Saturday under an afternoon sun Derek Dooley returns to the hedges that Vince built; a bittersweet time for the Dooley family, regardless of the outcome. If Derek wins his momma will undoubtedly be exuberant, while Vince I’m sure will brood just a bit as he acknowledges to the red and black that Dooley is now another reason to hate Tennessee. If Georgia wins, Vince rejoices, and consoles a disappointed mother as she laments for her son’s misfortune. I’m sure the thought of this moment has already run through Vols’ and Dawgs’ minds alike. What will the prodigal son do?
For many Appalachians; Tennessee and Georgia alike it’s dog-days.
My grandmother defined "dog-days" as a period when vegetables stopped growing, hens wouldn’t lay and wounds wouldn't heal. It was best defined for her as the time just before the hard frost when the last bit of life eked out of things to make way for a harsh unforgiving winter. What I really, really know is it’s the last chance to establish your teams’ attitude for a winning season.
I think it’s apparent that Dooley, Wilcox, and Chaney can call plays and coach, or thus far the Vols would not have had the modest success that they’ve had. The biggest question that remains is whether or not Dooley and company have it in them to win a big game. At this moment, even a close win against a ragged force of Bulldogs are a big win.
In the past a down team was much like shooting fish in the barrel, likened to beating up on Vanderbilt or Kentucky; even now those games appear to be major obstacles. Of course I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. The Vols have managed to semi-rise from the Kiffin-esque ashes; it can be seen (in my opinion) in their exceedingly high efforts to revamp their play, but they have also fell from lofty positions as they stood over their wounded opponents.
Oregon, despite being the better team was for a moment in danger of being beat. Florida, despite well… being Florida, was in danger of being beat. LSU...oh never mind. Will Georgia be in danger of being beat?
Mark Richt is such a nice guy that I hate to say anything remotely bad about him, but he needs this win more than Dooley. With the consecutive losses under his belt, Richt is facing tough times in Athens. It will be tough to pull a respectable season out this year, and “…off with his head!” can already be heard by many in Georgia. You could try and argue stats but there simply isn’t an argument for the lack thereof. Dooley however can still bask in the glow of a close win at LSU that had everyone in the Volunteer state holding their breath for about 30 seconds.
It could be argued that these two teams always play each other with a “devil may care” attitude, resulting in a ballgame where one of the two looks like rock stars. Sadly, neither team this season even looks like a Bon Jovi cover band. Again…however, Tennessee does show hints of improvement, even with an offensive line that has been referred to as “pitiful”, now appears as if “uniform-strength” is emerging in their vocabulary.
There are still more deficiencies that anyone wants to admit, but there are signs of life on both sides of the ball for the Vols. Ask a renewed Janzen Jackson and see if he doesn’t radiate confidence, if still not satisfied you only need to look at Justin Wilcox to be reminded of a Jon Gruden-like demeanor. There is definitely a level of confidence that is easy to measure, but even a confident player can lose to a stronger one.
Is Georgia stronger? On paper and appearance, yes they are, performance no. Can they play hard enough to beat Tennessee, the odds-makers say yes, by 11 points. A similar prediction was meant for the Bayou Bengals and we all know how that turned out.
The fact is you back a wounded dog into the corner and they come out fighting, and if you tease a volunteer for fighting they fight till they die.
Remember the Alamo? And yes we all know they did in fact die, fighting.
Vols 21 Bulldogs 13