Tennessee Vols Happy To See 2010 in the Rearview Mirror
Perhaps no team in all of sports is happier to see 2010 come to an end than the Tennessee Volunteers football team.
Beginning in January with the abrupt departure of its head coach, to the trials and tribulations of the football season, it was one horror after another for the Tennessee program.
In this slide show you will see a recap of the events surrounding the Tennessee football program in what was quite possibly its most tumultuous season ever.
January 12, 2010: First Year Head Coach Lane Kiffin Leaves for USC
He came. He saw. He ran his mouth. He made enemies all over the south. He went 7-6. His recruiting methods brought numerous secondary violations and an official NCAA investigation to Tennessee. He left for USC just 22 days before National Signing Day.
That short paragraph pretty much describes Lane Kiffin's Tennessee tenure.
Kiffin made an impromptu statement to the Knoxville media shortly before leaving campus with a police escort due to students rioting outside the sports complex.
His players were in shock. Some of his assistants were caught completely off-guard. Fans and students were just ticked. 2010 was already off to a rocky start on Rocky Top.
January 16, 2010: Derek Dooley Introduced as the New Head Coach
After rumors swirled for nearly a week, Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton got his man. There were reports that former Fulmer assistant, David Cutcliffe was headed back to town. But according to Hamilton, Dooley was his man all along.
Dooley appeared to be the anti-Lane Kiffin. He talked with a southern drawl. He has a son named Peyton. His father is a legendary SEC head coach. His mentor is Nick Saban. There was nothing about Derek Dooley that reminded anyone of Lane Kiffin. Mission accomplished.
Dooley was a hit at the press conference at a time when emotions were in overdrive around big orange country. He was just what the doctor ordered at the time. But his career 17-20 mark at Louisiana Tech left many Vols fans underwhelmed. Still, the coach's demeanor and un-Kiffin-like behavior was enough for most fans to be cautiously optimistic about Dooley.
March 25, 2010: Highly Touted Freshmen Leave the Team
It was inevitable. Any time there's a head coaching change there's going to be some player turnover. For this shorthanded Vols team, however, that turnover could not have come at a worse time.
An already thin offensive line got much thinner when freshman All-SEC tackle Aaron Douglas left school amidst rumors surrounding his personal life. Douglas went to a junior college in Arizona before signing with Alabama just three weeks ago.
Much of the spring and summer was spent wondering about 2009 No. 1 high school prospect, running back Bryce Brown. As a true freshman Brown was largely unspectacular. Part of the reason for Brown's lack of success was due to Montario Hardesty's breakout senior season.
Brown never seemed committed to the Dooley regime, however, and he finally left Knoxville for good on July 31.
July 9, 2010: Bar Knoxville Brawl
Dooley got his "welcome to Knoxville" moment just weeks before fall practice was set to begin. On a late July evening as many as 10 Tennessee players were involved in a fight at a local bar. Just eight months removed from the pellet gun holdup incident involving three players at a local gas station, this news hit the program hard.
Starting safety Darren Myles was kicked off the team. Marlon Walls and Greg King were suspended indefinitely. Highly touted freshman wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Ultimately the charges were dropped a couple months later, but the public image damage was done.
August 8, 2010: Early Fall Camp Injuries Decimate Depth
Fall practice did not start well for the Vols. After losing senior defensive end Ben Martin to an Achilles injury just one day prior, the Vols defensive line depth was further decimated by Marlon Walls going down to the same injury. Both young men were lost for the season during the first week of fall practice.
Shortly after losing those players on consecutive days, Dooley spoke with the media concerning the Vols rapidly decreasing depth.
Dooley told reporters, "I'm terrified." The coach joked, "We’re looking at going into a 2-5, maybe a 1-6. We’re going to be the first team ever to employ a 1-6. The one better be a big guy; really big.”
Dooley got serious for a moment when he said, "We don’t have any depth anywhere.” He continued with another joke, “We have zero depth anywhere except on the training staff. We have the deepest training staff in the history of college football.”
September 11, 2010: Oregon Drills the Vols in the Second Half
After defeating a completely outmanned FCS team UT-Martin, the Vols played host to preseason Pac-10 favorite, Oregon. The Vols sprinted out to a 13-3 lead before the rains came. After a 70 minute delay for lightning, the Ducks came back out of the locker room with a renewed focus.
Beginning in the second quarter Oregon could not be stopped. The Ducks outscored the Vols 45-0 in the final three quarters to hand Tennessee one of its worst home losses ever, 48-13.
September 25, 2010: Vols Need OT to Beat UAB
After Tennessee suffered its annual loss to Florida, UAB came to Knoxville for what was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Vols. Instead of a cakewalk the Vols were caught sleep-walking through much of the game.
Thanks to UAB kicker Josh Zaun's five missed field goals in regulation, the Vols were granted a reprieve from what would have been one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.
Zaun would hit both field goal opportunities in overtime, but Denarius Moore made an incredible catch in the back of the end zone to win it in the second overtime.
October 2, 2010: Too Many Men vs. LSU
The Vols were on the verge of a tremendous upset at No. 12 LSU. Tennessee scored the go-ahead touchdown with 11:34 left in the game.
After quarterback Jordan Jefferson's 83-yard touchdown scamper on the game's first play from scrimmage, LSU couldn't do anything on offense.
The game came down to the final seconds as Les Miles-coached games usually do. After what everyone thought was the final snap flew by Jefferson, the Vols rushed the field and Tennessee fans everywhere began celebrating the improbable victory.
That is, until referee Penn Wagers signaled that the play was being reviewed. The verdict: Tennessee had too many men on the field. LSU got one untimed down from the one-yard line and its offensive line was able to help get Stevan Ridley into the end zone for the win.
The shots of Dooley running and jumping all over the field celebrating the win that wasn't became an indelible moment of the 2010 season.
October 23. 2010: Oregon Redux on the
After Tennessee lost 41-14 in Athens, Georgia, a much needed off week allowed for some extra preparation for hated rival Alabama.
That extra preparation appeared to help the Vols early on as they led 13-10 at halftime.
But when Alabama scored a touchdown four plays into the second half worried looks appeared across big orange faithful faces. Five minutes later Alabama running back Trent Richardson scored on a 65-yard touchdown run. The other part of Bama's vaunted rushing attack, Mark Ingram scored with less than a minute remaining in the quarter to give the Tide an insurmountable 34-10 lead.
Alabama won 41-10 in much the same way that Oregon thrashed the Vols in the second half just six weeks prior.
November 6, 2010: the Tyler Bray Era Begins with a Blowout Win
After finishing off a brutal October with a loss in Columbia, South Carolina, the Vols began the historically easy month of November at Memphis.
Tyler Bray claimed the quarterback job during the third quarter against the Gamecocks. He nearly led the Vols to a comeback win in Columbia before being named the starter after the game.
Memphis took a short-lived lead eight minutes into the game. But it was all Vols from there.
Bray threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns in his first start.
November 27, 2010: 26 in a Row
Wildcat fans and players pointed to this one early on as their best chance to beat Tennessee in nearly 30 years. In 2010, however, there was more riding on the annual matchup with Kentucky than some silly streak.
The Vols had bowl eligibility on the line in the final week of the regular season.
Kentucky jumped out to a 7-0 lead early and seemingly had all the momentum when the 'Cats drove 78 yards to the Tennessee one-yard line late in the first quarter. On first down from the one, Kentucky running back Derrick Locke fumbled into the end zone, where Tennessee recovered the ball.
That play would have put the 'Cats up 14-0 going into the second quarter. Instead, the Vols would tie it up at seven in the second quarter and eventually would take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Kentucky tied it up midway through the third quarter, but the Vols would score the final 10 points of the game to run their streak to 26 in-a-row vs. Kentucky and, more importantly, become bowl eligible.
December 30, 2010: Music City Nightmare
The game was over. Just like it happened in Baton Rouge a couple months prior, the Vols won the game and stormed the field. Dooley shook hands with the opposing coach as the orange-clad Vols celebrated the win. The referee even declared, "the game is over."
But, again, it was not to be. Even after North Carolina was the team with too many men on the field on the final play, they were able to capitalize on college football's lack of a 10-second-clock-runoff on an offensive penalty at the end of the game.
The UNC kicker, Casey Barth backed up five yards and split the uprights to tie the game. After a Bray interception in the second overtime, Barth came on and nailed the gamewinner three plays later.
The 'Heels received a gift-wrapped bowl win and the Vols lost in excruciating fashion for the second time in one season.
The 'Heels got the gift but this loss put a perfect bow on 2010 for the Tennessee football program.
Now you see why it was one of the most tumultuous year's in the history of Tennessee football. Beginning with a coach bolting for greener pastures and ending with the second celebrated win-turned loss, it was one roller coaster ride of a season for the Tennessee football program.