Wyoming surprises reeling Tennessee, 13-7
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse for Phillip Fulmer and Tennessee, Wyoming came to town.
Five days after Fulmer became a lame-duck coach, ousted effective the end of the season, the Volunteers lost 13-7 on Saturday to the Cowboys.
Wyoming came in a nearly four-touchdown underdog, the lowest scoring team in major college football and languishing near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference.
It seemed like a perfect opportunity for a homecoming pick-me-up for Fulmer and the Vols, who still had hopes of qualifying for a bowl.
Instead, the Volunteers (3-7) will be home for the holidays in the 17th and final season under the coach who led Tennessee to its last national title.
“Obviously it’s been a really hard week on everybody,” Fulmer said. “If anything, I should be apologizing to the fans and everybody for this whole week coming about.”
Ward Dobbs returned an interception 24 yards for Wyoming (4-6), which improved to 3-1 against Southeastern Conference teams under coach Joe Glenn.
“They have a legendary coach,” Wyoming quarterback Chris Stutzriem said of Tennessee. “They are playing with a lot of emotions, but never count out the boys from Wyoming. We never give up.”
Glenn is trying to avoid his fourth straight losing season with the Cowboys and is no sure-thing to be back next season himself.
It was the first time the Vols lost to a Mountain West opponent and only the second time in history Tennessee has had seven losses in a season. The Vols have never had eight. They’ll try to avoid that against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
“In this day and age in college football anybody can beat you, especially if you help them,” Fulmer said.
On Monday, an emotional Fulmer said he was being forced to resign at the end of the season, and the Vols players promised wins in their last three games to honor their beloved coach.
Tennessee defensive end Wes Brown struggled to find words as he faced reporters after the game, hanging his head and crying a bit.
“We’re not going to make excuses,” Brown said after gaining some composure. “It’s been a tough week, but there’s no excuse for how we played. No one wanted anything more than to win these game for coach Fulmer and these coaches. That’s all I can say—it’s been a tough week.”
The Vols hadn’t lost on homecoming since Miami beat them in 2002. The announced attendance for Saturday’s game was 99,489, but Neyland Stadium, which seats 102,038, was only two-thirds full.
Wyoming came in averaging 11.7 points per game. Tennessee wasn’t much better at 17 per game, so it was no surprise that neither offense did much.
On the first drive of the game, Mike Neuhaus picked off Tennessee quarterback Nick Stephens and ran 55 yards before being tackled at the Vols 4. On the next play, Stutzriem rolled out of the pocket and tossed to Greg Genho in the end zone.
Stephens was picked off by Dobbs with 9:03 left before halftime, and Dobbs’ touchdown gave the Cowboys a 13-0 lead. Jake Scott missed the extra point attempt after missing a 31-yard field goal attempt wide left earlier in the quarter.
“We hadn’t had a turnover for a while, so to get a couple and to have them mean so much was payback,” Glenn said.
Looking for something to prod the offense after Stephens’ second interception, Tennessee went to Jonathan Crompton, who began the season as the starting quarterback.
After a few successful running plays, Crompton underthrew a pass, was sacked for an 8-yard loss and overthrew Austin Rogers on third-and-19, drawing boos from the Tennessee fans.
Wyoming, ranked 111th in the nation in total offense, ran for 167 yards, including 98 by Devin Moore. Stutzriem finished 8-for-16 for 95 yards.
The Vols’ only successful drive came on their first possession of the second half, helped by a 23-yard run by Lennon Creer. Crompton found Gerald Jones in the end zone on an 8-yard pass to make it 13-7 with 10:08 in the third quarter.
Tennessee had one last chance, but stalled at the Wyoming 47 on fourth-and-18 with just under two minutes to play.
Crompton finished 11-for-27 for 91 yards.
“I still think our defense played well enough for us again but we just didn’t get it done offensively,” Fulmer said. “Again.”