 27-of-45 for 308 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Other than the interceptions, the other thing he can afford to cut down on are the throat-cut gestures and salutes.

Stat of the game: The Vols had three personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final 31 seconds of regulation and during the first overtime period.

Second guessing: The Vols got overly conservative at the end of regulation and decided to run the ball straight up the middle three straight times, which came back to bite them. Don't you have to try something there other than a run right up the middle? One first down, and the game's over.

Record performance: Bray had career highs in attempts (45) and completions (27).

What it means: The Vols (6-7) suffered through their third losing season in the past six years, which will be even more difficult for them to stomach when you consider they lost two games this season when they were actually celebrating at the end of the game because they thought they’d won. It was a similar scenario in the LSU loss back in October when the Vols had 13 defenders on the field at the end of the game, giving the Tigers one last shot. Granted, that last offensive play by North Carolina in regulation was quirky with the second being added back on the clock after a review. But ultimately, the Vols have only themselves to blame for not finishing the game. They had hoped to go into the offseason with some momentum. Instead, they go into these next few months trying to figure out how they let this game slip away in the final seconds in what was essentially a home game in Nashville. And with the loss, Tennessee has now lost four straight bowl games to ACC teams.


Vols' seniors hold onto kicking jobs

August, 25, 2010
One of the priorities for Tennessee during this most recent recruiting period was to beef up its kicking game.

The Vols brought in highly rated kickers Michael Palardy and Matt Darr, and conventional wisdom was that they were going to get every chance to win the starting jobs. But seniors Daniel Lincoln and Chad Cunningham had other ideas.

Neither Lincoln nor Cunningham had great seasons a year ago, but they did enough this preseason to keep their jobs. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday that Lincoln would handle the Vols' place-kicking and that Cunningham would do the punting. Cunningham is also the leader as the Vols' kickoff man right now, and Palardy is the backup at all three positions.

Dooley said he had "no reservations" about using the left-footed Palardy in any of the roles.

The Vols struggled in the kicking game all the way around last season. Lincoln was plagued by injuries and finished 10-of-16 on field goals. He had two field goal attempts blocked against Alabama, including the potential game-winner, and another one blocked against Ole Miss. He was replaced by walk-on Devin Mathis for the final three games of the season.

Cunningham was fifth among SEC punters last season with an average of 42.1 yards, but the Vols were ninth in net punting (34.4 yards).

Kickoff coverage also was a recurring problem. Tennessee finished 11th in the SEC, and a big part of the problem was short kickoffs. The Vols had just four touchbacks in 72 kickoffs. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Ole Miss all had 10 or more touchbacks.

Dooley said Cunningham has kicked the ball deeper this preseason on kickoffs, but that Palardy has been better with his placement.

Un-special teams doom Vols

October, 24, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

At this rate, Tennessee is going to lead the country in moral victories.

If the Vols weren't horrible on special teams, they might have a few more real victories.

Special teams let them down again Saturday in their bitter 12-10 loss to Alabama. They've been wretched all season at covering kickoffs, but the kicking part of the equation came back to get them against the Crimson Tide.

Daniel Lincoln had two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter blocked from right up the middle, which just isn't supposed to happen. The one at the end of the game looked low, too. Lincoln also was short on a 50-yard attempt right before halftime.

To be fair, the Vols did recover an onsides kick to give them a chance at the end. But you're rarely going to win any game -- and certainly not a defensive-oriented game -- when you have two field goals blocked in the fourth quarter.

Cody saves Crimson Tide again

October, 24, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

Did Terrence Cody save Alabama’s season?

That remains to be seen, but the Crimson Tide got a serious mulligan Saturday thanks to the mammoth nose guard. His first blocked field goal looked like it might be enough for Alabama to survive.

But Alabama needed him to block a second field goal as time expired Saturday to hold off Tennessee 12-10 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Vols looked like the better team and the fresher team there at the end, but nobody could block Cody and Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard attempt looked low.

In a lot of ways, it was reminiscent of Jarvis Moss blocking South Carolina’s field goal attempt back in 2006 at the Swamp in the final seconds to keep the Gators’ national championship hopes alive.

Alabama fans can only hope it turns out as well for the Crimson Tide, who were able to win without scoring a touchdown.