Tennessee avoided what would have been it’s first 8-loss season. The Vols also avoided a first-ever winless SEC season. But that is not the real story of this game. Read More…
Nearly all of the air is out of the Big Orange Balloon.
It wasn’t simply that Tennessee lost to Florida at home last Saturday – the day that ESPN Gameday came to Knoxville to cover the hype that had reached levels not seen for a UT football game since the late ’90s / early ‘oos.
It was more about how that game was lost.
It’s funny how a single victory can turn around the entire vibe of a college program. But that is exactly what has happened with the Tennessee win Friday evening over NC State.
It is easier for that to happen with a season opener after a bad season rather than a late-season win after a few losses in the same season. A record of 1-0 with an impressive performance means that all things are possible. An upset victory getting your team to 3-5 means that you just might go bowling at the most.
The air is fresher, the grass a brighter green, the flowers more fragrant. It feels like a brand new world. That’s the first scenario.
Everything still stinks. That’s the second scenario.
Derek Dooley did his best to dampen runaway expectations on Friday night by saying that this win is just that – only a single win. A record of 1-0 doesn’t mean anything other than you are 1-0.
Nice try, coach.
Archibald Barns returned a Tyler Bray pass 100 yards for a touchdown. Eric Gordon returned a Jordan Rogers pass 90 yards for a touchdown.
That’s the kind of night it was at Neyland Stadium in one of the most memorable Tennessee-Vanderbilt games in a generation or more.
It feels like a very long time since the Vols last played the MTSU Blue Raiders. It’s not because it was nearly a decade ago (2002), but more that the Vols were ranked fourth in the nation. Tennessee won 26-3, on their way to an 8-win season. MTSU was on their way to losing their first 5 games that season, and ultimately 8.
Fortunes have changes for the Vols, with an 8-win season out of the question. MTSU, at 2-5, could easily be headed for another 8 loss campaign.
Down 7-3 to begin that Dreaded Third Quarter, Tennessee nearly exorcised all those early second half demons. But early in the third quarter, when Prentiss Waggner’s run — after his pass interception near the Vol 45 yard — ended just two yards shy of the goal line, it eerily didn’t seem like the Big Orange would capitalize. A three-yard rushing loss was followed by freshman Vol QB Justin Worley throwing his first collegiate interception.
It was one of multiple opportunities lost.