10 years ago Tennessee Titan tight end Frank Wycheck took a handoff from Lorenzo Neal on a kickoff return with his team down 16-15 to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had kicked the go ahead field goal with 16 seconds left in the Wild Card Playoff Game. Wycheck winged the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson and…I am going to stop there. I feel that Bills fans have suffered enough.
I am going to stay wiiiiidde right of rehashing the gory details of the Music City Miracle.
Tonight I witnessed the Music City Debacle.
Tennessee freshman Tyler Bray, down 17-14, led the Volunteers down the field for a go ahead touchdown with five minutes to go. The extra point, which would have made it a four point game for those without an abacus handy, was blocked.
Fast forward four and a half minutes. UNC is down 3 with under thirty seconds to play. Tar Heel quarterback Tyler Yates, who has been in college for twelve years, and yes I’m sure, floated the ball towards the sideline. The receiver appears to make a ridiculous circus catch and draws a fifteen yard penalty for launching. Is that actually a penalty?
The ruling on the field is a catch, which is important since the replays are too dodgy to overturn anything.
The Heels have a first down inside Tennessee territory. Then things get interesting.
Already in field goal range, UNC coach Butch Davis calls a running play to chew up the rest of the clock. The only problem is that he forgot to tell his team what to do next. Apparently he has some ineptitude still left on him from his stint with the Cleveland Browns. It’s not called the mistake by the lake for nothing people.
Yates is confused, waving his arms around frantically trying to bring his team to the line so he can spike the ball. The field goal unit is even more confused and starts running onto the field with five seconds to go. It seems like UNC’s comeback is going to be spoiled by some lingering Cleveland juju. Yates tries to spike the ball.
It’s too late. Time has expired. The referee waves his arms. Game over. A sea of orange swarms the field.
But wait. Another lengthy replay. It seems that there was one second left on the clock when the ball is spiked. UNC is penalized five yards for having half their team on the field. Such stupidity should warrant at least the same penalty as launching shouldn’t it?
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is having LSU flashbacks. On October 2nd the Vols lost to the Tigers after appearing to win the game when they are flagged for too many men on the field. The Tar Heels are still in field goal range and Casey Barth kicks them into overtime.
The two teams trade touchdowns in overtime. Then Bray, instead of throwing the ball away and kicking a field goal, decides to float a duck right into the arms of a Tar Heel defender. Even Butch Davis can’t screw it up from here.
Two plays and here comes the field goal team again. The Volunteers watch as Barth ends the game.
The launching penalty was dumb, especially given everyone has gone all nervous nelly about concussions these days. But so was calling a defense that left two receivers open down the seams when your’e up 3 with time winding down. And so was getting an extra point blocked. And so was letting your freshman quarterback do his best Brett Favre impersonation in overtime.
Playing in their home state in the Music City Bowl, the Volunteers blew it. They can’t blame the officials. They took their time and made the right calls. I can’t even say the Tar Heels took it from them, because Butch Davis tried his damndest to give it back.
It was a debacle, plain and simple.
But it was also a great football game.