Monday, October 17, 2011
The View From Section M
Saturday was another character building day in Neyland Stadium as our Vols were beaten soundly by the Tigers from LSU. It is a disgusting feeling when you arrive at the stadium on gameday and you are surrounded by rival fans who are smiling and walking around like they own the place. Yet this was the feeling as we arrived to beautiful weather for the 3:30pm kickoff. I was impressed with the turnout, considering the fact that our prospects of winning the game were not good at all.
As the 1st quarter got underway, you could sense that the Vols were "up" for this game. Our defense was holding stout and making the Tigers punt the football. As the half progressed, it was surprisingly close. Oh what could've been if we could have two plays back. First, Simms' int that was returned the entire length of the field. And then, we whif on a tackle and set the Tigers up for a FG to make it a 10 point lead at the half. Which, at the time, we were thankful wasn't a 17 point lead. But think about it, take away those to plays and it is CLOSE at the half.
In the second half, LSU just ran it down out throats and wore our guys out. But I've got to think that if we had those two first half plays back and it's a tighter ballgame that LSU maybe takes some chances at a big play and possibly turns it over. However that is also unlikely, as we haven't forced a turnover since the Montana game (that is mind-boggling). For the second game in a row, we've come out absolutely flat in the second half.. games were were still in. Is that on coaches? And why are we still so lost at times when trying to line up? We're halfway through the season, that is unacceptable.
Surprisingly, the LSU fans in the stands didn't irritate me. They cheered, yes.. but weren't obnoxious like UGA fans the previous week. I guess the old adage "act like you been there" applies here... LSU fans are used to winning, whereas UGA fans seemingly can't handle it. Actually, the most vitriol I witnessed was Vol fans bickering with each other in the stands. There was a point when I thought two guys were literally going to come to blows. And I still couldn't tell you what they were arguing about. Yes, we're all a bit on edge this point. While we knew we probably weren't going to conquer the CFB world this year, we thought we had a shot a pretty dang good season. Injuries have dashed those hopes, and now all we have left are moral victories. These are dark days on Rocky Top.
Leaving the stadium, I've come to realize that our SEC enemies no longer see winning at Neyland as a big deal. It's a pretty ho-hum environment. I can literally remember fights breaking out in the streets when we lost to Florida. While I support Dooley and will give him the time he deserves to right the ship, I just don't know what the future holds. Without a strong recruiting base like other SEC powers enjoy, rebuilding at Tennessee is a long and painful process. But we have no choice but to stay the course. What else is there? Another coaching change would set us back another five years or more, and during the last coaching search we didn't exactly have big name coaches knocking down our door. Hang in there, is all I can say.