Feeling the frustration

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
ATLANTA, Ga -- Many people were asking questions Saturday morning about the play of the Tennessee Volunteers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
When looking at the events before and during the game, Clemson got to their heads in more ways than one.
In media outlets before the game, several Clemson players called the Tennessee defense soft.
Before the game during the team's warm-ups, an altercation occurred between some Tennessee defensive backs and the Clemson tailbacks, who taunted Tennessee on their side of the field.
"In the pre-game, we were warming up on the defensive side, where we were supposed to be, on our side of the field," said Tennessee safety Rashad Baker. "They came down there and we were talking about what was going to happen during the game."
"(Chad Jasmine and Duane Coleman) started talking about how they were going to make plays and we wouldn't tackle them," he said. "(A player) hit me in my face and I tried to keep my poise."
That combined with the great Clemson fan support that were clearly the louder crew in the Georgia Dome, a few mishaps and penalties, it was easy to see why the Vols would lose such a game.
Tennessee lost control during the second half, especially defensively after several frustrating calls from the officials on the offensive side of play.
"You hope to have better control than that," said Fulmer. "You want your guys to be aggressive."
It was a shock to some.
"I really don't have any answer for it," said Tennessee recevier James Banks, who sat out the first half of the game due to violating unspecified team rules in Knoxville.
Several of the Volunteer players were unhappy after the game, especially Tennessee running back Jabari Davis, who has averaged over five yards per carry this season with the Vols.
Davis has been a power back and steady blocker, but only carried the football one time in the game. He clearly voiced his displeasure after the game.
"I don't know what happened. It was very frustrating on the sidelines today, I didn't know what was going on," said Davis. "We talk about being balanced ... we can't be balanced when we pass the ball every time."
"We had a lot of runs that Casey checked off on, and it was a total disappointment on a team standpoint," he said. "Being a running back, I don't know what was going on. I hope we get it straightened out before next year."
Davis seemed more disappointed that he didn't get the chance to show off his talents in front of another home crowd at the Dome.
"It seems like every time I come home, we lose. I thought this would be the game that changes things, it was another loss," he said. "I don't know if it's a curse or something for being from Georgia and going to another school. I hope we can get something on track when we find out what the problem is. We have the talent and the players."
Is it the coaching that keeps getting their contracts extended despite embarassing losses at the smaller bowl game?
Some angered fans were saying so after the game, but the players said it fell back on them, as they were fully prepared by the Tennessee coaching staff, with the momentum taking them out of control.
"I think the momentum of the game kind of took us out of control," said Tennessee senior defensive back Jabari Greer. "We had some unnecessary penalties that we could've prevented and a lot of things that we could've done differently. I think we just take this expirience and make a life lesson out of it."
The game was extremely frustrating for the Tennessee offense, who fell apart after a bad call on an apparent Mark Jones touchdown grab that was called incomplete.
"He said he caught it. I believe him. There were a lot of calls that went against us the whole game, that was one of them," said receiver Tony Brown.
The offensive line was dealt some serious blows as Clemson rushed extra players. Volunteer offensive tackle Michael Munoz did his job on the field but was let down in the play of others.
"It was very frustrating. You would be sitting back and protecting, not knowing what was going on, doing your job and hoping everyone else was doing the same," said Munoz. "Some people messed up and y ou can't say anything about that, what's done is done and we wish we were more productive."
Tennessee junior linebacker Kevin Burnett was the subject of two 15-yard penalties late in the game. He took some of the blame.
"It was penalties, there's nothing more that you can say. We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Burnett, who is still contemplating leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.
"I will say that I want to win here before I leave. I don't want to go out on a losing note but everything's up in the air."
And about being called soft?
"Ask number three and number one, they felt it," said Burnett.
The Clemson tailbacks may have felt some hard hits from Tennessee, but another Peach Bowl loss will be felt for months to come in the Volunteer nation.