Vols football 2011 review: the suckfest edition

Happy New Year!

After a decent status-rating on National Signing Day, most of the rest of 2011 sucked. Plain and simple. Here are the lowlights…

In February, the NCAA notified that Tennessee had 90 days to respond to a 26-page Notice of Allegations regarding the Vol football and basketball programs.

The highlight of March was Chuck Smith’s diatribe-of-a-monologue given to a handful of reporters outside of Neyland Stadium while buses, cars, and motor-scooters loudly rambled by. It was all in reaction to Smith’s firing by Dooley the weekend after National Signing Day. Smith was reported to have said, “Lance Thompson is the head coach of that f*cking team. He runs the show. That’s the reason I’m outta here. They were intimidated by my presence.” Great national PR.

April showed us the sheer stupidity of the Orange & White game. You know the sayings about grass growing and paint drying. Well, this was perhaps worse, sort of like watching a two-hour Lunesta commercial.

May’s flowers. I began reading article after article, post after post, of how the 2011 Vols were going to win 8, 9, or 10 games. I knew we were doomed by our uber-self-perception. The Vols would go into the 2011 season unranked. In how many seasons was Tennessee unranked in the AP pre-season poll (since its inception in 1950) and went on to finish the season ranked? Four.

In June, Athletic Director Mike Hamilton resigned. That was the good part. He got $1.335 million as his reward.

In July and August, we got a lot more of 8- to 10-win predictions. I realized six was the maximum. I was too optimistic as it turned out.

In September, Montana made us feel like the Vols of 1998, but Tennessee got snuffed in the Swamp. Again. And we lost Justin Hunter for the season. All the earlier throttling of Cincinnati did was fuel the ridiculous lofty expectations for this team. It was the beginning of a very long, ugly end.

In October, after the Vols buried Buffalo of the MAC, who finished the season 3-and-9, Tennessee went on a rampage of failure. First, there was the underwhelming performance against a beatable Georgia team, ending with the emergence of Tyler Bray’s thumb, a convenient excuse for the sophomore mid-major killer not to have to face the best teams in the country. Again (note 2010). It was also the beginning of the now-famous Vol Third-Quarter Meltdown. The majority of the rest of the month saw the unfortunate reappearance of Matt Simms. LSU gave Tennessee the most physical beat-down the Vols ever suffered in the long history of Neyland Stadium. The next week saw more of the same in Tuscaloosa, ending with the strange burning of Justin Worley’s redshirt. And there was the South Carolina game, described by Steve Spurrier with: “We won somehow. I don’t know how.”

November opened with Tennessee shutting out MTSU, but also with the Vols not scoring a single point in the second half, again. By the end of the following week’s embarrassing smoke-out in hog-calling Razorback Stadium, Tennessee had not scored any points in the second half of a game since the dying stages of the Georgia game. That was no second-half points against LSU, then Alabama, then South Carolina, then MTSU, then Arkansas. Thank god for Vanderbilt, even though it took the returning Tyler Bray’s team an overtime miracle of sorts to defeat the upstart James Franklinites. And then there was the Kentucky fiasco, which deserves its own paragraph in this year-end suckfest.

The number was 26 going into the game in Lexington. The number was zero after. Joker Phillips called upon a mediocre wide receiver to quarterback his first game in his last game in a Wildcat uniform. Matt Roark passed for 15 yards, and Tennessee lost. Matt Roark ran for 124 yards, mostly from about five different plays. The Vols knew what was coming. But this loss wasn’t the fault of the Vol defense as many brilliant Vol Nation members claimed. It was all about our offense, an offense that was nothing better than high-school-variety football. Raijon Neal could catch a 53-yard bomb for a touchdown but couldn’t catch a snap from center. Tyler Bray played as if he’d smoked enough dope to allow him to enlist as a reggae bass player (he had the flu, I’m aware). Tennessee’s entire rushing attack was surpassed by a single Kentucky wide-receiver-turned quarterback. It took nearly three complete quarters for the Vols to move the ball on offense to inside the Kentucky 20 yard line.

December reminded us every day that 2011 was all about losing to a very bad Kentucky team. There was Tony Basilio’s blog about the dissention within the ranks of players, notably Da’Rick Rogers and Tyler Bray, and several others. If the Kentucky game was the tipping point for the turn of the Dooley approval rating, the Basilio article was when the dam gave way. Now we are listening to the sounds of silence from Dooley – he hasn’t uttered a public statement since the post-Kentucky pressers. And that includes the present DeAnthony Arnett soap opera.

Yes, 2011 sucked. There is no other way to put it. And I have recently heard the rumblings of artillery gunfire from a distant horizon that 2012 may bring big changes, and sooner than one might think. More on that in January.

Have a safe and fun New Years’ celebration. Go outside and smell the wonders of this life. You deserve it, after what we’ve all endured in one of the most forgettable seasons in recent memory.

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