Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Smoke in Your Eyes?

In the afterglow of the lunacy that was our presidential election I believe it is fitting that we all pick up some poster board and head into the streets to protest the Florida Gators being the SEC East Champions. By damn, they are not my champion! Afterall, it is completely unfair that fans are required to accept the fact that we simply blew it when we lost to South Carolina. We need a do-over or something. Surely it was Jalen Hurd's fault we lost that game. Remember he quit, and chose that game to do it, so I don't think it should  count against the Vols. Tennessee won the head to head against Florida, the Vols should have been declared champion immediately following that game. Hell, it had been 11 years since beating that disgusting crew from down south. And, oh by the way, while we are at it, let's blame LSU. The Tigers laid down Saturday against Florida. Can't get a yard? 1 yard? This is unacceptable. Where's our participation trophy? Aren't we all champions really? The Vols are officially back. You want to know how I know that? Because the Tennessee fan base is finally back in familiar territory. Once again we were watching for a Florida loss to help us get to Atlanta. We got so good at that in the 90's and 2000's that most Tennessee fans knew the names of the Florida players just as well as they knew their own Vols. Those were exciting times. We all sat around in October and November trying to figure out the scenario that would send our Vols with one stinking conference loss to Atlanta. Boy, those were the days, only in those days our only loss was usually to Florida. It's good to feel the comfort of the familiar, or something like that.

Okay, I got that out of my system. If you've been listening to sports radio out of Knoxville the past two weeks, you would come away thinking the Vols lost the last two games. Boy, how a little success, anticipation and high expectations can cloud the vision of a rabid fan base. Especially if that fan base is not just rabid, but also traumatized by the humiliation of a decade. Or maybe it's just the fires in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina that are the problem, clouding the fans vision, making things blurry.

The Sanford-Townsend band have the perfect song for Vols fans today, even though the song was released 40 years ago.

You left me here on your way to paradise
You pulled the rug right out from under my life
I know where you goin' to I knew when you came home last night
'Cause your eyes had a mist from the smoke of a distant fire


Some Vols fans were singing that at the top of their lungs Saturday night. The Misera-Vols have been out in full force the past two weeks. Misera-Vols are different than Nega-Vols. Nega-Vols are die hard, orange blooded fans who love their team regardless of how many things they don't like about a particular game, player, or coach. Misera-Vols are phonies. They aren't true fans. In fact, they relish the losses, and they are the first one's on hold for the call in shows after the game. If it is after a loss they are at their best. If it is after a win they twist the truth and distort the facts to support their claim that the football world is coming to an end on Rocky Top. They scream for the coach's head, demand that something be done, and talk incessantly about how terrible the program is and everything about it. They complain about the alternative uniforms and claim to be "traditionalists", but in fact they are not traditionalists at all. On the contrary, they don't truly appreciate the history of the Tennessee program, or refuse to accept it.

These same folks believe the Vols should be in the Playoff for the National Championship. That was never a reasonable expectation for this Tennessee team. The 5-0 start sucked a lot of people into an unrealistic place, and expectations soared, all the while top players were dropping off the depth chart at an alarming rate. The near miss in College Station changed the season, but also increased expectations. By the time the game was decided against Alabama many fans were down right depressed. I was one of the masses who were disappointed, but I wasn't disillusioned.

It is true that had the Vols gone for and converted a two point conversion, they would have been in a much different place and likely would not have lost to South Carolina, and that would have put them squarely in the mix for the playoff. But, they still would have been faced with playing Alabama again, and I don't believe the committee would have chosen Tennessee as a 2 loss team for the playoff. That would have set the stage for a potential 3rd match up with the Tide and that really wouldn't make sense to anyone. Only if they had beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship would a 3rd game have made sense. But, none of that really matters.

What does matter is that Tennessee is a very appealing candidate for the Sugar Bowl. The folks down in the Big Easy are very familiar with how the Vols fan base travels, and they would likely jump at the chance to invite Tennessee to play in New Orleans. So, that means the Vols must beat Vanderbilt on Saturday and end the regular season 9-3.

So, why are so many people turning on Butch Jones? It is clear that Butch needs to make some changes with his two coordinators. That's the only way he can take this program to yet another level. An interesting name I heard this morning as a potential offensive coordinator is Norv Turner. If you don't know who Norv is, google him. He's been around for a very long time as a Head Coach and Coordinator in the NFL. Not sure how real that possibility is, but it's a name I heard, not sure he would be my first choice, but better than what we have. The other thing Butch needs to do is stop saying silly things. I have don't have to run through the list of things he's said that shouldn't have been said. But, one of the most recent examples was at halftime last Saturday when asked how he was going to motivate the team "now that Florida has won." Butch said with a completely straight face that the reporter was the first person to tell him that. Come on Butch, the fans aren't stupid. Just say, "there's nothing we can do to control that, we still have a lot to play for." Wouldn't that have been easier than trying to convince the reporter that he was only one of 102,000 fans who didn't know? So, Butch needs to be more real with the fans, but still things are not a disaster.

So many fans have already forgotten the pain of the Dooley years. I mean pain, nothing like what's happened this season, not even close. Derek Dooley was 15-21 at Tennessee. Ouch! Want some facts to compare those numbers to?  Here ya go- if the Vols win Saturday and win their bowl, since the loss to Alabama (very close loss) in 2015, Butch Jones would be 15-3. Let that simmer for a minute. Since they haven't been played take the last two games of this season out of the picture and since mid-season 2015 his record is 13-3 right now. There were incredibly close losses to the Aggies and Gamecocks this season, and a couple of mind numbing losses last season to Florida and Oklahoma. Change those 4 close losses to wins and think about what the Vols record would look like over two seasons.

I know, what if's don't matter. The point is, Jones has done a remarkable job with a lot of youth and a lot of key injuries. Consider the players that have been lost either for the season or large portions of the season. On defense alone enough guys have gone down to justify a losing season, and yet the Vols are staring at the potential to win 10 games total. The defensive line is decimated. That combined with losses at linebacker explains how a 63-37 victory doesn't feel great. The defense isn't
stopping anyone. It's a good thing Missouri didn't have Forest Gump, he'd still be running for sure. Khalil McKenzie went down for the season and he wasn't even a starter when the season started, Danny O'Brien was the starter, remember him? They lost Shy Tuttle. LB's Cortez McDowell and Q'uarte Sapp were injured at the same time, and neither of them is a starter, they played behind Darrin Kirkland and Jalen Reeves-Mabin who were out injured, and Colton Jumper. They lost Evan Berry who was forced into the starting lineup as a safety due to injuries. His brother Ethan is now a regular linebacker and he started the season somewhere around 4th string. Dylan Bates hasn't been the player expected and he's spending a ton of time on the field. Nigel Warrior is playing significant minutes and according to sources he has struggled to learn some of the intricacies of playing safety. By the way, that's why he has been woefully out of position on some big plays, just sayin'. He is one of multiple freshmen who have been forced to play in the secondary who would not have played without a series of injuries.

Can you imagine what this season would look like if Josh Dobbs had been too injured to play? I say "too injured" because I fully believe he was banged up for Alabama and South Carolina if not other games too. He just wasn't running the ball like he has the past two weeks. I cannot come up with a scenario that would have prevented at least one upset loss the last two weeks if he had been on the bench.


I, like many Vols fans, am disappointed that this team didn't make it to Atlanta. But, that doesn't mean it has been a bust of a season. Beat Vandy and hope that things work out for a trip to the Bayou. Now won't that be fun?

Go Big Orange.  I'm OOOOOooooooooouuuuuuUT!

Friday, November 18, 2016

What's on the Menu?

I don't know about you, but it is common for me to sit in a restaurant and debate in my head about the two items I've targeted. Do I choose the healthier of the two? Do I choose the one that will most certainly have me up in the middle of the night dealing with reflux? You know that one, it's the one that hurts so good.  Anyway, the Vols have a menu in front of them to end this season. The only difference is they don't have complete control of the final decision. So, let's take a look at the final options.

Option 1: Win out. Florida loses to LSU on Saturday and the Vols waltz into the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship game. That would be the Tennessee Waltz by the way. While I would love to believe the Vols can pull the most epic upset in recent football history, it isn't likely. Tennessee with the team of talent that started the season would give the Vols a chance, but with this injury plagued team, they are not likely to beat Alabama. Regardless, even getting beaten badly, it's still the SEC Championship game for the first time since 2007. Making that Championship game was likely the team's number 1 goal starting the season.

Option 2: Win out. Florida upsets LSU clinching a trip to the SEC Championship game, followed by a blow out loss to Florida State the week after beating the Tigers. Florida goes on to take the worst loss in SEC Championship game history. By the way, the Gators have serious injury issues just like the Vols.

No brainer right? We all want the Vols back in the SEC Championship. It's kind of like that chopped salad with grilled chicken you decide to order, you know, the one that makes it look like you are making heart and health friendly choices. Everyone at the table will be so proud. But, what you and no one else will admit is that high calorie yummy balsamic dressing is not so healthy, in fact there are more calories in that salad than the steak you were eye balling. And, there are onions in the salad, and that's what will have you up and down all night reaching for the Tums. For the Vols, that Championship game could be the stage that shows just how far the Vols are from really competing for the title at all and who knows what kind of injuries come from it. A blow out loss could send the Vols tumbling to something like the Music City Bowl and could impact recruiting.

Option 2 would actually very likely put the Vols in the Sugar Bowl. That's right, the Sugar Bowl is a very real possibility. The Vols haven't played in the Sugar Bowl since the 1990 season. The bowl that once marked the pinnacle of an SEC season has not been a part of the Tennessee experience for a very long time. Think about the possibility of a match up of the Vols and Oklahoma or West Virginia
in the Sugar Bowl. Pretty tasty I'd say. There would be more than a month from the close of the season until the Vols would play another game, which is a lot of time for some guys to get healthy for a good showing in that Bowl. The Vols would likely be the SEC representative in Sugar Bowl because Bama will slaughter Auburn at the end of the season and LSU probably beats Texas A/M. With Alabama going to the playoff that would open the door for a Volunteer new year celebration in New Orleans.

The only other way the Vols get to the Sugar Bowl is to win the SEC Championship game and get left out of the playoff, which is almost a guarantee due to 3 losses. So, what's your choice? The healthy looking salad or the lean steak and baked potato? You have to go easy on the butter and sour cream of course.

Either of those options would be fun. But, for me, I'll take a trip to Atlanta and I will believe until the scoreboard says otherwise that the Vols are going to win. But, I will also be just fine with a month off followed by a trip to the Big Easy. Either way it's going to be a party y'all!!  Now, let's start by whoopin' Missouri.

Go Big Orange! I am OOOOooooooouuuuuuuUT!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I Hurd it Through the Grapevine!

College Football is big business, with lots of money at stake. In fact, the money goes beyond college football itself and includes the NFL. Players have a lot to consider, especially those with NFL talent. Many players, who are very young, are faced with enormous pressure related to money or potential money and it can seriously influence decisions, in particular when things become emotional. On Monday Butch Jones confirmed that in fact Jalen Hurd was leaving the Tennessee team. He handled the announcement with class, and was very complimentary of Hurd wishing him well and thanking
him publicly for his contributions. No one would have blamed Butch if he had unleashed a diatribe that would rival Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation. Afterall, a once very promising season appears to be vanishing right before the eyes of Butch Jones, his players, and fans all over the country. I'm  not sure how the coach is holding it together.

There have been a lot of rumors swirling out there about Hurd's decision to leave. I heard he hit a coach following the Georgia game. I heard that he cursed out a coach after the GA game. I heard he left the team not once, but twice, and that he had to be voted back by his teammates. It has been said that he refused to return to games not once, but twice. Think about that, watching teammates battle to the point of injury over and over and refusing to go into the game. Rumors have swirled for weeks that he hasn't been injured at all, and some of the things floating out there make what we've been watching more clear, if in fact they are true. I don't know what the truth is about Jalen Hurd leaving this team, but I do know this- I don't recall ever hearing of a player of Hurd's caliber leaving a team in the middle of the season. Preston Williams left a few weeks ago, but not only is he not the player that Hurd is, he barely contributed over the course of a season and a half.


Regardless of the reason for this departure, it is noteworthy that Hurd is only 400 yards away from becoming Tennessee's all time leading rusher. Now, you can say he doesn't care about records, but I would answer that with yes he does. Assuming that even some of the rumors are true about his dissatisfaction with this offensive system, he obviously was in it for himself first. Did you notice on Saturday night when Hurd scored a touchdown, not one player gave him a chest bump? Only a couple of guys congratulated him and it was minimal. Did you notice him sitting alone after that, no emotion, alone. I noticed it, and thought it was odd.

400 yards stood between Jalen Hurd and immortality as a University of Tennessee legend. He would have taken a spot on an elite list of beloved. With 4 games left in the season, which includes one against Tennessee State and one against Kentucky, he most certainly would have broken that record before going to a bowl. It just makes no sense that he would walk away with only 4 games remaining. I simply cannot understand that and until someone gives more details, that are the truth, I will never understand it. But, I can say I am happy that he didn't break the record, because I cannot imagine having someone own a record like that with the reputation Hurd is going to have. And, while I believe whole heartedly he left because of his NFL aspirations, the irony is he may never get what he could have had. I like Jalen Hurd and I would be fine with him going on to NFL stardom, but I have to believe he has made a decision that he will regret.

So, one of the things going around the airwaves is that part of the problem for Hurd is the Tennessee offense. So, it's time to talk about that. I have refrained from blogging about my frustrations and concerns about this team all season because I have an enduring fear of being labeled a Nega-Vol. The Nega Vol always see's the glass as 3/4 empty. The Nega Vol cannot allow him or herself to enjoy a win because of the obsessing about the mistakes. Nega Vol wants a head coach fired for losing a game Nega Vol thinks they should have won. I don't want to be that person, but if what I am about to say makes me a Nega Vol, so be it.

This offense sucks! Everything about it is terrible. It is predicable, it is easy to stop, it is dependent on great athletes to make plays to win games that should have been reasonably easy to win. Case in point, App State when Jalen Hurd's sheer desire and athletic ability snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Or, Jujuan Jennings catch against Georgia. Tennessee never should have needed a hail mary to beat GA, not this year. Incredible athletic plays nearly allowed the Vols to beat the Aggies in a game they never should have been in at the end. They got that game to OT because of incredible athleticism. Players were dropping like flies at College Station and they nearly willed themselves to a win. But, "nearly" will not make it in the SEC. It just simply will not. As I have suggested before the game against Texas AM should never have gone to OT because the Vols should have gone for two. Win or lose going for two was the thing to do.

How can a team that considers themselves a championship challenger not have an offensive package that includes a power running play? No fullback on the team, and the tight ends are not being used as a lead blocker for short yardage. And, Hurd is right if he's angry that his coach continues to allow plays that have him running to the outside. Jalen Hurd is best off tackle or up the middle, period.

And, it is clear that Josh Dobb's is not being used properly. His threat is with his feet and yet he rarely runs. He ran one on Saturday that went for a long touchdown, called back due to penalty, but why didn't they make that happen more? I am no coach, I'm not an expert, I didn't play college football, but I've been watching a very very long time and it is pretty clear to me that the Tennessee offense is not running a read option. No, they make it appear that way, but Dobbs is not reading the defense and deciding whether to hand it off or keep it. If he is he needs to be wearing glasses because all season he has missed opportunity after opportunity to keep it for a big gain. Every game, go back and watch if you can stand it.

If I was a coach and I had athletes like Jujuan Jennings and Evan Berry, you can bet your bottom dollar I would find a way to put the ball in their hands at least 10 times each. And Tyler Bird for crying out loud, that kid is going to be special, he needs more chances. But, this offense has no creativity what so ever. None.

It is time for Butch Jones to point the finger at himself. It's too early to say he is in over his head, but if he doesn't change that will be the story of his time at Tennessee. I hope behind the scenes he is considering the big changes he has to make this off season. If he's not, then he is arrogant and blind to the truth. If he sticks by Debord and insists on controlling the offense himself he will be gone after next season. If he decides to bring someone in and turn the offense over then he can be very successful. He works incredibly hard, is clearly invested in Tennessee, and he is likeable. No reason for him to fail other than ego.

And now, I point the finger at myself. I drank the Koolade. I allowed myself to believe in something that I should have known was not ready to happen. The Vols had a real chance to win the East, and actually it could still happen with two Florida losses and a run the table finish by the Vols, but this team was never going to win the SEC Championship this season. Even at full strength this Tennessee team wasn't likely to beat Alabama in Atlanta. At this point the best thing that could happen would be for the Vols to run the table and let Florida go get a complete embarrassment of a beat down in Atlanta by Alabama.  A nice bowl win to close out this season will be a great way to set the table for next season when a redshirt freshman named Jarret Gaurantano takes over as the starting QB. Yes, I believe he will beat out Quinten Dormady for the job, and a new future legend will run the show. That's why it is imperative that Butch make serious changes. If he wants to be around to see the crowning of a new VFL, he'll need to dig deep within and become a true big time head coach.

I'm OOOoooooooouuuuuuuUT! Go Big Orange!

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's Football Time in Tennessee!


We've been waiting a year for this game, the annual show down between two storied programs. And, now it's Football Time! But, before we get to that let's take a look at last week.

The officiating in the SEC is getting worse, and I didn't think that was possible. Ignoring some things and flagging others is flat out lazy and wrong. The targeting rule- they can't get that right. Replay, it does no good. Everybody in America can see what's on the replay except the guys officially reviewing it. Replay should just go away. And, the lengths of these games is stupid. 5 hours, really? Even with double OT it shouldn't take that long to play a game. If you ask me, I think the length of games probably contributes to the injury problems in the game. It's too long for players physically and mentally.

Speaking of injuries, what is going on with this team? The number of head and shoulder injuries on Saturday was scary. While they have called Hurd's injury a "lower extremity" injury from the week
before, I believe they were covering for a concussion. Why would they cover for that you ask? Because they put him back in the game after he was hurt and there would be back lash for that. Early in the season there was an abundance of ankle and leg injuries, now the head.

It is easy to second guess a coaches decision. It is especially easy to second guess a decision related to a two point conversion. Butch Jones decided against it, and that was a mistake in my humble opinion. Not only did we run all over that team, they had a penalty that put the conversion try at the 1 1/2 yard line. Granted the Vols don't have a short yardage package where the QB gets under center, but by damn they didn't stop Kamara all day, so what made Butch think they would on a play that basically would have won the game? The defense was completely gassed. They had given up two really long plays late in regulation, and of course the incredible play Malik Foreman made gave the Vols a chance. They should have gone for two and won that crazy game.

Alvin Kamara wrote himself a check on Saturday, a large one. For the first time he showed exactly what you get when he gets enough touches of the football. That was an amazing performance. He accounted for a total of 312 yards in the game. His lost fumble came after a remarkable run and they just kept coming, play after play! Kamara wasn't alone. Dobbs accounted for 459 yards and caught a TD pass. And, did you know that if Dobbs had been under center on that play he would have been ineligible to receive a pass, I never knew that rule. Former College and NFL coach Jerry Glanville taught me that this week on Knoxville sports talk radio. He also said the play was brilliantly designed and he had never seen that play before. Those are a couple of real compliments for the coaching staff.

Clearly Butch and company have done an amazing job of turning the Tennessee program around. But, how do you explain this teams performance. At times they are nearly impossible to watch with all the dropped passes, fumbles, and large deficits. While they did a remarkable job in a crazy comeback, the team had 12 penalties and 7 turnovers. Football isn't complicated and some basic
things tend to hold true. Every coach in America will tell you the team who makes the fewest mistakes will win. But, Tennessee nearly dispelled that on Saturday. Show me another team in the SEC who can have 12 penalities, 7 turnovers, and enough injuries to overflow the ice tub, yet still win. There's only one, and the team wears orange. They didn't win, but if they had gone for two they would have.

So, try on this scenario. How about a Vols upset win over Alabama Saturday, followed by another Alabama loss to someone, say Texas AM. And then a rematch with the Aggies in Atlanta. That would give the Vols a chance at redemption. I don't believe that the Aggies can beat Alabama, they got a gift last Saturday.

If that's true, the Vols would likely play Alabama twice, and that could still happen even with a Tennessee loss on Saturday. But, if the Vols are truly contenders, and I believe they are, then they need to find a way to win on Saturday. They'll need contributions from every healthy body they have left, and they'll need to stay healthy during the game. Excessive turnovers and penalties will not get it done against the number 1 team in America. A near perfect game will.

And, that brings me to this. Tennessee missed a golden opportunity this week. Starting nose tackle
Danny O'Brien was dismissed from the team for a third failed drug test.  I believe Butch should have met with Danny and told him he was going to be dismissed from the team, but that was going to happen right after he did one job on Saturday. I dream that the conversation would have gone something like this-

"Danny, unfortunately you had a positive drug screen making that strike 3. But, I want a little help. You'll practice with the team all week. You'll play one play. On the first defensive play of the game your only job is to take Kiffin out. That's it. Take him out. You'll get tossed from the game, because you're going to get called for targeting. That's right, targeting, after all Kiffin is not only a snot nosed punk, he's also a defenseless moron. And, you're not allowed to hit a defenseless moron in the head and neck area with your helmet. At least I think that's the rule. Oh, and you'll also get a taunting penalty. Kiffin will have an upper extremity injury, not brain injury because, well that's probably too small to damage. Then, we'll announce you've been dismissed from the team for a failed drug test, and that will explain your behavior. You'll be a hero in Knoxville, Southern and Northern California, hell practically everywhere. Even Saban will be happy, he nearly took him out
on the sidelines himself. And, not only that you'll probably be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame some day. You'll be beloved, a Vol for Life! You'll be bigger than Inky Johnson and Peyton Manning combined. I'll go before the media and tell them you lost your "eye discipline" on that play and you're dismissal from the team had nothing to do with taking out Kiffin, that you were dismissed for violation of team rules. I too will be a hero as a result of Kiffin being carried out of Neyland stadium on a back board just like the one you were on last week. What do you think?"



Go Big Orange. Roll the Tide right out of Knoxville! I'm OOOOooooooooooouuuuuuuuuUT!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Did that Just Happen? What Now?

So let me get this straight. Georgia fans say the Dobbs throw to Juaun Jennings was luck and the Eason touchdown pass was a sign of things to come in the SEC East. Okay, I agree Eason will throw a bunch of TDs in the next few years, that's undeniable. He is a clear talent with a bright future. But, like it or not, he threw a Hail Mary pass too.  The difference between the two throws was the number of defenders. Other than that they were desperation throws. And, Josh Dobbs probably made the most accurate and prettiest throw of the season on the last play of the game.  Go back and look at it, the
tight spiral, in the only place it could be caught by his receiver, perfect trajectory. Vols fans owe no apologies to Georgia fans for a perfect throw, anymore than they owe Vols fans an apology. Lucky? Sure. Talent driven, absolutely. Possibly the best athlete on the field went up and made a play. End of conversation. Turn the page.

Let's go back and review what transpired that made the Vols victory not just improbable, but instead possible. I don't have to review every play to convince people that the Vols got some breaks down the stretch, they did. They also made some breaks. Riley Lovingood, the Tennessee snapper for kicks, made a phenomenal over the shoulder catch to pin the Dawgs near the goal line. What happened after that was a complete and total domination at the line of scrimmage that ended with a Vols touchdown. Watch that play again. Domination. Eason learned a valuable lesson on that defensive touchdown. When in your own endzone and the defensive end is pushing your tackle all the way back to you, fall down and take the safety, don't allow an opportunity for a fumble. Kirby Smart may have learned a lesson on that play too. Don't try to throw
out of your own endzone with a freshman QB who is being pursued by future NFL players. By the way, on the punt Verne Lundquist called him Riley Lovingwood. Yes, that's what he said.  Review that too while you're resting.

It was so disappointing to see the Vols give up the long touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. So disappointing. It had been such a good run and most Vols fans would have said later that they are proud of this team for never quitting. Never quitting is an understatement. But, I have a question. How is it that Josh Dobbs was never rolled out on the possession that would have put the game away? Why didn't he get a chance to pick up a first down with his feet? Or better yet give him a run throw option? Vols offensive coordinator Mike Debord needs to figure out how to use his quarterback all game long. He's had a season and a half and hasn't figured it out yet. Still, the Vols never quit and Kirby Smart proved there will be questions in Athens for a long time to come about letting Mark Richt go. If you ask me, the coaching mistakes that Georgia made in that game looked an awful lot like some of the mistakes Butch Jones has made early on, but I believe Smart will never be as good as Jones.

Kirby Smart opted to "Sky Kick" to the best kick returner in the nation. No one else has messed with Evan Berry this year if they had the choice. The few kicks he's been allowed to return have been very productive, and Saturday Kirby "not so" Smart chose to give him the ball and allowed him to return it to mid field, and Georgia started the play with an undisciplined offsides penalty. That was two penalties (remember the personal foul 15 yard penalty following the Georgia TD) in a matter of a few seconds. Thanks for the gifts Kirby.

So, Saturday it's a trip to Kyle Field in College Station. Most of he experts say the Vols will lose. Not so fast boys. Yes, the Vols will still be without several key defensive players. And, we've learned in the past 24 hours that Jalen Hurd will not play. But, don't sleep on Alvin Kamara folks. He has deserved more touches this season, and now the coaches have no choice but to use him big time and I predict he will be the star of the game. this is Kamara's opportunity to show case his talent for the NFL, so expect him to do just that.

Juaun Jennings should be playing both ways. That guy loves to hit people. On Alvin Kamara's catch and run for a touchdown Jennings lit up a Georgia defensive lineman around the 5 yard line. If you
have the game recorded it's worth looking it up. Jennings is proving to be one the best athletes to roll through Knoxville in a long time. And, speaking of playing both ways, why hasn't the coaching staff figured out how to get Evan Berry some touches on offense?  Teams are kicking away from him and he's just too explosive to not to touch the ball. With Hurd out, the offense could use another playmaker.

And finally, note to the Aggies offense on Saturday. Barnett and Vereen are making the trip and they are two of the best defensive linemen in the country. When the two of them show up in the backfield bad things are going to happen to someone wearing maroon. The Vols are the underdog, and that's going to have that Tennessee defensive line highly annoyed and motivated.

Tennessee cannot count on coming back from a double digit deficit this week. They need to start fast and not allow momentum to start in the wrong direction. If the Vols find a way to play a complete game I like there chances of coming back to Tennessee undefeated. 

Go Big Orange!  I am OOOOOOOOOoooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuUT!

Monday, September 26, 2016

NEXT!!!

Quincy, Quincy, Quincy. Never guarantee a win over anybody, especially a division rival.  And, for crying out loud when you are going to play on the road, never try to get cute with a guaranteed win, cute or stupid. Neither works well. Yeah, old Quincy Wilson put his foot in his mouth alright. "You ever seen a duck pull a truck?" Wilson told The Orlando Sentinel. "A duck don't pull a truck." Well, the Vols had an answer for Quincy on Saturday and it went a little something like this, "Hey Quincy, Duck Off!"  Or was it "Duck You!?"  "Duck This, Quincy," yeah I think that was it. 

There were some very valuable lessons learned on Saturday in Neyland Stadium. We learned that apparently a duck can pull a truck. And we also learned that the Florida secondary isn't nearly as good as they think they are.

We learned that Verne Lundquist hasn't improved as a broadcaster. We learned that Gary Danielson doesn't like Tennessee, no wait, we already knew that. He just reinforced it by basically making fun of Tennessee throughout the first half. He continually bad mouthed Justin Martin for getting beat a couple of times, but he didn't talk the same way about the Florida defensive backs who made Josh Dobbs look like the second coming of Peyton Manning. Insert a moment of silence...... I apologize. Josh Dobbs did not look like Peyton Manning. But, he did look like Tee Martin at South Carolina in 1998 when he completed a record 23 straight passes.  The only reason Dobbs didn't come close to that record Saturday is because, well the Vols receivers dropped basically everything thrown their way in the first half. For a minute it looked like an over 50 flag football league out there, you know when one team has a bunch of 60 year olds and their opponent has a bunch 40 somethings claiming to be 50. It was ugly. But, a funny thing happened on the way to 12 straight losses to Florida, the Vols put a webbed duck foot right in the tail pipe of that Florida truck. Hey Florida! Quack Quack! You too Gary Danielson!

We learned that this year's version of the Tennessee Volunteers, never quits, ever. They have heart and they overcome adversity. They play through pain, they leave it all on the field. They believe they will win, and Butch Jones has talked about that his entire tenure at Tennessee.  He's talked about building a culture, and that culture is coming together nicely.

We learned that Jauan Jennings is the real deal and he's likely to play on Sundays. We re-learned that Derrick Barnett is like a man among boys, and somebody needs to check his birth certificate. He
absolutely dominated the Florida defensive line on Saturday. He wasn't alone, as there were contributions from a lot of guys, but Barnett set the pace.

We learned that suspicion that the Vols had slept walked through some of all three previous games was because they were waiting for Florida, true.

We learned that the Vols are 4-0 for only the 9th time since the mid 50's. And, did you know that the last time Tennessee started a season 5-0 they won the National Championship. That doesn't mean they will win it again if they start 5-0 this year, but it will be great to find out how this will play out.

So, we learned a lot. And, it should be lost on no one that Florida players after the game were talking about how often a team with 1 loss wins the National Championship. Well, that is true, but this Florida team isn't going to sniff the National Playoff much less the Championship itself. Florida fans after the game were talking about Tennessee losing to both Alabama and Texas A M, thus getting them back into the SEC championship race, and I've got news for them about that too- The Vols are not losing both of those games, period. They may win them both, and they may not, but they are not going to lose them both, it simply cannot happen. Besides, if Florida players and fans believe they will get through the rest of this season without another conference loss they are sadly mistaken. While I'm at it Go Vandy, pull that truck!

Seriously, Florida wake up.  Don't you know this Duck pulled a truck, and it rolled right over you!! Now get the Quack outta here and bring on the Dawgs, we need to introduce their new freshman quarterback to Barnett and company.

Go Big Orange! I'm OOOOooooooooooouuuuuuuuuUT!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tennessee Florida Week

It's Tennessee Florida week! We've been waiting a year for this weekend and it is finally here. Prior to the start of the season, no one would have predicted the year would have unfolded the way it has to this point. In fact, most would have suggested this was clearly the year the Vols would snap this unreal streak of losses they have experienced at the hands of that team from down there in swamp land. But, doubt has crept into Vol Nation. Fans are worried. Some are angry. A fan this week said if the Vols lose Butch Jones should resign. Absurd. But, what do you expect from a traumatized fan base?

Remember being a kid as Christmas approached? Remember the level of excitement and anticipation? The closer it got the more excited you got, and as that day crept closer you could hardly contain yourself, right?  For Vols fans, the past 11 seasons have felt a lot like that leading up to game day against Florida, only by the end of the 4th quarter, the excitement turned into a nightmare of sorts.  And, it's as if Santa has left a lump of coal in our stocking. Maybe next year. So close, so close...

More on this weekends game shortly, but let's look at the past two games.

What a game and atmosphere in Bristol! In the first quarter it seemed that the hiring of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop might be a bust.  But, it became crystal clear that for the first time in a very long time the Vols are capable of "in game" adjustments.  The defense absolutely took over that game. A lot of the talk around the Knoxville airwaves this week was that Virginia Tech gave the game away. I would argue that the Vols defense took that game away, put a foot on the throat of the Virginia Tech offense, and then the Tennessee offense finished them. Virginia Tech has a lot of very good athletes. That team will win a lot of games over the next few seasons, but their lack of discipline caught up with them and they were buried in an avalanche of orange.

The much criticized passing ability of Josh Dobbs was quieted on a couple of plays In the Battle of Bristol, and those plays made a big difference in the outcome of the game.  Josh Malone is living up to the expectations as a wide receiver that he had not lived up to prior to this season. He needs more opportunities to go deep, let's hope the coaching staff finds a way to make that happen.

The Ohio game was too close for comfort, but frankly it was expected that Tennessee would under perform, or at least fail to run that team out of the building. It was natural for them to be thinking a week in advance. Luckily it didn't come back to bite them.  The game against the Bobcats was like the previous two, and the most glaring issue is a complete lack of intensity. This team has failed to come out with the energy needed to sustain success in a very difficult league. And yet, they won anyway. So what does this 3 game start to the season really mean for the Vols? No one knows for sure, regardless of the level of expertise, no one really knows. But, let me say this... I have a feeling things are about to change, big time, and there are some specific signs out there that suggest this is not the Vols of the past decade.

The Vols are 3-0 for the first time since 2004. And, Tennessee has started the season 3-0 for only the 9th time since 1974, let that simmer for a minute. I mean really let that sink in Vols fans.  One of the most storied programs in college football history has only begun a season undefeated through 3 games 9 times. I will refrain from comparing the Vols schedule over the past 40+ years to their league counter parts, but if you have a spare moment look up the history for teams like Auburn, Georgia, and Florida and see who they have been playing the first three games of the season over the past 40 years.  Go ahead and check on LSU and Alabama while you're at it. If they have historically faced significant threats in their first 3 games I will be surprised. I will say Florida has faced a threat in the first 3 games quite often, because the Vols have been their opponent. And, unfortunately, Florida has had the upper hand for years. But, go ahead and check out those other schedules, I will wait to hear from you.

Over the past 10 years the Vols have caught very few breaks.  The National Championship season in
1998 was loaded with big breaks. Most of those big breaks were created by the Vols themselves. A few were nothing more than good fortune. But, if you look at seasons since that unbelievable championship, good fortune has not always shown down. Case in point, two years ago when Florida came to town the Vols absolutely dominated them. One play, one miserable play changed the entire game. Justin Worley got blindsided just before he could throw a pass that would have been a sure touchdown. He fumbled, they recovered and got a touchdown. Then as time expired the Florida kicker put a long one through the up rights and the Vols lost 10-9. I would rather not recount last year's blown win, but let's just say if they played that last Florida offensive plays 10 more times, there would have been zero touchdowns and Tennessee would have won, but you can't change those things.

I will point out that the game in Bristol changed when Tennessee recovered a fumble deep in VT territory.  But, don't forget a few plays before that when Cam Sutton was beaten badly by the receiver and yet he was able to catch him and knock the ball away before the pass could be completed. If that pass is completed, the Vols would have fallen behind 21-0 and who knows how that game would have turned out. Instead momentum turned and the Vols forced multiple turnovers and essentially the ball bounced their way every time.

Last Saturday, Tennessee fumbled the ball 5 times. 5 times they put the rock on the ground and all 5 times the Vols recovered. OT against App State, Dobbs drops the ball at the goal line and Jalen Hurd makes one of the most remarkable recoveries I have ever witnessed on a football field. Those are plays in the past that the Vols would have come up short on. Yes, in the past they would most certainly have lost in OT to App State. They would have found a way to lose that game against Ohio. And, they certainly wouldn't have ridden the wave of momentum like they did against VT. No, they would have found a way to lose like they did against LSU with Dooley coaching, or the same season when they handed the game to NC in the Music City Bowl. Those days are over.  I'm here to tell you the "worm" has turned.

Yes, the Vols have stumbled through the early part of the season. The offensive line has been like a patch work quilt that we'd rather leave in the cedar chest. The defense has at times had a bit of bend in them, but they make great adjustments. The obvious concern is injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but that's what big time football brings, so who will be the next to step up and make a difference?

Saturday afternoon with a worked up, angry crowd filling the Neyland Stadium air with full throated
vitriol for the team from down south, this season's Vols are going to lay the wood to those guys who are going to come into the game assuming they will win. As they have all season, the Vols will out work their opponent. They will find a way to make a play when they must. They will create and take advantage of turnovers. And, they will stomp a mud hole in Florida and then walk it dry!!

Go Big Orange! I'm OOOooooooouuuuuuUT!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Slice of Humble Pie

A year ago this weekend, I along with others, found myself trying to will Jacksonville State University to an opening weekend upset of Auburn.  Auburn, like Tennessee on Thursday night, was on the ropes and they needed some real breaks to get a win. I have to say I can truly relate to those Auburn fans from a year ago, still wish they had lost, but I have an understanding of the pain they were feeling. 

On Thursday afternoon someone at work asked me if I remembered Appalachian State's upset of Michigan 9 years ago.  I laughed and said, "Oh yeah, that was great. But, I can promise you the Tennessee coaches have shown those players what happened to Michigan." It appears I was wrong. It seems evident that this Tennessee team bought into their own hype. And, as a result they nearly suffered a disaster of a start to the season. Butch Jones told the media he wasn't going to apologize for a win, and I think that's a nice quote for all those reporters to publish. In fact, he's right. However, what he should apologize for is the performance of his team. That was awful.  To be fair, App State went 11-2 last year and won a bowl against Ohio, the Vols opponent in two weeks.

Let's grade the game.

Announcers- F-
First of all, the SEC network will never get an A from me as long as one of their announcers is a Florida graduate.  I don't dislike Jesse Palmer, but I loathe the school he played for, and for that he automatically loses points.  But, Jesse isn't the reason for the failing grade. Brent Musburger is the worst announcer of any sport on any network, period. Within two minutes of being on the air he stated, "it's a beautiful Saturday night in Knoxville." Hey Brent, put the drink down and look at a calendar. He followed that by saying Boone, NC is a great place to raise a family, only to point out he has never been there, adding their coaches had done a great job with this group of kids.  What? That was just the beginning.  I am requesting that as soon as Brent finishes signature sign on, "You're looking live at Neyland Stadium," somebody pull the plug.  Anything further from him is down right impossible to listen to. I actually like Brent at one time, especially when he hosted the NFL Today Show and when he was matched with Dick Vermeil. I'm sure he's a nice guy and at least it wasn't Vern Lunquist we had to listen to, but enough already.

App State Defense- A++
Hats off to the App State Defensive Coaches, Dale Jones is the linebackers coach. Dale is a former Vol superstar who coaches like he played.  What an effort they got out of that team.  Aside from the fake cramps they absolutely dominated. That defense only had two players who out weighed Jalen Hurd, let that sink in a minute. One of those players only outweighs him by about a pound. Fantastic job by those guys.

App State Offense- A
Dwayne Ledford is co-offensive coordinator responsible for the run game. What a game the offensive coaches called! From the start they fooled the Tennessee defense with misdirection and a variety of plays the Vols were clearly unprepared to defend. The Mountaineers rushed for 184 yards, the Vols 127.

Tennessee Defense- C
This is a tough one to grade because there were ups and downs. Because the Tennessee defense ultimately was the difference in the game, they get a higher grade. All off season the talk has been about Bob Shoop, the new defensive coordinator, and all the talent the Vols defense was bringing to the field. While the defense shut out the Mountaineers in the second half, App State brilliantly controlled the clock racking up more than 33 minutes time of possession. The loss of Reeves-Maybon was huge.  However, Cortez McDowell stepped in and had a great game with 9 tackles. And, Micah Abernathy played a great game as well. There were clearly bright spots on defense, but the Vols struggled with App States plan to use their speed against them.

Tennessee Offense- D-
With a loss this would have been an F, but a win is a win. It appeared that Tennessee offensive
coordinator, Mike DeBord, was asleep at the wheel all night.  The offense got no momentum all night. The Blocking from the offensive line was terrible. And, play selection stunk from start to finish. All of those things contributed to the struggles, and it is apparent Josh Dobbs has not improved as a passer. He continually under and over throws open receivers. His best throw all night was the pass to the back of the end zone to Preston Williams, and yet there was nothing to show for it. But, perhaps the most glaring issue is the inability of the coaches to adequately use their offensive weapons. It is inexplicable that Alvin Kamara only touched the ball 9 times and only twice in the first half. Hurd had 28 carries and a catch. That's an imbalance that does not make any sense what so ever. There is absolutely no creativity from an offense that was expected to be explosive.


If Josh Dobbs isn't trusted by the coaches to throw the ball down the field he shouldn't be playing. Granted he struggles with accuracy, but again he should not be playing if that aspect of the game is taken away. Why wasn't he running the ball Thursday night? -4 yards rushing is inexcusable with a QB of his running ability. Coaches dropped the ball yet again.

Tennessee Overall- D
For the first time since Butch Jones took over the Vols program, the team appeared unprepared to play. Jalen Hurd's fumble recovery in OT could very well turn out to be the most important play of the year. It may ultimately be forgotten, but without that recovery, the Vols very well may have lost. Cam Sutton's interception changed the game, and it was an incredibly athletic play. Those two plays may have saved the Tennessee season. But, the reality is Tennessee never should have been in a position to need plays like those to win the game. Appalachian State is a very good team, very well coached, and they came with a fire that nearly allowed them to steal a road win.  They will win a lot of games, so it is unfair to talk about them like they are a cupcake.  They could beat a number of SEC teams without a problem, there's no doubt about that.  And, it is the Tennessee Coaching staff who failed to prepare the team for an opponent like App State.

Officiating F
Here we are again. SEC officiating is ridiculously bad. Officials are going to miss calls, it's part of the game, but the kinds of things that are missed by this group of officials is mind boggling. First of all, the rules are not clear. A ball carrier needs only to break the plane of the goal line with the ball to score a TD. But, a receiver has to catch the ball, break the plane, and prepare a meal with the ball in hand for it to be a touchdown.  Preston Williams caught a pass, came down on two feet (only one is
required in college), was tackled to the ground and lost the ball after falling out of bounds. For years part of John Madden's act was, "the ground can't cause a fumble." This issue is one of common sense and yet common sense doesn't appear to exist. Illegal Block in the back happens on almost every punt return, but Thursday night in the middle of the field, in clear view for all to see, the officials ignored a block in the back, and while it didn't in this case, one big play can influence the outcome of a game, so a missed call like that is unacceptable.

Player safety is extremely important. I agree with rules that are designed to protect the head and neck of players. But, the rule needs a name change and clarification. "Targeting" suggests intent to strike an area of the body. Reeves-Maybin attempted to turn his head to prevent using his helmet against the App State player. That was clear on the replay, yet the officials watching the replay still upheld the call. Okay, so it's against the rules to hit any "defenseless" player above the shoulders regardless of intent. What defines defenseless? On that particular play, Reeves-Maybin didn't realize the receiver had called for a fair catch. My understanding of the fair catch rule is the receiver must clearly raise his arm and wave it. He apparently signaled fair catch so quickly no one could see it, not even replay, or at least that replay wasn't shown. It would have been impossible for a player with the speed of Reeves-Maybin to stop his momentum at the last second, impossible. And, if the powers that be truly care about head injuries why are offensive players allowed to intentionally use their helmet against a defender? Reeves-Maybin should have been penalized, but ejection was unnecessary and changed the game for the Vols.

So, the Vols have a couple of extra days to heal, learn, improve, and ultimately forget Thursday's poor showing. This will go one of two ways- either the Vols will use this as a wake up call and will move forward as anticipated prior to the season, or Vols fans are in for a very long season that will leave the program with a lot of questions to answer. Let's hope a dose of humility will propel this team moving forward.

Go Big Orange. I'm OoooooouuuuUT!


Monday, November 23, 2015

By George, Hurd is Good! And, Other Observations

(insert Beverly Hillbillies theme here) Back in '96 the Houston Oilers loaded up the truck and they moved to Tennessee.  Memphis that is, gang bangers, barbeque.

Originally the plan was for the Oilers to play two seasons in Memphis before relocating to the state capital, but the support was less than expected and the Oilers loaded the truck again and moved to Nashville a season early.  The last straw in Memphis was the last home game of the season when the
Pittsburg Steelers rolled into the Liberty Bowl and brought more fans with them than the Oilers.  That's a fact, I know, because I was at that game and there were way more Steelers fans than Oilers fans.  A little research shows that of the 8 home games the Oilers played that season only 1 drew more than 32,000 fans.  The Pittsburg game brought more than 50,000.  So, you can imagine how much Black and Gold there was in that place.

Without access to local NFL football for a number of years, I gladly welcomed the opportunity to go to every home game.  I loved the NFL and relished the opportunity to see it live on a regular basis.  Others in Memphis didn't feel the same.  On a late August Sunday the Oilers welcomed Jeff George and the Oakland Raiders to Memphis.  It was hot, really hot, but of course heat and football mean beer. Come to think of it so does cold and football.  The year prior to moving to Tennessee the Oilers drafted Eddie George at running back.  That day, Eddie George rushed for more than 200 yards and had officially arrived as a force in the NFL.  So what does all this have to do with anything, especially the Vols? 

An interesting thing happened during that game that was a direct result of the confluence of heat, beer, and Eddie George. A chant began to rise throughout the stadium.  Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! rang out after each big run.  There was a group of us sitting together that day including my brother, uncle, brother in law, father, and several others. And, I know many will find this hard to believe, but we started that chant.  Because he had such a big game there were many opportunities and early on, our group prodded the crowd along in an effort to create some excitement.  The Oilers went on to finish the season 8-8, they moved to Nashville, and the Eddie chant rolled onward and followed him throughout his career.  Even if we didn't make up the chant, which obviously required very little creativity, we started it that day and it stuck.

Jalen Hurd had a chant worthy game Saturday night against a very good Missouri defense.  And, it was obvious that Butch Jones and his staff learned something from some of their early season losses.  Feeding Hurd the ball more than 30 times equaled his career high in rushing and a victory on the road for the Vols.  His 223 yards on the ground saved the offense from a poor passing night.  Well done by that young running back.  Jalen! Jalen! Jalen!

Alvin Kamara is the real deal.  His style is the perfect compliment to the power of Hurd.  he is fantastic in the open field.  Several times on Saturday his speed was incredibly impressive, and certainly the Missouri defense isn't as slow as they looked on some of those plays.  Kamara has more than filled the gap left by Pig Howard's dismissal.
 

College football fans live up the name, fanatic. For coaches, the current environment resembles the NFL more and more.  Coaches of big time schools are paid like NFL coaches, and then they walk away with huge buy outs if they are fired.  In other words, coaches don't need anyone coming to their rescue about the pressures of winning.  But, this thing is out of control.  If today's coaches actually find a way to win championships or seriously contend for them, the clock is ticking on their tenure. It's just a matter of time before a coach wears out his welcome. Think this is being overstated? Ask Phillip Fulmer, Bobby Bowden, or Steve Spurrier if it's overstated.  And before you jump to the fact Spurrier wasn't fired, don't believe for one minute he didn't see the writing on the wall.  He didn't want to coach this season to begin with because he knew he had a bad team and he knows if you have a bad team for more than a year or two after extremely high expectations, you will be run off. 

So, now you have Mark Richt at Georgia and Les Miles at LSU under fire.  They're not just on hot seats, their chairs are red hot piles of coal, the heat is almost over.  Do you think Richt will survive an 8-4 record if they lose to Georgia Tech this weekend?  The bulldogs were picked by most to win the East.  He's tied for first or won the SEC east 6 times in 13 seasons. He's won the SEC championship once. He has 10 or more wins in a season 9 times, and has only one season with less than 8 wins. In spite of all that winning, he may not be back at Georgia after the season.

Do you think Miles will survive at LSU if the Tigers lose their 4th straight on Saturday? Not only no, but hell (that's how hot the seats are) no.  In fact, word on Monday morning was he wouldn't survive the day, much less another loss.  Miles has won a National Championship, played for another, won
division titles 3 times and at least 10 games in 7 of 11 seasons at LSU. He's never won fewer than 8 games at LSU and has won 10 or more 7 times. If LSU needs a real reason to fire Miles, it should be because he literally doesn't own a hat that fits his head properly.  Maybe that's partly why he's called the Mad Hatter.

Tennessee fans would likely be the one's to ask about what those schools should do.  Many Vols fans would tell you to be careful what you wish for, or get ready to spend some time down in 5-7 land where the Vols were stuck for practically a decade.  Firing a top notch winning coach can lead to some very lean times. The schools who have done it recently are easy to find. Look at Miami, Nebraska, and Michigan all of whom have struggled to regain national prominence after firing or forcing out their coach. 

 Look at the Vols season opening opponent for next year, Virginia Tech. They are forcing Frank Beamer to retire.  He's been running their football team since 1987.  He's taken Virginia Tech to a bowl game every season except the first two, and even this season will go to a bowl if they win their final game against Virginia.  The season after the Vols won the national championship Virginia Tech played for the National Title against Florida State.  He took Va Tech to a National Championship game!  Good luck Hokies, you're going to need it, and get ready to watch bowl games from the comfort of your own home, because there won't be many to travel to in the near future.

There will be a number of glamour coaching opportunities open in the off season including, but not limited to Miami, USC, South Carolina, and quite possibly Texas to name a few.  That anyone would
consider Lane Kiffin for a serious head coaching position is
completely baffling to me, but the word today was that he's the lead for the Miami job and that says a lot about the state of college football.  It's a wreck, and getting wrecked further by the "what have you done for me lately" approach to coaches. Miles and Richt among others could be available but Miami is seriously looking at a snot nosed, gutless wonder to run their program that's always been known for it's cheating.  Hey Miami fans! Listen up!  You're program is overflowing like a full toilet and cousin Eddie is ready to pump the tank for you!  Go for it!  Speaking of cousin Eddie, when I see Lane Kiffin I am triggered to give a rant like Clark Griswold gives at the end of Christmas vacation.  In the true spirit of Christmas, "save the neck for me Clark."

I'm OooooouuuuuuuUT!
M

Saturday, November 7, 2015

All Hands on Deck!

Attention Vols fans!! Attention! This is an alert from the Volnation Emergency Management System a division of TEMA. All hands on deck, all hands on deck.  Sound the alarms!!  This is not a drill!  Repeat, this is not a drill! It is with deep concern that I announce a Code Orange!  Women and children first of course, need to be moved immediately to the center of the Big Orange Bandwagon. 
Repeat, move all women and children to the center of the Big Orange Bandwagon, we're about to take on a bunch of wagon jumpers, it's coming.  The time to prepare is now!  Grab all available safety equipment: flask, coozie, visor or cap, rain poncho, peanuts, beer, whiskey, ibuprofen, binoculars, extra cash for rising ticket prices, a couple of hot dogs and rack of ribs could come in handy as well.

We've seen it before.  When the going gets good they begin coming out of the wood work, out from under rocks, from out of the woods and from anywhere else the jumpers may be lurking.  Many of them will discard their University of Miami colors for the Tennessee orange.  They'll jump off the USC wagon, they'll sneak in from Florida State territory, and some will return from the Ohio State wagon when they fall apart.  They'll come back from their frustrating ride on the Notre Dame wagon, the Memphis wagon, and the TCU/Baylor wagon. 

High Alert, High Alert!!  Do not allow Volcats and BammerVols back on the wagon.  Repeat do not allow Volcats and BamerVols back on the wagon, they tend to be excessively overweight, poorly mannered, intellectually questionable, and with poor hygiene.  In other words they are easy to spot. You know them well- The so called Vols football fan who also claims to root for Kentucky basketball.  Most of these bottom feeders won't attempt to board the wagon until after the Kentucky team is eliminated from March Madness before it matters most.  The BammerVol is a little more difficult to identify, but they are the fans who claim Alabama as their own while bashing everything about The University of Tennessee program with a fake voice of concern, they like fueling the fire while pretending to care.  But, secretly the BammerVol watches every single Tennessee game and then when things are going well they toss the crimson hats into the back of the closet and pull out their Vols cap from the 1998 national championship season.  Do Not Allow these people back on this wagon!!

And, make no mistake about it the wagon jumping is going to begin in earnest within the next three weeks.  As this 2015 team steam rolls their opponents down the stretch people are going to begin to believe. The near misses will be forgotten by all but the true died in the wool Vols fans.  The pain of giving away three games will only linger for those who have lost years off of their football lives while watching Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama snatch defeat from the jaws of Volunteer victory.  The wagon jumpers aren't going to remember those losses, no those folks are only going to focus on what is ahead.  They will not recall the total disrespect shown my Lane Kiffin and the complete embarrassment of Derek Dooley.  They will not remember the pain of watching it slip away from Phil Fulmer, a slow, painful, avoidable death. No, the bandwagoners are going to be all about what lies ahead. 

The wagon jumping will pick up steam when Tennessee finishes the season 8-4 and then slaps around some traditionally respected name in a bowl.  And, when the new recruits sign in early February a slow, palpable energy will begin building toward spring practice.  Neyland will be nearly filled for the Orange and White game and folks will begin talking less about what could have been and more about will certainly be, and it will feel good.  Really good!!  But, don't forget the bandwagon jumpers take seats from the faithful, they drive ticket prices, they tend to be the ones who give Vols fans a bad name on game day when they are sitting in Neyland after pounding Milwaukee's Best for 6 hours before kickoff.  This is an Emergency situation!!

Bandwagon jumpers are not to be mistaken for true orange blooded fans.  True fans make up games like "Snatch the Hat".  Yes, it was a game played in our college days.  I don't want to name parties, but my roomie in college was the master at the post game snatch the hat off of that obnoxious opponents noggin and run like hell.  The idea was, not only did we beat you, we will further humiliate you by stealing the very hat you love from the top of your head and make you walk to your car, a long haul I might add, without your security cover . The only rule of the game was you had to snatch the hat from someone who could truly put up a good chase, no senior citizen targeting stuff allowed. Now, that was a fun game only thought of by true die hard non-wagon jumping Vols.  But, my roomie took Snatch the Hat to a hole new level the year he plucked an Alabama bass drum player's band cap from his head.  Ok, you're right, bass drum  players traditionally fall in the same category as senior citizens, but after further review he got full credit purely for creativity.  Bandwagon jumpers have no creativity, they have no real heart, at least not a heart that pumps orange blood, and certainly those folks don't have the creativity of a Snatch the Hat champion. 

Get prepared Volnation, the jumpers are coming, and if we allow them on board all at once, they could flip the wagon over, something we certainly don't want to see happen, because a lot of innocent die hard fans could get hurt. 

Prior to the start of this season most rational Vols fans would have agreed that an 8-4 record would be an outstanding year.  And, while it is difficult to forget about what could have been, it's time for Tennessee to get hyper focused on running the table to end the season.  There is genuine opportunity at hand for a positive finish.

For the first time in a long time the Vols are competitive with everyone they face, and while they haven't figured out how to consistently close out games they coould win, they are getting closer.  I stress to Vols fans everywhere that getting caught in the mind set that they "should" have won all these games they lost isn't healthy or accurate.  They "could" have won them all, but the fact is "should"  doesn't come into play until next season.

The Georgia game was incredible.  I think the team learned they are not out of it even when they are handing the game to their opponent.  They had everything working against them in the first of that game with the unfortunate exception of the serious injury to Georgia's Nick Chubb. The very young Vols could have packed it in after some very bad breaks, but instead they fought back and got in the game before half and the rest is history.

The Vols could have beaten Alabama.  But, once again a late drive and some big plays by a couple of Alabama receivers sent the Vols home without a win.  But, even with a loss, these players have hopefully learned that when you are playing a good team, every drive is potentially a game changing drive.  The Vols will get better as a result of losing that close one.

The Vols are to Kentucky what Florida is to Tennessee.  The Cats cannot get beyond the mental road block when it comes to the Vols.  Kentucky is improved, but last Saturday proved how important big time recruiting classes can be to building a true power in today's college football world.  Big play after big play came as a result of solid recruiting, and the big orange wave of talent that hit shore in that game washed all the Wildcats chairs, towels, coolers, and toys out to the deep college football sea. 

So, Tennessee is well on the way to a big season and in the meantime some very important things are happening outside of the program that will likely pay huge dividends down the line.  With Miami, USC, Virginia Tech, and most notably South Carolina and Georgia staring at coaching vacancies or turmoil, some big time recruits most certainly will choose to wear orange and that will add to the much needed lack of depth that has prevented Tennessee from jumping to the head of the class this season.  Momentum is building and everyone who watches sports knows how important momentum can be in championship runs.

Finally, I would like to suggest that college football leadership take a moment this off season to take a close look at the state of officiating.  Anyone who knows me knows I am beyond convinced that the SEC has the worst officiating of any sport in the country.  It is infuriating to watch the missed calls
over and over again.  And for the record it is not just call s that go against Tennessee.  They miss calls all over the place both directions.  What makes it especially egregious is when the officials blow a call not just on the field, but then follow that by not seeing the obvious on a replay.  The targeting call against Emmanual Mosely against Kentucky was easy to miss at game speed, but when the replay officials can see Mosely duck his head to avoid the head of the receiver and yet they uphold the targeting call, is inexcusable. 

While that call did not alter the outcome of the game and likely will have minimal impact on the outcome of Tennessee's game today, it remains inexcusable.  And, the officials fro the Duke/Miami game last weekend should not only be suspended, they should never call another game again.  That was not only inexcusable it was an embarrassment to the sport of football. Something needs to be done.  Either eliminate replay and let things fall as they may, or get these people making decisions that determine the outcome of games some real training.

The Vols should stomp the Spurrierless Gamecocks Satuday.  What a shame he jumped ship before we could embarrass him one last time.  Would have loved to see that visor flying in pure disgust, but it isn't meant to be.  What a shame.

I'm OOOOooooooouuuuuuUUUUT!  GBO!
M

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grab a Bucket. The Vols Ship is Taking on Water!

If you want to go fast Go alone.  If you want to go far Go together. 

That African proverb sums up where things are for the Tennessee football program right now. It will take a unified Vol nation to endure the next two games, and then hopefully finish the season with success. There's a lot of stone throwing going on in Knoxville, and Butch Jones doesn't have much hair to help soften the blow of those lobbed at his noggin. It will take strong leadership to keep this train on the tracks, so we are about to find out if Jones can lead during pressure filled times.

Before this season started most would have agreed the Vols fortunes are most likely to turn in 2016.  But, that glimpse of glory against Oklahoma in game two of this season, and then the near miss in  Gainesville have an awful lot of folks saying things I didn't expect to hear in 2015. There's a lot of talk about firing Jones which is really unfortunate, and frankly crazy. Strange and disturbing rumors are swirling around about players quitting prior to the season only to return.  Specifically, I heard mention of three offensive linemen quitting, and then today during his press conference Butch was asked about a physical altercation with offensive lineman Mac Crowder during that time period.  Jones called the question ridiculous, but the airwaves are cluttered with talk about it. So the pressure is sky high right now on Rocky Top. 


It appears the coaches are feeling that pressure too.  Some of the decisions Saturday night were perplexing.  There were two very questionable decisions both in the 4th quarter.  The first was the decision to throw a reverse pass with Jauan Jennings. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the days when we ran the ball down our opponents throats and crushed their will.  Yes, I said it, we should have run the ball more. Hurd was very difficult for them to tackle.  The other decision I questioned was to go for it on 4th down on the Vols last possession.  There was enough time to punt and play defense, maybe even get a shot at a kick return if the defense could get a stop.  It also appeared there was an over reaction to the lack of a passing attack in the weeks leading up to the Arkansas game, and it seemed like the Vols offense was forcing things in an effort to pass more.

To be fair, Tennessee only had four possessions in the second half, and there was a sense that Arkansas had seized all momentum during their opening drive of the second half.  Arkansas simply imposed its will on Tennessee and when you combine that with very sloppy tackling and poor angles, the defense was simply not going to get it done.  The defense was on the field for a very long time, and that offensive line for Arkansas is disturbingly large.  The largest offensive line in the entire sport of football?  Wow.  Give it about 10 years and the Big Loser can have a special full season addition that features this year's Razorback blockers.  They can change the name to The Biggest Loser: Fattest Pig Edition, or something like that. 

Has anyone else noticed that this season Tennessee's offensive line is really struggling with pass blocking?  That has to be impacting the ability to throw the ball down the field.  But, even with that, Dobbs is just not getting it done with the passing game.  With Georgia on the way and Bama waiting for a few weeks to host the Vols, it's not going to get easier for Dobbs and company.  In fact, the next two games are very worrisome.  Tennessee is potentially one play away from missing post season.  If either Dobbs or Hurd were to get injured it could be very problematic for the season out look.  Kamara is so good it could be less of an impact to lose Hurd, but I don't want to find out if that's true or not.  If Dobbs goes down, the season is changed drastically.  I recommend Butch decide now to get Dormady some snaps in a big game. 

So, it's Georgia week and last Saturday around 5:30 pm Eastern time the Dawgs were getting their necks stepped on, and it appeared the Vols were poised to salvage the season after a couple of heart breaking defeats.  Now, the idea of watching Nick Chubb run around in the Tennessee secondary is like taking a swim in the ocean a couple of hours after watching Jaws.  The thought of it is chilling.  Can you even wrap your mind around how many yards Nick Chubb would gain behind the Arkansas offensive line?  Well, the Georgia offensive line ain't shabby.  But, this is a young team, and if these coaches are ever going to earn their paychecks it's this week.  This team has to be prepared and simply cannot continue the same mistakes it's made so far this season. 

I'm OoooooouuuuuuuuUT! Go Big Orange!
M