Chicken, egg, or circumstance?
We’ve reached the most interesting point of the season. There is a renewed sense of hope based on three quarters of play against an archrival. But upon what is that hope based? And will that hope still be there before kickoff in Columbia Saturday night?
After the first 6 minutes this past Saturday night in Neyland Stadium, both Alabama and Tennessee had garnered two possessions. Blake Simms and Amari Cooper had hooked up for two long TD passes (80 and 41 yards). Nathan Peterman had hooked up with Von Pearson and Jalen Hurd for two short, inconsequential completions. It was 13-0 and the season was already over.
Third string QB Josh Dobbs trotted onto the field, smoke boiling off of his burning red shirt. For the next 12 minutes, it was more of the same as the Vols did little with the ball and Alabama scored 2 more TDs to make it 27-0.
27-0. And there were nearly three entire quarters to play.
Then something happened.
The Big Orange proceeded to outscore and mostly outplay the Crimson Tide for the remainder of the game, to the tune of 20 Tennessee points to 7 Alabama points. The Vols came away with their heads held high following a spread-beating 34-20 loss.
It seemed that the 2014 season had taken its last breath when Josh Dobbs with his scintillating play created a visual memory of senior QB Justin Worley as a stationary punching bag. Dobbs dropped back. Dobbs rolled out. Dobbs threw. Dobbs ran. Dobbs faked Tide defenders out of their personal protective equipment.
Dobbs led the Vols in rushing yardage (75) and passing yardage (192). Dobbs led the Vols to a scoresheet that statistically looked fairly even against one of the best teams in the country.
Dobbs gave the VolNation a reason to believe that something good might come out of this 2014 season.
What happened, exactly, that caused this turnaround of team performance with fascinating immediacy?
That has been the talk of the town ever since late Saturday night. Until today that is.
Is Dobbs that much of a better quarterback for this particular team? Or was it the beleaguered offensive line that had recently been reconfigured to allow such production?
Or was it the simple circumstance of Alabama being up 27-0 and ‘relaxing’ as Nick Saban indicated at halftime?
Like a lot of things in sports, it was probably a little bit of all of those and more.
And with the team and fans seemingly supercharged even after a loss, there was that old friend expectation that raised its head up from the collective hands of this fan base, ready to predict a table run on the way to 7 wins and a bowl appearance.
You could feel Butch Jones sensed it all as he took to the podium for his weekly Monday press conference. His tone was pendantic, objective, and uber-realistic. There were no unqualified praises. There were even criticisms.
It was like Derek Dooley had returned to make one more appearance in front of the Knoxville press corps.
Butch Jones now knows very well how dangerous of a place Knoxville really is. He understands this fan base through and through. And he is not about to give juicy morsels of hope. Instead, he brings you into his world, the world of teaching a young group of athletes how to be winners. Because none of them know. All they know is 5 and 7. And he doesn’t want to raise anyone’s hopes.
Mr. Jones certainly wasn’t about to crown Josh Dobbs as the savior of the season, or even as next week’s starting quarterback.
Nope. Instead it’s back to the process of competition for starting spots, the process of getting ready for a road game against a notable but beatable opponent.
One day at a time.
But, that’s not a headline. That is boring.
Until today, when the best that the writers could do was publish a rumor that Butch Jones is one of four possible candidates to replace Brady Hoke at Michigan should he be fired in December, or sooner. And they actually asked Butch Jones about it.
We went from ‘who’s our starting quarterback?’ to ‘who’s our next head coach?’ in just one day.
The insanity never stops.
Just another day in Volville.