2009 Orange and White Game
by Scott J. Caughorn
A Full Day of Orange (and White)
Saturday, April 18th began as a chilly morning, suitable for a light jacket or a sweatshirt; especially for those of us living in East Tennessee. At 7:00 a.m., at Victor Ashe Park, just after sunrise, 100 or so youth players from all over Knoxville gathered to participate in the final day of the first annual Athlete’s Revolution youth football camp. Children ranging in ages 6-13 attended the camp, eager to learn about the game of football. The “coaches” of the camp were ex-Tennessee greats such as Jayson Swain (WR 03-06), Daniel Brooks (LB 03-05), Fred White (DB 97-00), Troy Fleming (FB 99-03), and Todd Kelly (DL 89-92). Also, among the attending “coaches”, were Todd Collins, Chip Stricklin, Carl Stewart, Evan Barr, and many others. Whether or not the kids were prepared to put the pads on, at that time, one thing was inevitable. They all learned one of the most important values of football… teamwork.
After awards were given and all children were dismissed, 10:30 a.m. brought a wider array of sunshine; one that brought heat with it to the degree of a warming-up 70°. The kids would all soon be on their way to Haslam Field to take part in the celebration known simply as “Fan’s Day”, which began promptly at 11:30 a.m. As the Tennessee football practice field gates were opened, fans noticed the signs placed strategically near the outermost gate for each respective player position(s). From left to right, those were Defensive Backs, Tackles, Ends, Line Backers, etc… The longest line of autograph-seekers, by far, was the DB line, which ended up wrapping around the inside of Haslam Field, twisting and turning its way into a seemingly, never-ending trail of hopefuls. If you are familiar with the area, the line just to get into Haslam stretched from Lindsey Nelson, all the way around the Thompson indoor complex, and back again.
The one player, seeming to draw all the attention from the fans in attendance was number 14. There are players, there are athletes, and then there are very rare opportunities to witness someone special. In this case, Eric Berry is that someone special. After the Haslam staff and officers realized that the DB line stretched for eternity, they finally opened up a separate line for Berry himself; which was actually “caution-taped-off” to prevent line-breakers who had broken line previously to attempt to have multiple items autographed by the soon to be All-American Junior DB. The fans were, for the most part, pleased by the appearance of the players but of course wished the lines would have been smaller. By the time the players were requested to join their coaches at 12:50, the sun had reached its peak and the temperature was in the 80’s.
After such a hot day, what could have been hotter? After new head coach Lane Kiffin’s first “Vol Walk” began at 1:30 p.m., the anticipation would build because the fans knew that The 2009 Tennessee Volunteers Orange and White Game would begin soon. The primary indication that the time had come was first year O-Line coach Ed Orgeron hooping, hollering, and motioning his arms as if to say, “Get up, get loud, and get excited”. This encouraged fans even more who were already shouting, “Monte, Monte…”, after setting eyes on first year defensive coordinator Monte “Daddy Kiffin”.
The game started promptly at 3:00 p.m. with a bang; just not the “bang” most Tennessee fans are used to, as ex-head coach Phillip Fulmer was presented the General Robert Neyland Trophy prior to the game. Fireworks were also not shot due to the renovations being made to Neyland Stadium, as section ‘O’ to ‘Z’ was blocked off because of the construction. The remainder of Neyland was packed with fans, 51,488 to be exact (the second largest Orange and White game in history) anticipating the excitement of both the offense (white team) and defense (orange team). The fans wouldn’t have to wait long, however, as the scoring was early and often; opposing last year’s troubles, especially in the Red Zone.
The offense prevailed, in the usual Orange and White Game scoring system, 41-23. The final score showed an extreme amount of promise for both sides, as Alcoa High School standout Brandon Warren scored not once, but twice, from QBs Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman, while Quintin Hancock finished just shy of 100 yards receiving and a score himself. B.J. Coleman finished 13 of 22 for 160 yards, while starter Jonathan Crompton finished 14 of 27 for 143 yards and threw a TD strike to Austin Rogers. Pounding the rock were RBs Tauren Poole and Toney Williams, who gained a combined 160-plus yards on the ground.
Making the key play on defense was Rico McCoy, who intercepted Crompton for the only turnover of the game. Although the “Tampa Two” defensive package was not fully in effect, tidbits of that defense showed and sometimes appeared more effective than last decade’s “Mustang” defensive package. Most starters were well rested during the game, especially Eric Berry, who is rehabbing a “bum shoulder”.
Until September 5th, we as fans won’t know the full effects of Tennessee’s new pro style offense and “Tampa Two” defensive package(s). If I were The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, I sure wouldn’t want to find out.