Preview of Tennessee vs Some Team Coached by Bill Curry
Saturday’s home opener against Division II school Georgia State holds little appeal. The interesting games this weekend are Florida at Texas A&M and Georgia at Missouri for two reasons. First, these are the first conference games for the two newcomers to the SEC. Second, the visiting teams are the Vols next conference opponents. Nonetheless, there are a few interesting tidbits about Tennessee’s opponent on Saturday.
The Panthers run a hurry-up no-huddle offense, introduced in last week’s loss to South Carolina State (33-6). In that game, freshman QB Ben McLane was 7-for-15 passing for only 54 yards and was sacked five times in the first half. Junior QB Kelton Hill replaced McLane in the third quarter and performed moderately better, throwing 7-for-13 for 76 yards and 1 INT. Senior RB Donald Russel looked the best on the stats sheet, running for 120 yards on only 12 carries.
Georgia State on defense features a 4-2-5 scheme, which was implemented to defend read-option offenses. It didn’t work out well on Saturday as the Panthers gave up 488 total yards on 78 plays (NOTE: 78 plays is a lot of plays for one team in a football game). The defensive scheme is moderately interesting for Tennessee fans as it is similar in philosophy to what South Carolina uses.
So, considering that Georgia State was woeful, and the Vols are coming off a satisfying win, it made me wonder about how many points Tennessee might roll up on the Panthers on Saturday, which led me to look up the most points scored by a Tennessee team.
Not counting games before 1960 (I’m not interested in considering the 104 points racked up against American Temperance College, and other similar results against similarly irrelevant teams), the Vols scored 70 against Louisiana-Monroe in 2000 (70-3) for the most points. Using the same time frame for other high scores, Tennessee tallied more than 60 points on six occasions: 65 against Vandy; 63 against Arkansas and Western Kentucky, and 62 against Tampa, UNLV, and Vandy.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider Georgia State to be the victim for the most points scored by a Tennessee team in the modern era (since 1960). That of course will depend on a lot of things, including how Dooley and his coaching staff plan on approaching this game. It is unlikely that the Vols will feature the same players for the same number of minutes as against NC State last week. This will be a game to work on a number of issues identified on film and on the sidelines as being deficiencies going into the conference schedule a week from Saturday. But even with that, Georgia State could very well be the worst football team the Vols have faced in decades.
After all, this is a school that didn’t have a football program until 2010, and has tallied records of 6-5 and 3-8 in their first two seasons.
There is no betting spread on the game (as is the case when Div. I teams play Div. II programs). So, you’re left to ‘experts’ outside of Las Vegas to give you a sense of how this game might go.
Besides the anticipation of absurd final scores, the interesting aspect of Saturday’s game is the head coach of Georgia State, Bill Curry.
On August 15, Coach Curry announced that this would be his last season as a football coach. And that is significant because of his history as a player and coach.
Curry was hired in 2008 to start the school’s football program from scratch. He hadn’t been a coach in a dozen years, with the last eleven years being spent as a college football analyst with ESPN. But the lure of starting a college football program from the ground up was too much to pass up. If you think about it, any college starting a football program is a rarity — there are likely many more schools dropping football rather than starting it.
But also, Curry is a native of Atlanta, which factored into his decision to come to Georgia State. And, Atlanta was where Curry began his career in college football, way back in 1960, as a player for the legendary coach Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech (which is a roundabout connection to Saturday’s game, as Dodd’s legend began on Shields-Watkins field in the 1920s playing for Robert Neyland’s first teams at Tennessee).
After finishing his playing career for the Yellow Jackets, Bill Curry took his trade to the pros where he played center in the NFL for 10 seasons: Green Bay (1965-66), Baltimore (1967-72), Houston (1973), and Los Angeles (1974). His playing career highlights include two Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls as a starting center (SB’s I, III, and V).
It was back to the college ranks where Curry became the head coach at his alma mater in 1980, replacing Pepper Rogers who was fired (along with a QB’s coach by the name of Steve Spurrier who moved to Duke to begin his illustrious head coaching career in 1980). Curry coached at Tech for seven seasons, most of which were unremarkable. But it was his next head coaching appointment where Curry made his mark — Alabama.
Curry was the head man of the Crimson Tide for three seasons (1987-1989). His last season in Tuscaloosa found Curry leading the Tide to a three-way tie for the SEC crown (along with Auburn and Tennessee), enabling him to be named the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year. But because Curry’s Alabama teams could not beat Auburn, he wasn’t held in great esteem. And it didn’t help that he was in the shadows of Paul Bryant, who’s last season as head coach was as far back as only 1982. So when Curry’s contract came up for renewal on the heels of a co-Conference championship, the terms weren’t up to the status of a coach who had just been voted as the best among his peers.
Instead of accepting the contract terms, Curry bolted for Lexington to become the head coach of Kentucky. He stayed for seven seasons (1990-1996), after which he was replaced by the more innovative Hal Mumme. And that was it for Curry as a college football coach — 16 years, mostly losing or merely mediocre seasons with some significant moments of glory.
So perhaps the most significant item of interest during Saturday’s Tennessee-Georgia State game is that it is part of the swan song of one of the remaining ‘old timers’ of the game — one who is worthy of a remberance for what he has done in the game and where he has done it.
Oh, yes. Back to the score prediction.
Yes, the Vols will be working on their running game. Yes, the Vols will be focusing on improving defensive coordinations. Yes, the Vols will be trotting out lots of players who are not on the two-deep.
Nonetheless, this will be a rout. Hopefully, Georgia State University will spend the money wisely.
Tennessee 59 Georgia State 3