Well I guess we can only expect another week of misery coming from sports radio in East Tennessee. When Tennessee loses it is hard on everybody and these are the times that I am glad I don’t have my own show because I just can’t handle hours and hours of negative talk. Our local sports radio consists of state run non-objective hosts who are controlled by the Knoxville Media or the Volunteer Network or there are the LSU fans like Hyams and Adams. We also have now a group of former players that are getting in the mix and although I love our VFL guys we must keep in mind that they are all Fulmer guys and would they be so critical if their old Coach was at the helm? The only guy in our area who represents the common fan is Tony Basilio who is and emotional train wreck most of the time (we have a lot in common) but Tennessee athletics is in such a state of ruin that it is easy to derail.
I want to share with you for one quick moment a very odd set of events that happened Saturday at the game. I have never seen our crowd react the way they did when the ruling was overturned and the long pass from Simms to Neal was ruled as a catch. Our crowd reacted as if we had just scored a winning FG. Another odd moment was after LSU went up on us 31-7 Devron Young returned the kickoff a little over 60 yards. Even though there was no way we could win the remaining 60K fans were jumping up and down. Why is this odd? Because I have never seen our fan base so desperate for success than they are now. There was a great crowd there Saturday and we knew we were not going to win, but the crowd came and cheered for the good moments. It was not crowd like we have had when we were competing for the SEC, but nevertheless the crowd supported their team and they did not boo. Could this mean that we are apathetic now or does this mean the fan base understands what kind of situation we are in?
I may be wrong but I think the majority of football knowledgeable fans know we just don’t have the players we need to compete. Anybody who this week is piling on this team or this staff just is not reasonable. As a matter of fact I seen more positive come from this game than negative. The fact that we rushed for over 100 yards on LSU is pretty impressive considering we were -29 in SEC play coming into the game. Both the offense and defensive staffs showed Saturday that they could adjust what personnel they have and make a difference. Our front 7 fought all day long on the Defense and our young OLBs finally showed some ability. Our I Formation run game was very impressive at times and if our WRs had shown up we may have extended some drives. Our special team play was much better and they were well prepared by playing to LSU fakes by continuing to show safe defensive fronts during punts and FG. Do we need to improve? No question that our 2nd half struggles remain, but it is not because the team and staff are not fighting.
Does this staff need to improve? No question, but before we all go singing the praises of other coaches like John Chavis I want to remind you of how personnel changes things. How many late hits did Al Wilson have? Very few because he played smart. How many did Kevin Burnett have? Two a game it seemed like, and remember what we all said? “That’s coaching”! Chavis coached both guys but there were different results. John Chavis is a great coach and a VFL, but if he had been in the other booth Saturday wearing Orange the score would not have been that much different. So when the talk shows rip Dooley for being so bad in the 3rd qtr just remember he is playing with a hand full of players.
Finally I want to encourage Vol fans to hang in there. I know we don’t have a “snow balls” chance against Bama, but these players are playing to hard for us to quit on them. We just need to go to Bama and get better as a team. South Carolina is now a very winnable game since they have no experienced QB and probably will not have Marcus Lattimore.
We have to support this staff and team now. This staff is building a network of recruits and it is going to take time, but the future looks bright everyday with big time players like 2013 class RB Derrick Green who runs a 4.3 40yd at 6’0 and 215 lbs showing interest in UT. I have often quoted General Neyland when he said “there will be better days on other fields that will yield the fruits of Victory”.