One of the fascinating developments in Tennessee Vols football has been the emergence of Tyler Bray, soon-to-be junior quarterback. As a freshman, he took the starting job away from Matt Simms for the November stretch and the bowl game. As a sophomore, he was the selected starter for the entire season. Only an injured thumb prevented him from his first full season as the number one. Could his only full season be his last?
The tagline that has been commonly applied to Bray is “a surefire first round pick, perhaps top 5.” Or, at least something similar. To make this sentiment even more dramatic, many feel that this will apply to him immediately after his junior year. Right. Bray is good enough to leave early for the pros and good enough to be one of the most coveted picks in the 2013 draft.
Former Tennessee Athletic Director Bob Woodruff was a crafty old dude. I had the privilege to interview him in his office during my undergraduate years at UT as part of a journalism project. I was researching the plans (that were never fulfilled) to retrofit the south end of Neyland Stadium so that the Vols basketball team could play a few selected home games there. This was the mid-1970s when Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld and Co. were lighting up men’s hoops like a bonfire. The old Stokely Athletic Center was not big enough to hold the excitement of those days. All-night lines for student tickets were becoming commonplace, especially for the big games like Kentucky (that 103-98 war remains the best basketball game at any level I’ve ever witnessed in person).
I keep track of upcoming schedules for college football as they are announced. Recently, I noticed an oddity. UNLV added a game to its 2012 schedule this week, booking a home contest for September 8 against Northern Arizona. It will round out a 13-game schedule for the Rebels. Allowed? Here is what I found out, which jogged my memory a bit. It isn’t just about creating an opportunity to take program officials, coaches, players, and fans to paradise for a week.
Every game is a ‘big game’ for Vol fans. That’s what makes us great fans. We care. A lot.
But Saturday’s game against South Carolina is a really Big Game. This team has made it a big game due to psychological concerns – we now have a phobia of, a neurotic aversion to, a downright fear of the Dreaded Second Half.
I had a dream about Saturday’s game…
North Carolina vs. Tennessee | 30 Dec 2010 | LP Field
Music City Bowl – Nashville, TN | 5:40 pm CST | ESPN
On Wednesday, Teddy Karwacki suddenly realized that Tennessee was about to face North Carolina in Nashville the following day. That’s how strange bowl games can be to a fan – days on end that turn into weeks of inactivity, and then all of a sudden, shortly after Christmas, it’s game day. He thought he’d perhaps better set his alarm on his wristwatch just in case Thursday afternoon slipped by without a thought of turning on the television.
LSU 16 Tennessee 14
2 Oct 2010 | Tiger Stadium | 92,932Recap | Boxscore | Play-by-play | Drive Chart
LSU scored on the very first play from scrimmage and on the very last play from scrimmage. In between, Tennessee fought their hearts out and left everything they had out on the playing surface of Tiger Stadium. Except for a bizarre event on the final timed play of the game, it was enough to win.
Florida 31 Tennessee 17
18 Sep 2010 | Neyland Stadium | 102,455
Recap | Boxscore | Play-by-play | Drive Chart
Tennessee brought a 60-minute game to the Florida Gators Saturday afternoon, but in the end, it was an audacious call by Urban Meyer, and Florida’s ability to continually respond to the Vols’ best efforts, that led the Gators to a win in the SEC opener for both schools.
The 2010 Tennessee Vols are an exercise in going back to square one. The seeds of this were planted some time ago, and the sprouts appeared Saturday night in the most lopsided defeat of a Vol team at Neyland Stadium. The Oregon Ducks are a magnificent squad, but we’ve played a lot of magnificent teams over the past 90-odd years in the old house, and none of those whipped us by this many points on Shields-Watkins Field.
Oregon 48 Tennessee 13
11 Sep 2010 | Neyland Stadium | 102,035Recap | Boxscore | Play-by-play | Drive Chart
With 8:53 left in the first quarter, a good old-fashioned late-summer thunderstorm unleashed its sound and fury. That was just after the Vols and their fans in a floodlit Neyland Stadium unleashed their own sound and fury to ruffle the Ducks’s feathers for a quick 6-0 lead. One hour and 10 minutes later, following a mandated safety break due to lightening, the sound and fury of Vol football in the house that a General built resumed in front of a full-throated Volunteer party that reached its apex with the Vols ahead 13-3 just after the first quarter break.
Oregon vs. Tennessee | 11 Sep 2010 | Neyland Stadium
7:00pm EDT | ESPN2 and ESPN3.comI’ve been looking forward to this one for some time, as I love intersectional games. One of the most exciting, dynamic football programs comes to Knoxville Saturday night as the defending Pac-10 champions, ranked #7 in the AP poll (#8 in the Coaches’ poll). This year’s starting squad brings 17 out of 22 back from last season. More than relying on just experience, the Ducks kill their prey with speed and physical play within a very disciplined construct on both sides of the ball, including special teams. They are simply very, very good in every facet of the game. Read More…
Last week, Oregon defeated New Mexico 72-0, and Tennessee defeated UT-Martin 50-0. That’s a combined 122-0. What do you say we combine teams and go to LA and whip the livin’ cheatin’ out of Southern Cal? We’d both like to do it for our own causes if you know what I’m talking about.
Tennessee 50 UT Martin 0
4 Sep 2010 | Neyland Stadium | 99,123
“Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on th’ expectation of plenty.”
William Shakespeare said that.
“The joy of the present is the known of the past; the terror of the present is the unknown of the future.”
I said that.
Saturday’s thumping of the hapless UT Martin Skyhawks was the first shutout by the Vols since 2003′s 48-0 whipping of Vandy. That’s the joy of the present in the known of the past – wow, we haven’t done that in seven years! We’re on fire!
It’s that time for the first game prediction of the season.
Does it matter that we have a bevy of good receivers? Does it matter that the quality of the offensive line looks like a crap shoot? Does it matter that the depth of this year’s squad is likely as shallow as we’ve seen in over 30 years? Does it matter that our defense as a whole looks pretty competitive? Read More…