Are you thinking pink?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so the Vols are going to mix a little pink in with the orange and white on Saturday when they face neighbor Chattanooga. Socks, gloves, wristbands, shoelaces, visors, towels, and other game apparel – both players and coaches – will feature the color you get when you mix red with white.
This isn’t the first time for Tennessee to show such support on the football field — last year’s game against South Carolina featured the same.
Sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin isn’t doing this as a one-off this year… he lost his grandmother to breast cancer while he was in high school.
Everything I do, I dedicate to her. I wear pink every day. Every pair of shoes I have, I put pink shoelaces in them. I won’t wear shoes without them, except on the field.
And now he will be able to finally wear them on the field this Saturday.
Nearly everybody has been affected by breast cancer — a close family member or friend of yours has probably died from it.
So wear something pink on Saturday. And if you don’t have any pink apparel, have a color card/paint swatch and carry it with you. It is a worthy reminder of those we have lost to the disease.

How do you spell “frustrated”?

I thought a good way to close the chapter on Saturday’s loss to Florida was to comment on the thoughtful and insightful comments posted to the previous blog. So, here we go…

TK says : 4 October 2014 at 4:57 pm Edit

strangest game i’ve watched in a while………………..

Any low-scoring affair in the modern game will look somewhat strange. The low scoring in this game was a combination of good defensive play and really awful offensive play. It wasn’t a “good” game in my book, at least how it was played on the field. But what it lacked in execution was substituted with pure passion — the players and the fans. It was a PASSIONATE game.

Bert says : 4 October 2014 at 6:24 pm Edit

disheartening to say the least….

offensive line is a dumpster fire…

hello UTC…..

Disheartening is a very apt description. Part of that comes from the expectations…

This subject of expectations is provocative because if someone were to say to a Vol fan “your expectations are way too high”, that will more than likely be met with a dismissive if not angry response. But I think it is a fair question nonetheless.

“It is just a matter of time before Tennessee reclaims its rightful place in college football.” This is a very common mindset in the VolNation. Personally, I choose to carry that with me as a belief because if it isn’t true, what is the point in investing time and emotionally energy as a fan? But the objective fact is that there is no guarantee that Tennessee will ever get back to winning conference championships with the chance at national titles. Your “rightful place” is what you earn in the moment, not by some view of history.

A lot of right things have to happen to get back to that premier level. It might not happen, in your lifetime, in my lifetime. Have we every seriously thought this? Recently, I have.

Regarding the OL, Coach Jones said in today’s presser that the OL is what it is, and there is no other option. It a lot of ways, it is very bad timing. You never really want to have all of your starters to be of the same graduating class, for many reasons. Especially now.

What is worse, I think, is that we simply cannot run the football in any sustainable way. That puts more pressure on the OL and the QB they are trying to protect. I think this is what will relegate the Vols to yet another bowl-less season. The defense can’t win games for you — Saturday was glaring proof of that.

Rick says : 5 October 2014 at 6:14 am Edit

It will take a long time getting over that one. I understand that it takes time, but everyone was ready for a big win. This was the perfect time for it. Butch has a lot of momentum built up with recruiting, but people are tired of losing seasons. Everyone thought this was the chance to get that sixth win. Now, I am not so sure we will get five. Kentucky looks pretty good.

That is another thing. Several second year coaches have made great strides on the field, and UT is still struggling. Having Derek Dooley was like being given the Death Penalty.

Everybody was indeed ready for a big win on Saturday. Just like the same teams and stadium two years ago.

Six wins is going to be very difficult, and more difficult than most would have predicted at the beginning of this season, mostly because of Ole Miss and Kentucky.

And, yes, a lot of blame can be put at the feet of the Dooley years. We just have to crawl out of that hole, a hole that is perhaps a lot deeper and more expansive than many thought it was. A look to the early Johnny Majors years are very instructive to how long it can take to become a significant force in the college game. And that was back when the SEC wasn’t as good as it is now. Nearly a decade to get from rock bottom to a conference championship. This could take longer.

rockytop78 says : 5 October 2014 at 2:08 pm Edit

We still have amazing fans: I was at the game (the beneficiary of two tickets at the last minute), and the orange/white checkerboard pattern in the stadium was a thing to marvel at; it looked great in pictures, but seeing it in person was fantastic.

We still have some amazing freshmen: TK Jr. had tremendous game, with an interception and a sack; he has a truly great future as a Vol. Jalen Hurd also is one tough guy; I wish that he had a better offensive line to run behind, but that will, hopefully, come with time.

We still have a hard row to hoe to get to a bowl game: four wins to get to six overall victories doesn’t look as easy as it did on Saturday before the kickoff against the Gators. Where are the easy victories in the rest of the schedule? I saw where UTC has a stud quarterback; can we write them off as a W? Ole Miss is sky-high, and unless they implode they should dominate us in Oxford. Alabama is going to show no mercy to anyone that they play for the rest of the season, after losing to Ole Miss yesterday. South Carolina is, surprisingly to me, looking more and more like a very beatable team after getting manhandled by . . . Kentucky!?! And speaking of Kentucky, at least we play them here, we might need the home field advantage against a team that took the Florida Gators into overtime in Gainesville. Mizzou with Maty Mauk at QB cannot be classified as a likely W. Then there’s Vanderbilt, which ought to be a lock for a W. But can you see four probable wins in the rest of the schedule? I am having a hard time doing so.

The Vol fanbase is incredible. The look of the checkerboard grandstands was one of the most wonderful sights I can remember. The million dollar question is how long can the fans, including the students, hang in there this season? Butch Jones pretty much pleaded with the fans shortly after Saturday’s loss.

There certainly is a lot of promise on the field in those freshman. Who knows but that we’ll have a second coming of those “Flaming Sophomores”.

We need four wins to go bowling. Let’s say two are Chattanooga and Vanderbilt. That leaves just two more. Two from the following: Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri. We may have to beat South Carolina down in Columbia to get it done. Otherwise, it will have to be wins over the Cats and Mizzou late in the season. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but at this juncture, it’s not probable.

Brscoggins says : 6 October 2014 at 1:18 pm Edit

No offensive line and no offensive play caller.

The coaching staff… I never know what to say regarding a coaching staff’s play-calling and strategy and personnel choices. I listened to the Monday press conference, and I think it was Jason Swain who asked why not use a fullback as an offensive lineman… CBJ has the perfect response: “Who do you want me to use?”

I really don’t know. But the interesting part of the point Brscoggins is making is that Jones brought in “his guys” when he came to Tennessee. It will be interesting to see if/how long it takes Coach Jones to fire his first assistant.

***

Great comments from great followers. Hanging in there with this team will be well worth our time. At least that’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Is Saturday’s game an all or nothing affair for you?

Ah, yes… the topic of moral victories.

If you are a Vol fan, you may have had enough of this topic, enough of this kind of result. And, if you are a Vol hater, you probably wish that Tennessee gets more and more of them.

FLORIDA vs TENESSEE

As discussed in the previous post, the importance of this game is immense, and arguably even more important for Florida than for Tennessee. So that brings us to the question of the moment — for the VolNation, will a win over the hated Gators be the only acceptable result? Have we had enough of bringing the fight to the opponent for a full 60 minutes with nothing other than an “L” to show for it all?

Well, the national media weighed in heavily on Saturday’s rivalry game. They relegated it to basically a third tier game — a 12:00 pm start on the SEC Network.

Over at ESPN.com.,  former Tennessee running back Jabari Davis had his say about it…

When I saw that the time was a noon game, that’s just disrespectful because it’s basically like, ‘You guys hurry up and play, get your game over with, and all the big-money games will be playing at 3:30 and at night time. I felt like it was kind of a slap in the face.

But perhaps former Vol WR Jason Swain said it best…

For the players in this game, it doesn’t really matter what time it is. The game could be at midnight, it could be at six in the morning, it can be in a parking lot, it doesn’t matter; it’s Florida-Tennessee. Let’s rumble. Let’s do it.

And that is all that matters. It is US versus THEM.

So back to the topic at hand…

I have reached the point where, for me at least, Saturday’s game is truly an all-or-nothing affair. If Tennessee doesn’t win and break this dreadful streak against Florida — especially when by all accounts the Gators are ripe for the taking, and we are supposedly laying foundation bricks — I will harbor no amount of satisfaction, even if we (again) play our asses off, with a loss of any kind.

I’m tired and I want all of the losing to all of the schools that matter to stop. And I want it to stop now.

It really needs to stop now.

So, to optimistically think that I will retain my enthusiasm beyond this weekend, my prediction is…

Tennessee 34 Florida 26

[...and, yes, I really do think that Tennessee gets the W, because Worley and our stellar WRs will fully exploit the Gators' weak secondary as our QB will stay healthy the whole game (somehow our OL will protect him from a front 7 that will try to dismember him...]

So, what is your prediction?

 

What’s up with the Gators?

It’s that time again.

Two years ago, Tennessee hosted Florida (as well as ESPN’s coveted GameDay set) in the most anticipated football game of the Derek Dooley era. Not only were the Vols ranked in the national polls for the first time in years, but the halftime ceremonies featured the most revered native son, former All-America player and head coach Johnny Majors, getting his number retired in a house that doesn’t host as many retired digits as it could.

The result was the beginning of the end of the Dooley era as the Vols melted under the stress of another second half filled with adversity, which perhaps is what many will remember about Dooley’s Vols.

And the national ranking went away as quickly as Dooley slammed the ball to the ground in disgust after catching a Tyler Bray throwaway in the second half.

At that time, the Vols had become famous for good first halves and lousy second ones. Simply put, those Tennessee teams were losers who easily unraveled at the slightest sign of a real fight.

But now, things look completely different (as long as Justin Worley is in the game that is).

This time, it is Florida that has that losing look all over the face of their once mighty football program.

*****

Yes, the Florida Gator football program is reeling. They have won only two of their past 10 games dating to last season, a fact that is nearly unthinkable.

It all started a couple of years ago…

The Gators defeated its massive instate rival Florida State in convincing fashion to cap the 2012 regular season. Second-year head coach Will Muschamp was the toast of Gainesville with that 11-win season, being named SEC Coach of the Year. But then the Gators, ranked #4 in the polls, got hammered in the Superdome by Louisville.

And while Florida State has won 19 straight games since that 2012 season finale, Florida has lost 10 of 16. Yes, injuries have been a big part of the downward Gator spiral, but the Florida program has prided itself on its depth over the years, so the faithful in the sunshine state aren’t satisfied with the training room excuse. They are as negative as I can remember them.

*****

To say that Saturday’s game is a big one in the growth of Butch’s Team #118 is perhaps an understatement compared to how big this one is for Muschamp and his swampers. The SEC East is practically there for the taking as it is the conference’s western half that holds the real powerhouses. And Florida doesn’t resemble a team ready to take it. Quarterback Jeff Driskel’s play has many calling for his benching. The defensive secondary is particularly awful. Three weeks ago, it took the Gators three overtimes to defeat Kentucky. At home. And Florida’s 42-21 defeat to Alabama two weeks ago featured the Gator defense giving up the most yards in school history (645).

The offense is getting worse every week. The defense is young and the paint hasn’t been applied to the canvas. And Muschamp’s seat has gotten hotter than a blistering Florida summer afternoon.

It seems that the only thing Florida has going for it come Saturday is history. The Gators have won nine straight against Tennessee, and the last seven of those wins have been by double-digit margins.

But the 2014 Tennessee Volunteers has the look of a team that is paying more attention to General Neyland’s Seven Game Maxims than any team in orange over the last decade. It seems as if Tennessee has their boot on the back of the Gator’s neck, ready to crush the very life out of Florida football, and kickoff is many hours away.

On Saturday, we’ll learn a whole lot about how far Butch Jones has actually turned around the Good Ship Rocky Top. The Vol fan base is on starvation watch and needs a victory over Florida right now. As for Florida, nobody has a clue whether or not they will have the same head coach come December.

A Gator win over the Vols just might save Muschamp’s job and simultaneously would cause many a hungry Vol fan to suspend critical judgment on Jones.

But a Tennessee victory would truly clear the air and establish the true vector direction of both programs.

Which way will it go? I’m waiting a couple more days before I decide. But I’m definitely leaning in a certain direction.

 

Can you tell it’s Florida week?

It’s that time of year when the blood begins to boil and the players begin to eat gator meat as part of ritual.

This year’s rivalry game may just feature some organized sartorial splendor. And there is even a website devoted to its organization.

Checkerboard Neyland

So, what color will you be wearing? You can find out at the website. Or, bring two shirts – one orange, one white – and be ready for anything… or help out a bluehair that doesn’t have internet access, or a computer for that matter.

What was the difference between a Vols win and today’s loss?

Georgia 35  Tennessee 32

*****

After a highly entertaining first half, the game went curiously dead in the third quarter with both teams failing to take advantage of the other’s misfortunes: Georgia (as predicted) got pass happy (to its demise), and Tennessee seemingly ran out of ideas as well as a quarterback (more about that later). But in the end, the difference was a trifecta…

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley tries to elude the tackle of Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium Saturday September 27, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley tries to elude the tackle of Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium Saturday September 27, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

A Heisman Trophy candidate. Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and scored two touchdowns. His 51-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter put his team up by 11 with 9:30 left in the game. It was a back breaker to a Vols defense that (again) performed valiantly on the road in a hostile setting.

A punt and fumble. Vol freshman running back Jalen Hurd burned the biscuits by dropping a handoff from QB Justin Worley with only 4:21 left in the contest. The worst part was it happened in the end zone (the Vols were at their one yard line), and Josh Dawson, who recovered it, was wearing a red jersey. It put the Dawgs ahead by ten, 35-25. Worley followed by marching the Vols quickly down the field for a TD to cut the margin by 3 with only a bit more than two minutes left. What could have been… yes. But it all started with a 50-yard Collin Barber punt that was downed by Georgia at the Volunteer one yard line. One big play was followed by another big play by the Bulldogs.

An elbow. Tennessee senior QB Justin Worley threw for 264 yards and three TDs. But in the middle of it all, he missed much of a disastrous third quarter after being hit on his throwing elbow during a pass rush. Enter reserve QB Nathan Peterman. Remember last year’s debacle in Gainesville? It all looked so familiar this time again. Except that it started out looking promising. On the first drive after Worley’s elbow was knocked numb, Tennessee unveiled a reverse and then a double-reverse to help Peterman march the Vols deep into Bulldog territory. But then misfortune came a-knocking as Peterman and Marlin Lane for an instant pretended to not know each other on a handoff that resulted in a drive-killing fumble. It was recovered by Josh Dawson. Yes, that Josh Dawson wearing a red jersey.

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