Oct. 24, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Tennessee calls it "boom-boom."
A kick goes into the line of scrimmage, and it's time to scoop and score. Twice on Saturday afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Vols were on the field for a boom-boom play.
"We just weren't on the scoop-and-score end of it," kicker Daniel Lincoln said.
But Lincoln, who had a pair of field goals blocked by Alabama's massive nose guard Terrence Cody in the second half, wasn't on the excuses end of his performance in a 12-10 loss to No. 1 Alabama.
He didn't take the bait when asked about a gamey quadriceps muscle in his right leg, one that he reinjured before the game. He didn't point fingers at his protection even after Cody got his fingers on two kicks.
As he's done before, Lincoln faced the music and took the blame, even if it wasn't entirely his to shoulder.
"It hurts," he said. "It hurts me personally. It hurts this team. I'm proud of my teammates. I'm proud to be a part of this organization, this program that put us in this position to come down to Tuscaloosa and play the game we played. But yeah, it hurts."
The same could be said for that quadriceps muscle, which Lincoln said felt about 90 percent before he tweaked it again during pregame warm-ups.
"But you don't feel anything when you go out in front of 95,000 people," he said. "Whether it affected me physically or not, that's up to our medical staff to determine when we get back and I get assessed (Sunday) afternoon. I don't have any excuses about an injury or anything like that. I control what I can control and leave the rest up to God."
What Lincoln didn't say, UT coach Lane Kiffin did.
"He's not quite looked the same in practice since (the injury)," Kiffin said. "He hasn't seemed to have as much power. But we can't allow as much penetration up front."
That certainly seemed to be the case against the Tide.
Asked if there's a rule of thumb for the height of kicks, Kiffin was pragmatic.
"Higher than they are," he said. "We allowed so much push up front."
Yet even after having missed a pair of field goals, Lincoln delivered a perfectly executed onside kick that receiver Denarius Moore corralled with a little over a minute left to play.
Another solid two-minute performance by quarterback Jonathan Crompton and the offense moved the ball to the Alabama 28-yard line - a mark UT's coaches felt was 5 yards inside Lincoln's range.
"That's the most relaxed I've been lining up for a kick in my career," Lincoln said.
Despite two previous misses - one on a block by Cody and another that fell short just before halftime - UT coach Lane Kiffin didn't need to say anything to Lincoln as his kicker took the field for a 44-yard attempt at a game-winner.
"He just nodded his head and smiled," Lincoln said. "This is something we talked about in the hotel before the game and in all the team meetings leading up to this. Be close in the fourth quarter and take advantage of this and win a big game for this football team."
The Vols have done that before with Lincoln. He made a 48-yarder against South Carolina in 2007 to force overtime and then a 27-yard game winner. That kick played a pivotal role in UT's last SEC East title. In last year's opener at UCLA, he forced overtime with a 47-yarder, although he missed a game-tying field goal in overtime.
And just moments after the game Saturday, Lincoln watched his kick on film and saw what he felt on the field.
"The kick comes off my foot right down the middle," Lincoln said. "Obviously, everybody knows the rest."