Tempe, Ariz - A year ago, Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer sat in the Fiesta Bowl interview room drenched in Gatorade and smiling the smile of a national champion.
On Sunday night, Fulmer sat in the same spot with almost nothing to smile about after a 31-21 loss to Nebraska.
"I sure don't feel as good sitting here as I did last year at this time," he said. "It's hard to spot a very, very fine team 14 points and win.
"We had enough mistakes on both sides of the ball to lose two games."
Add in Nebraska's back-to-back touchdown drives of 96 and 99 yards in the second half and Tennessee never really got in position to win.
"When a team takes it 96 and 99 yards on you after you close to 17-14," Fulmer said, "that shows they are something special."
Three years ago when Nebraska thumped Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl, much of the discussion was about the Huskers' physical superiority.
On Sunday, despite NU's two long drives, Tennessee players insisted that they hadn't been beaten up.
"I don't think they came out and physically handled us at all," UT defensive tackle Darwin Walker said. "We stood our ground and played with them."
Then Walker somewhat contradicted himself by saying injuries during the game to three defensive starters-two linemen and a defensive back-created the Volunteers' woes.
"We got a lot of guys dinged up," he said, "so I think it was all due to injuries."
Tailback Jamal Lewis said Nebraska's physical edge "wasn't as bad as last time."
"But they play hard," said Lewis, who gained 19 yards in eight carries. "They weren't as physically dominating as I thought. But they were in the right place at the right time and made the plays."
Defensive end Will Overstreet said Nebraska's power will always be discussed after games because of the Huskers' style of play.
"But we've faced physical teams all year," he said. "You going to tell me Alabama's offensive line isn't physical? What we saw tonight wasn't anything we haven't seen before.
"Now, give Nebraska credit. They have a lot of great players. This will teach us a lesson that we have to work harder in the offseason. We're not going to take anything for granted again."
Linebacker Eric Westmoreland said playing nose to nose with Nebraska wasn't the problem in the second half Sunday.
"We overplayed the run as the game went on, and then they hit us with some big third-down passes and got the fullback loose up the middle," Westmoreland said. "They keep pounding at you and eventually get something to work."