Hating the Gators from the west

Vols 6, Gators 30

All tied up with GodBlogCon/BlogWorld in Las Vegas, this was the first Tennessee-Florida game I’ve not watched in a decade, and it’s just as well.  Apparently it was all I expected and more.  Last year, I predicted that the massive defeat to the Gators marked the end of the Phil Fulmer era.  Premature, perhaps, but I stand by that statement.

Come on Phil, isn’t it about time to “spend more time with your family?”


Junior League

Vols 24, Bruins 27

In football, experience can make or break you.  The fact that Tennessee had a young, inexperienced team this year was no surprise.  The fact that they were inexperienced enough to lose to a UCLA team that played like a mediocre high school squad was more a disappointment than a surprise.

There were holes all around, undoubtedly camouflaged by Bruin QB Kevin Craft’s 4 interceptions in the first half.  Foster’s crucial fumble,  missed field goals, and missing players. Crompton looked rough, but in all fairness didn’t have much help.  The Vol offensive line — the one aspect of the Tennessee team that had experience — handled UCLA’s blitz as effectively as a screen door on a submarine.

On the bright side, overtime offers some extra experience, right?  Ughh.

We don’t need no stinkin’ Badgers

Vols 21, Badgers 17

A mediocre game filled with mediocre moments and mediocre play was enough for Tennessee to defeat the Wisconsin in a mostly mediocre bowl game. With most of its offensive coaches in a lame duck session (David Cutcliffe, Trooper Taylor, and others are all departing for more senior positions), the Vols did well to fend off a scrappy Badger offense to win their first bowl game in three years.

So against all odds, Tennessee finishes 10-4, so I’ll gladly tip my hat to a team which turned an abysmal beginning into a non-embarrassing season. It’s certainly better than anyone expected. On the slate for 2008:

  1. Find some offensive coaches
  2. Find a new quarterback
  3. Last but not least, BEAT FLORIDA

Here’s to a hopeful hibernation for the Vols!

Hot-lanta too hot for Vols

Vols 14, Tigers 21

Ten years ago — nearly to the day — I headed down I-75 with my college buddies to watch Tennessee take on Auburn in the first SEC Championship game to be played in Atlanta. It was Peyton Manning’s final conference game, and I gathered together my meager savings and bought a new orange Adidas “power-T” heavy sweatshirt. I burned up in the Georgia Dome that night, but the Vols managed to burn down the Auburn Tigers.

Fast forward a decade. Different location (my living room in Virginia). Different Tigers (some teams in the SEC aren’t all that original). Different winner. The only similarity between today’s game and the 1997 SEC Championship was that yours truly wore the same sweatshirt.

To their credit, the Vols kept their play consistent. For the previous three weeks, they had interspersed moments of brilliance with moments of sophomoric folly. This time the Vols gave, and LSU was bright enough to take. In each of their previous three losses, the Big Orange were beaten soundly. This game was the Vols’ to lose, and they lost it well.

It’s a shame that Erik Ainge’s otherwise solid, consistent career at UT has to marked with such painful interceptions. There are interceptions, and there are interceptions. Just as there are missed field goals, and missed field goals.

Sigh. 9-4. Oh yeah — I’m forgetting the bowl game.


Wildcats left blue

Vols 52, Wildcats 50

For the second week in a row Tennessee tried to give a football game to the other team. And for the second week in a row, the Vols were told that their charity was unwelcome.

Games like this — especially when it involves the Volunteers — are best watched in the presence of a cardiac defibrillator. From the onset of Tennessee’s second-half implosion, my heartbeat was quickened with nightmarish visions of my Kentucky-alum wife and my Wildcat in-laws dancing over my grave. However, after four overtimes, and a perplexing inability to stop André Woodson’s 3rd down conversions, the Vols somehow prevailed for the 23rd year in a row against.

My favorite miracle play of the game was the blocked field goal in the 3rd overtime. What’s yours? There are plenty from which to choose.

I couldn’t be more surprised that we’re playing in Atlanta next week if I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet, but hey — I’m not complaining. This year is our fifth trip SEC Championship game?

Anything can happen.

Barbecued pork, Tennesee style

Vols 34, Razorbacks 13

With defensive coordinator Johnny Chavis back at the helm of the Tennessee defense (he was gone for a few weeks, right?), the Vols held Darren McFadden to a mere (!) 116 yards rushing, effectively shutting down the Arkansas offense. Impressive play, and for the second time this year (Georgia was the first), I’ve picked the Vols to lose only to be pleasantly wrong in my predictions.

Congrats to the team and coaches for pulling it all together after the somewhat rocky, and emotionally upsetting week.

How homecoming is supposed to be

Vols 59, Ragin Cajuns 7

I didn’t go home for the Vols’ homecoming today (judging from the decade-low attendance, few did), but this is the way homecomings are supposed to be. And for one game of the year — this will likely be the last — the Vols routed a team. Granted, Louisiana-Lafayette probably made enough money from this game to fund its program into the next century, but one man’s thrashing is another man’s wealth.

Overshadowing any euphoria that might come from today’s victory is the dismissal yesterday of tailback LaMarcus Coker. After failing his fourth drug test, Warden Fulmer was required to let him go.

Don’t ever let anybody tell you that Tennessee isn’t the program of second chances — apparently when it comes to drugs, you get three.

Chicken fried football

Vols 27, Gamecocks 24

A fellow named Dickens once wrote a novel that began with the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” — words which would not be unfitting for the Vols overtime upset today of 16th ranked South Carolina. In a game that showcased both the best and worst Tennessee could do, the Vols somehow, someway came out on top.

With Florida losing to Georgia, and Kentucky on the ropes, Tennessee finds itself in the driver’s seat of the SEC East division. Arkansas is the threat that looms greatest right now, and given the Vols’ ability to throw 21-point leads to the wind, Kentucky is still a present danger.

Tonight was rough, but as my brother adequately remarked, “I’ll take it.”