It was a long-overdue setting; it should have happened in the bayou, but, alas, head coach Derek Dooley has his first SEC win.
The "fan-fire" of bowl speculation has been further stoked by the Rebels' decimation, now that fire looks for another SEC sacrifice to make way for victories No. 5 and 6. Before fans look ahead, let’s look at the not-so-pretty way it came about.
After the sacrificial mauling of Martin, Tennessee fans got a little anxious for Oregon. By the end of the first half against the jet-lagged Ducks, Vols for a half-second believed, “Maybe we ain't so bad after all.” When the second half came, the confused Ducks came out renewed and reminded the Vols that the next two quarters were going to be a bumpy ride.
The next few weeks would prove to be much bumpier. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox showed us bits of his genius as frosh and old linebackers began to frustrate Florida’s Steve Adazzio before his receivers and runners began to pick on Tennessee’s shallow secondary.
The following week had an air of, “Could have been a whole lot worse!” And then we took the field against UAB.
Much to everyone’s dismay, the pesky Blazers wouldn’t just roll over and die as expected, and gave all affected a puckering you-know-what. It was a time for a brief tournament of the blame game.
Well, the following week was a bit more sobering—everyone gave each other wistful glances and feigned illness when prompted to talk about the outcome. But a win was a win and all knew it was one more game towards bowl eligibility.
It was then on to the bayou. The Tigers were bloodthirsty (having never gotten over their old backup, Rick Clausen, to give them the old Spanish Archer). The Mad Hatter was justifiably more than a little smug, waving John Chavis’s defense around like a loaded gun. That is, until Coach Dooley demonstrated that his team was rested and ready to play.
It turned out to be the greatest win that never was, and the Vols traveled home with a bit of bile in their throats. It left them with fresh animosity for the Bayou Bengals and the ever-infuriating Les Miles.
Even with the loss, Tennessee felt renewed—all were back to a “We ain't so bad after all” mentality. It felt good to be relevant and the team carried a nonchalant attitude into Athens. The Vols were looking for a win, but so were the Dawgs. Tennessee just got outplayed, and fingers started pointing…mainly the fans'.
Then it got worse. Alabama, the defending national champs, came into Neyland and all but ambushed the entire team—running up the worst beatdown in decades. It was bitter pill for Coach Dooley to swallow, and we might be inclined to think that Nick Saban took some small measure of pity on his old protégé.
After another week of high tension and wound-licking, the Vols traveled to South Carolina. The dastardly fiend Spurrier put on his usual frustrating display of offensive genius, intertwined with a few convenient penalties and turnovers. Darth Visor had his day and continued to wreak havoc on the bliss of the Volunteers. Hard to believe he lived in Tennessee at one time—the billboard once read he never was their native son.
And we know the sad story of Memphis. Suffice to say, there hasn’t been much “too much” bragging, except for the sake of our Popeye QB haplessly waiting to eat his spinach. Rightfully so—there is very little to brag about, really…who would?
Mmmm… mmm… mmm…we are a bit anxious as fans…right? We get a taste and we want a bite, with that we want a portion, a meal and so on.
Should Tennessee’s defeat of Ole Miss leave Volunteers fans any less ravenous? I think it’s only fair to be encouraged just for the sake of it. If it makes you smile and feel good about yourself and your team…so be it. Just remember you aren’t that far removed from being humbled again; it’s only a space away on the inevitable schedule.
It’s a little soon to book reservations—most any broadcaster or professional sportswriter will tell you to just stay home. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to wait until the third quarter of the Kentucky game. You can then tell everyone that you made the reservations during the game, and if the Wildcats happen to get their vengeance, you’ll still have plenty of time to cancel without penalty.
Either way, it’s still a good springboard for next spring, and then you have national signing day to look forward to. Oh my, we all love to talk about the one that got away. Wait, was I talking about recruits? Aixelsyd siht nmad.