When South Carolina destroyed Georgia on October 6 by a shocking 35-7 score, the Old Ball Coach had his program ranked 3rd on the 6-0 W/L tally. How times have changed.
Alabama’s resounding victory over Tennessee Saturday showed why the SEC will likely be playing for yet another national championship.
Tennessee’s depressing performance showed that the decisions made in the coming weeks by Dave Hart and his advisors/financiers will determine when the next sellout of Neyland Stadium will be.
The motivation, as articulated by Vol linebacker Herman Lathers:
We know we have a big game coming up this weekend against the No. 1 team in the nation. You know, if you don’t come prepared they’re going to embarrass you.
Or potentially even if you do come prepared.
The public response to the Vols’ loss in Starkville last Saturday at Mississippi State was swift. It was also predictable since that game, before kickoff, was christened a crucial game in the career of head coach Derek Dooley.
I’ve stayed out of the Dooley-Must-Go vs. Dooley-Must-Stay debate, because I think it premature for a number of reasons. Highly entertaining, but premature.
This week, I’ve had the opportunity to take some long drives (for work) accompanied by broadcasts of various talk shows on the two major sports radio stations in Knoxville. A lot of hysteria. Some reasoned discussion. Mostly food for further consideration.
It all made me think about the time that the Tennessee Volunteer football program underwent a full-fledged rebuilding program, how the dark days of the last 2+ years are part of a genuine rebuilding phase requiring more than simply a ‘reloading’ effort, and most importantly how hiring even the best coach in the land to stem the tide of decline is not a sure recipe for a quick recovery.
The Vol defense is killing the promise of this season.
But you already knew that.
And some of you think of that promise as being long dead.
Besides lawsuits and fractured hips, not much has happened the last two weeks.
A welcomed calm. But next?
It’s Knoxville. There is always something next.
I don’t know if Derek Dooley’s hip injury came as he accompanied Robert Jordan’s bid to blow up a bridge in Spain or not, but this week’s visit by the Vols to the land of cows and their bells has me thinking about John Donne and Ernest Hemmingway.
Deborah (Debbie) Jennings filed a lawsuit in Federal court against the University of Tennessee and Dave Hart, UT’s Athletic Director. Ms. Jennings was the long-time Media Relations Director of the UT Women’s Athletic Department. She was an employee since 1977, became the first Lady Vol Sports Information Director in 1978, and ran the Media Relations Office until 2009 when the men’s and women’s Media Relations Departments were consolidated.
Jennings later resigned under pressure, as recounted in court papers.
But it was recently when the lawsuit gained national attention after Pat Summitt was made part of the legal festivities that the damage to hundreds of thousands of alumni and friends of the University was done.
1992 was the season in Tennessee Volunteers history when one legend replaced another.
It is hardly possible to believe that a season ending with a 9–3 record would go down as one of the most tumultuous campaigns of Tennessee Volunteer football. But that is an apt description of what happened 20 years ago.
It was a season that was ushered in with the untimely death of the head athletic trainer and a heart bypass operation performed on the head coach. These preludes led to the main act featuring stars in the making at quarterback and running back, an improbable run up the national ranking to number four under unproven leadership, and an agonizing four weeks during which the team lost its only three games of the season, doing so under the recuperating head coach who had returned from the operating table at a timetable to perhaps save his job.
The finale gave us the transfer of power from one Tennessee legend to another.
William Shakespeare did not write this tale. It was more like a modern-day reality television show. But it really happened.
So, if you think 2008 was the most gut-wrenching season possible, take a trip back 20 years to when Phillip Fulmer began his Tennessee head coaching career, and when another Tennessee legend ended his.
One of the main descriptive statistics that we have used here to evaluate performance on the field is that of the Big Play. A Big Play is defined very simply: any play from scrimmage that gains 20 or more yards.
Obviously, a touchdown pass on a 4th & goal at the opponent’s 9 yard line could be considered as a “big play”, but the objective here is to look at the long gains because those are the plays that (1) are a measure of the difference in player speed; and (2) have the biggest tendency to break down the will of the opponent, especially if accomplished multiple times.
In the first five games of 2012, the Vols defense has given up a total of 28 big plays.
How important have they been in defining Tennessee’s season so far? Have a look at this chart…