Tag Archives: Neyland Stadium

The Tennessee Vols Will End Florida’s Streak and “WTFA” While They’re at It

It’s that time of the year. It’s time for one of the most important games all year for me as a fan of the Tennessee Vols. It’s time for the Volunteers to finally start a streak of their own and show Gator fans why this is a true rivalry.

Beyond just Tennessee, we have to win this game for the good of the American people. Why? Florida’s usual starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is out with an injury. That means that Florida is starting their transfer quarterback from Purdue, Austin Appleby. And apparently Austin Appleby is a fan of Osama Bin Laden. Well, maybe not a fan, but he still dressed up like him. There’s actually photo evidence.

Don’t even get me started about that trash-talking delinquent Jalen Tabor. Apparently he thinks it’s pretty obvious that Florida will beat Tennessee. I’m sure it’ll shut him up (at least for a bit) when he finds out just how wrong he is. Maybe he’ll even disappear from Twitter again.

I know what Florida fans are thinking: The Vols have lost eleven years in a row, so what has changed? Well, I can tell you what hasn’t changed. Florida’s offense is still nothing special. And it’ll be even worse with Appleby having to start at quarterback this week. Appleby, by the way, threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in his time at Purdue. He’s pretty much nothing for the Vols to worry about.

Let’s not forget all the assets that the Vols have on their side. Offensively, they boast an impressive trio of guys who can all provide substantial rushing yardage. Quarterback Josh Dobbs is great on his feet and so are running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Now, if the Vols could only get the ball to Kamara in space…

One other very obvious thing that Tennessee has working in their favor is their attitude. And I mean that #WGWTFA attitude. (WARNING: The video features strong language.)

But really, can you beat an attitude like that? Virginia Tech couldn’t at that game in Bristol. Now it’s Florida’s turn to give it a try. We’ll see how well that “try” goes in front of over 100,000 rambunctious fans in Neyland stadium tomorrow.

I know there’s been some talk of a supposed curse from certain things. Apparently checkering Neyland is a bad sign. And the grey uniforms don’t have a stellar record…yet. AND College Gameday is going to be in town. Basically, things don’t look good for the Vols when you consider those circumstances.

There are other circumstances that matter infinitely more. Like Derek Barnett putting a beating on Appleby and Justin Martin, adding to Appleby’s interception count. When (not if) the Vols do those things, there will be thousands of happy Vol fans singing “Rocky Top” as loud as they can on Saturday. So loud that it will almost definitely haunt Florida’s players in their dreams later. This has been eleven years coming, so it will absolutely not disappoint.

In summary, if you ask me how Saturday will go I’ll tell you one thing: #WGWTFA.

 

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Kristen Botica.

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Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

A little over a week ago, I introduced this idea. What if, for some terrible reason, I could only watch one SEC football game each weekend this season? Which games would I watch? Part one featured my picks for weeks one through six of the SEC football season. Here are my picks for the remainder of the season.

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

This is probably the one game I’m most excited to watch all season. The Crimson Tide may have lost some key pieces to their championship team but they have plenty of recruits from their past few classes that can fill in those gaps. They also have Bo Scarbrough to replace Derrick Henry, and he definitely cannot be ignored. On the other hand, Butch Jones and Tennessee didn’t really lose important pieces to their puzzle at all. They return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The defense will be solid, and the offense has the potential to be explosive. If Josh Dobbs can pass for more than ten yards this season, the Volunteer offense will be hard to stop.

This game was a close one in Tuscaloosa last year, with Alabama obviously being the eventual victor. This year the two teams meet in Knoxville and I’m sure Neyland will be rocking. I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to get a win at home over the Crimson Tide. And I’d be laughing at Lane Kiffin the whole time. He might have to block me on Twitter if they lose.

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

There are a few Ole Miss games that will definitely have my attention this season. This game in Death Valley is liable to be one of the most exciting SEC West games we’ll get to watch all season. I’ve talked about him plenty in Part One of this duo of lists, but Chad Kelly will be huge for Ole Miss this season.

The Rebels lost Laquon Treadwell to the NFL at the end of last season, but Damore’ea Stringfellow has the potential to be just as important to their offense. Playing opposite Treadwell last year, he already put up some pretty impressive stats (36 catches, 503 yds., 5 TDs) for the Rebels. LSU returns Fournette who was mostly a force to be reckoned with last season. More importantly, their quarterback Brandon Harris now has more experience and can hopefully help balance Fournette’s rushing attack with his passing attack.

These two offensive powerhouses meeting in Baton Rouge should make for a fantastic, explosive football game. The winner? Whichever team has fewer turnovers.

Week 9: #25 Florida vs. #16 Georgia (at EverBank Field)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will always draw my attention as a Gator. Heading into this season, both teams are expected to be strong but both have some pretty big question marks. The Gators need to actually move the ball on offense and they need to choose a quarterback to do that…again. Their defense will be as solid as ever as they retain the title “DBU.”

Georgia will have running back Nick Chubb again and an exciting new coach in Kirby Smart. That combination could prove to be very dangerous. As far as SEC defenses go, theirs may be pretty average. But an average Bulldog defense might overpower a below average Gator offense. At the end of the day, I’d give this one to the Gators. But I don’t say that with much confidence.

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

Alabama and LSU are the two highest-ranked SEC West teams in the preseason coaches poll, making this game an easy choice. Last season, the Alabama defense shut down Heisman hopeful running back Leonard Fournette in this matchup. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to repeat that feat now that LSU has a more experienced quarterback with Brandon Harris returning.

For LSU, containing the Alabama offense will be a must. Last season, they allowed them to outgain the Tiger offense by about 250 yards. If they allow Alabama to gain over 400 yards again, they’ll be hard-pressed to win this game. Fournette and Harris will be a destructive duo, but I expect the Alabama defense to be able to contain them pretty well. And for this reason, I anticipate Alabama winning this game, despite LSU’s home field advantage.

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

I honestly have no idea what to make of Auburn at this point. Last season I expected them to be solid but I would consider their 6-6 regular season record anything but solid. Surprisingly, they only lost to Georgia by a touchdown. That team they played a close game with was not the same team that Georgia has this season. Mark Richt was replaced with a shiny new head coach straight from Alabama, Kirby Smart. And since running back Nick Chubb is returning from his injury, the Georgia offense will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop.

The Auburn defense under Will Muschamp’s replacement, Kevin Steele, will be what decides this game. Steele has worked with a number of impressive programs: Alabama, Clemson, and LSU, to name a few. Whether or not he’ll be able to resurrect a defense that struggled during most games last year remains to be seen. Because of my doubts for Auburn’s defense and my faith in Georgia’s offense, I give them the clear advantage in this game. But I don’t expect a blowout.

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas is in a similar position to Tennessee this season, even though their outlook isn’t quite as favorable as that of the Volunteers. Head Coach Bret Bielema is entering his fourth year here after a decent season last year. In theory, he should finally have his players and his system in place.

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has had to return to the drawing board for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs lived and died by quarterback Dak Prescott the past two years. Last year, they had pretty much no offensive production unless Prescott was involved. Now that Prescott is gone, Mullen is going to have to completely revamp their offense if he wants any chance of surviving in the SEC West. Since Arkansas seems to be on more of an upward trend here, I see them winning this game at Mississippi State.

Week 13: Rivalry Week

Sorry guys, but I really can’t pick just one this week. There are far too many interesting rivalry matchups.

All rankings listed are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of wikimedia via user Neomrbungle.

E-Mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Reaching for a Distant Star

Dream the impossible dream, Fight the unbeatable foe, Strive with your last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable star.” – Joe Darion

The last month of Kentucky football has been blacker than the darkest night. The hope from a 5-1 start was slaughtered in Death Valley. An inspired effort against the nation’s number one team ended in heartbreak, the victim of a blown onside kick. A winnable game against Missouri turned into an exhibition of malaise. The game against the Bulldogs from Georgia may have torn the heart out of an impossible dream that seemed attainable merely a month ago.

In my debut column I wrote about the dreams Kentucky fans have for our football program. The collective heart of the Big Blue Nation aches for a winner. It yearns for a team to defy the program’s past as a laughingstock and earn the right to be called a true SEC program. November is perhaps the hardest time to believe in that dream, one that often seems impossible. A survey of the last few decades finds a sparse collection of strong November finishes. In fact, since the 1996 season Kentucky has only won thirty percent of its games played in the month. Only a handful of times did the Cats even managed to have a winning record in the year’s eleventh month. To accentuate the pain, the proverbial gorilla on the shoulders, the orange horde that sits upon Rocky Top, awaited Kentucky.

Tennessee is Kentucky’s unbeatable foe. For over 25 years the Vols have claimed victory against the blue and white in all but one contest. In the dark ages of the 1990’s Phil Fulmer’s juggernaut turned the rivalry game into an annual pummeling. Even the best Kentucky teams of the 2000’s had to learn to embrace heartbreak against the Vols, loses that were especially cruel since for once Kentucky had the better team. A rare win over Tennessee would not only be sweet for the fans but the current class of seniors who are battling to attain their own impossible dreams.

Kentucky’s current crop of seniors have weathered three difficult seasons. They have yet to beat a chief rival, win an SEC road game or gone bowling. All very simple goals. Yet, all three seem as distant as the stars themselves. Not only does Kentucky rarely beat Tennessee but the Cats have not won in Neyland Stadium since the Reagan Administration. Butch Jones’ team is hungry and flying high after a huge comeback win two weeks ago against South Caroline, and a win puts the Vols one step closer to their first bowl game since 2010. Clearly, they have a lot to play for. History, momentum and their recent road woes, only one touchdown in seven quarters, all point to another loss for Kentucky.

If the senior class and the team as whole want to defy the odds they need to do one thing, fight. There cannot be any lackadaisical effort and poor tackling on defense. Kentucky will have to hit hard and wrap the ball carrier up once they have him wrapped up. The offensive line needs to get a jump and provide running lanes for Kentucky’s backs. Patrick Towles has to stand firm in the pocket and not get rid of the ball at the first sight of a pass rush. In the same light, his receivers need to hang onto the ball in short yardage situations. Do these simple things and do them with heart and the Cats have a chance on Saturday day to put a stake in the heart of a hated enemy and reach the promised land.

Vols Eye Bowl As Schedule Eases

As we experience all four seasons in Knoxville, Butch Jones hopes his Volunteers can outlast the weather and continue an historically winning tradition in November. The somewhat lofty goal of a bowl appearance seemed to fade beyond our reach after the Alabama loss. However because we beat South Carolina, the Vols need just two wins for bowl eligibility, and they hope to get more by season’s end. Few media members picked the Vols to have a shot at postseason play, and neither did Volnation. One distinguishing characteristic of Team 118 is their ability to believe. They believe they can beat any opponent. Some might call them naive, but isn’t that what football is all about? I’m sure you’ve heard the term Any Given Sunday, and I think Any Given Saturday works as well. Any team can beat any other team on any given day. The Vols have finally figured out how to play Tennessee football at the perfect time. The only question left to ask ourselves is will they win enough to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010? The short answer is yes, and the long answer is below.

Let’s start off with scheduling. The Vols just finished running a gauntlet of SEC teams starting with Georgia and ending with South Carolina. Now, the Vols are coming off a bye week they desperately needed, and then they face Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. Intertwined with the schedule is the tradition of winning in November. Historically, the Vols have vaporized teams during this time; including a 26-year win streak against Kentucky and 22-year streak against the Black and Gold Commodores. But when it comes down to it, we all know that the past is the past for a reason, and that’s why November is an intriguing month for the Vols.

The Vols play Kentucky on Saturday in Neyland. Kentucky, opposite to the Vols, had their easy games to start the season. The Wildcats valiantly started off 5-1(bad call went in favor of the Gators), but then became stagnant after losing their last four games. The Kentucky offense can put up points, but I just don’t see them matching the intensity of Team 118 for sixty minutes.

I am worried most about the Missouri game at home. We have not performed so hot against the new SEC East team, but we’re looking for revenge this year. I have no idea which team will show up against the Vols, and I doubt their own fans know either. We could see the Tiger team that blew out a Gator team everyone seems to have problems with, or the pitiful offense that was shutout against a massively overrated Georgia team. As long as the Vols are consistent, I don’t see much going wrong.

Last, and certainly least, we have Vanderbilt. After losing to lackluster Vandy teams back-to-back for the first time since 1926, the Tennessee Volunteers are ready to unleash a fury like no other on Vanderbilt football. I have never seen Vol fans so irate about measly old Vandy, and let me warm all Commodore fans now, A Storm Is Coming.

The next huge advantage the Volunteers have in November is our fan base, Volnation. We play our next two games in Neyland stadium, and they both look to be sellouts. The Vols play on another level when they are in front of Volnation as Volnation is the judge, jury, and executioner around these parts. I just don’t see the Vols losing in Neyland again this year. If Volnation is as loud as I think it will be, Kentucky & Missouri are in for long nights full of yellow flags flying about. The saying “protect this house” has a whole new meaning for Tennessee Football this month. If we can protect our house, then we reach our goal. Pretty straight forward, but we play in the SEC, so there’s really no telling.

The final reason why the Vols will make a bowl game is the newfound potency and overall success of our offense. Led by Joshua Dobbs, Butch Jones’ offense has finally found the right quarterback to play. A runner with great speed, Dobbs has a high football IQ, and plays with a will to win. With the Tennessee defense falling from grace recently, we might have to keep putting up 40 a game. The only way this Tennessee team can put up 40(consistently) is with Joshua Dobbs at the helm. I have the upmost confidence that the Volunteers will continue their offensive success against some suspect defenses.

As the harsh November cold rolls in, the Tennessee Volunteers hope to accomplish their goal of bowl eligibility. They must defend Neyland, and they have to take it to these defenses early. A bowl appearance would continue the momentum this young program needs to make a run for the SEC next year.

The Vol Fans' Plight

For many, last weekend was one of the most exciting weekends in college football, possibly ever, but not for me. My Vols lost their 10th straight game to the Florida Gators. So much hype surrounded this rivalry, maybe too much for the inexperienced Vols. Losing to Florida the way we did felt like I lost a little part of my soul. I feel defeated, embarrassed, and angry. Thus, this is the Tennessee fans’ plight.
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Vol fans created the most intense atmosphere by checker boarding all of Neyland. It was beautiful, and it was done 100% through the fans, because the University is too cheap to care. Neyland was loud, raucous, and intimidating on Saturday, and hasn’t been that wild since the glory days. The fans do so much, and try to do anything to give our team the edge, but no matter what, we can’t win. We can’t even beat, in my opinion, the worst Florida football team I have ever seen. In fact, our team shot themselves in the foot anytime we had an opportunity. The Tennessee Volunteers broke my heart again, and broke the whole city of Knoxville with the loss. But us Vol fans never waiver, we always stick behind our team, and every time they break our hearts, we come running back to them like a lost puppy. Why? Because we think they will change? Yeah maybe. But we keep coming back because the Vols are a part of us, a part of our hearts, our minds, and our souls. We couldn’t root for another team if we tried. It just isn’t possible. So we stick with the team that always disappoints. The Tennessee Volunteers.
We did not play well enough to win this game, and I have no excuses, but a few things must be clarified first. This is the second year in a row that our defense has beat Jeff Driskel (or broken his leg) had the lead, and then a nobody back up comes in and saves the game. Not only that, but Florida’s go-ahead field goal shouldn’t have even counted as the play clock was clearly at zero. Our defense played outstanding football, even shut out Florida in the first half, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in 50 years. The defense grabbed turnovers, a couple which were deep inside Gator territory. But all our measly offense could do was barely squeak three field goals by after being in the red zone. Pitiful. Absolutely pitiful. It seems like we cannot separate ourselves from the most ridiculous circumstances, and they end up costing us the game. I mean, how bad is our luck? The worst if you ask me.
We should have won the game, plain and simple. We didn’t get cheated out of it; our offense just couldn’t do anything in the red zone. It was like we were allergic to it. Every time we got there, we put our anchor down and progress stopped. There was not one personnel group that played well on Saturday. The line, quarterback, running backs, wide out, tight ends, coaches; they all had the worst games I have seen. Our receivers couldn’t get open, and if we did get opened, we dropped the ball. The line had absolutely no push. Couldn’t pick up blitzes. I thought they would have a better chance if they just fell on the ground when the ball was snapped. At least the defense’s path to the quarterback would be altered a tiny bit. But no, they continue to play miserable football. But that’s what happens when some of your linemen were mediocre in high school, at best. Worley played an awful game. He missed reads, wasn’t accurate, and didn’t make good decisions. Not to mention he had an average of .5 seconds to throw before a Florida defender mauled him. Even our savior Jalen Hurd was being thrown around like a ragdoll. He had as many rushing yards as he did rushing attempts.
Now, we get to the coaches. Let’s start off by agreeing that John Jancek coached an extremely good game, and gave Volnation a lot of confidence in his ability to lead this defense. Butch Jones, as always, coached hard on the field, but we don’t really know how much of this is his fault versus Mike Bajakian’s fault. Bajakian is the offense coordinator, and runs Butch Jones offense. Let me just say Bajakian’s play calling reminded me of Randy Sanders throwing screens on every 3rd & long back in the day. Bajakian ran the ball with success to start out a drive in Gators’ territory, after a turnover. He then proceeded to bring in Devrin Young, the most overrated player in Tennessee football history, and throw a slow developing play action, motion filled play that ended in a screen to the short side of the field. I mean, how ignorant can you be. First off, Devrin shouldn’t be running the ball, ever. He shouldn’t even be returning kickoffs. But yet, our offense thinks that throwing a screen to a running back that is undersized for middle school football will result in points. It just blew my mind on Saturday. The whole game was pitiful.
I know we have to trust in the process, and continue to get better each day. We have to recruit well and be patient so we can get great players to come here. But when are we going to win? That’s what Butch Jones needs to show us. Is your system actually going to work, or will we just be stuck with talent that can’t be translated to wins? Don’t get me wrong, I am still 110% behind Butch Jones and his staff, but things have to start changing soon. We (as fans) have done everything you have asked and way more. The ball is in your court Butch Jones. We proved to you that the fans are back, can you prove that this program is back?

The College Quickie: Welcome to the Show

*cue the circus music
I’m almost positive this is craziest weekend in college football I’ve seen in my short 32 years. The fun began Thursday night with Arizona’s upset over Oregon and ended with Utah upsetting No 8 UCLA.
That AP Top 25 poll you had? Yeah, go ahead and toss that out the window.


That about sums that up, doesn’t it?
Matt Wadleigh will have a breakdown of the new poll later today, but man…where do we go from here?
Sure, Florida State will probably remain No 1, but do they deserve it? They haven’t looked awesome all year, but after this weekend, what’s the new awesome? Thursday night, we thought for sure that Oregon’s loss to Arizona would effectively eliminate any slimmer of hope the Big Ten had of making the playoff. Can we still say that after Saturday?
How about Mississippi? I mean the state of Mississippi. Ole Miss and Mississippi have played top-10 teams on the same day 17 times, but this is the FIRST time they’ve both won. This will sound crazy, but Mississippi is the capital of college football. I don’t know what else they get right down there, but they’re certainly getting football right.
Let me touch on a sore subject for just one second: Michigan. “And now the end is near,” right? Earlier this year I didn’t think Michigan would fire Brady Hoke during the season, and I’d still be pretty surprised if they did, but come on – they lost to Rutgers by 2. Rutgers was 23-40 in passing and was averaging 10.1 yards per pass. That’s insane. It’s almost like Michigan’s defense was non-existent.
Maybe Brady Hoke should switch it up and wear a headset. At this point, try anything. What’s it matter?

Big 12 Madness

In their third season in the Big 12, Texas Christian shocked and awed Oklahoma by winning 37-33. Here’s the thing: TCU gets a pick six with 14:12 left in the fourth quarter, and neither team scores the rest of the game? Where was Big Game Bob Stoops’ offense? The last points OU scores is one a blocked PAT? Is Oklahoma still the best team in the Big 12, of course they are, but what the hell was that Bob? Credit to Gary Patterson, Trevon Boykin and company for reminding everyone they didn’t plan on being walked on in the Big 12.
Also, health and safety check on Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlby.
Not only did Bowlsby’s best team lose Saturday, but now he has to deal with Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard who did not hold back his feelings after the Cyclone’s lost to Oklahoma State Saturday.

“We’ve been on the short end of some controversial calls and it’s hard to sit idle and watch ESPN, Fox, other announcers not debate, but to feel sorry for Iowa State because maybe there will be another apology for a call,” Pollard said. “Coach Rhoads and I have tried to deal with that internally and have tried to do it the right way. But it’s no longer fair to put our student-athletes, our coaching staff and our fans in that position.”

Yeah, Pollard is right. Iowa State’s pretty much been getting screwed by referee’s over the last few seasons. Pollard will probably pay a significant fine for his comments, but he’s right, the officials have not been kind to Iowa State. He’s also right when he says apologies don’t change the outcome of the game. The Big 12 needs to improve its officiating, and if that means they need to replace Supervisor of Officials Walt Anderson (also an NFL referee), then so be it.
The good thing for the Big 12, is that at least their officials aren’t so bad they merit their own Twitter hashtag. See #Pac12Refs

Touchdown Jesus Saves the Irish Day

Well, well, well – look at this – Notre Dame has to live on a little luck to survive against Stanford. Everyone left Stanford for dead after it’s debilitating loss to USC, but it bounced back with wins against Army and Washington. Saturday, the Fighting Brian Kelly’s had to rely on Everett Golson to survive. Stanford’s defense was nothing short of amazing. Stanford has gone 27 straight games without allowing an opponent to score more than 30 points, which is great, but your offense has to score points, which is something Stanford can’t do.
A few weeks ago, Mike Wilson asked me if I thought Gholson was good enough to be in the conversation for the Heisman, and I said no, because I thought in many cases he was playing down to his competition. He certainly convinced me otherwise with his clutch throw on fourth-and-11 in the fourth quarter. I’m as surprised by anyone at how fun the game in South Bend was, but as Ryan said a few weeks ago, the Irish season will be defined by the month of October.

Neyland is Checkered, and Muschcamp’s Mouth

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Florida beats Tennessee 10-9 – yes, that was really the score – and the Volunteer faithful did a stadium checkerboard, and after Florida Coach Will Muschamp has words for the fans:

I don’t know how warm Muschamp’s seat is in Gainesville, but one has to assume it’s very warm. If the fans at Neyland are going to checker their stadium, and talk a bunch of garbage to Florida and Muschamp, then he should be able to respond in a sensible way. This is football, there’s going to be trash talk.
Explain to me why Tennessee fans are upset about this when they’re yelling F*ck Florida? If the expectation is that the other person should rise up and not respond, well, you’re crazy. You probably thought I was going to drop the F-bomb, didn’t you?
That’s funny.
Anyway, Muschamp can say anything he wants. It isn’t like he hasn’t before.

My Top 4

Heh, I don’t know, this is tough and will probably be unpopular, but my Top Four is:

  1. Florida State
  2. Auburn
  3. Ole Miss
  4. Baylor

All four had convincing wins Saturday (Drew, sorry about your Demon Deacons), and that’s how the new Top 25 should turn out.
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Old Rivalry, New Blood: Tennessee vs. Florida

10 years, too much. This Saturday at noon, the Florida Gators will kickoff against the Tennessee Volunteers in Neyland Stadium. It will be a hot, fall afternoon when the game really gets going, and there is no one on this planet as nervous as me. I promise. We haven’t beaten the Florida Gators since I was in middle school (I’m in college now). We have had 4 different coaches contribute to the losing streak: Fulmer, Kiffin, Dooley, and now Butch. However, Butch wants to change that this year, and has to change it. We cannot lose for the 10th straight time to a Gator program that is always lacking in some crucial department.
Let’s travel back to our last win against the Gators. It was September 18, 2004; a strong Vols team went up against an equally tough Gator team in a battle that would not be decided until the final play. The Gators possessed the ball late in the 4th quarter, holding a lead of 28-27. All the Gators had to do was grab enough first downs to run out the clock. Little did they know, the game would take a drastic turn. The Gators amassed one first down, then were stopped and forced to punt. However, there were some extra curricular activities after the third down play that included WR Dallas Baker & DB Jonathan Wade. Wade slapped Baker in the helmet first, and then Baker retaliated with his own helmet slap to Wade. The referee called only Baker for the personal foul, a call that Gators fans probably question to this day. The penalty led to the Gators punt team being pushed back 15 yards. The Gators punt back to the Vols, and the Vols made a quick run for field goal range. The Vols made it to the Gator 33-yard-line when James Wilhoit got the call. James Wilhoit, with 6 seconds left, etched himself into the hearts of every Vol fan that night by blasting the last second field goal to win the game 30-28. It was unreal, surreal.

James Wilhoit celebrates seconds after his game winning field goal against the Gators
James Wilhoit celebrates seconds after his game winning field goal against the Gators

This Saturday, the football team, the University, the players, the coaches, the fans, and Knoxville itself have a bone to pick with the Gators. We HAVE to win this game. For the love of everything Orange & White, almighty Peyton Manning and our savior Butch Jones, we CANNOT lose to Will Muschamp & the rag tag Gators for the 10th year in a row. It just cannot happen.
Now fast forward back to today. A young, surprising Vol team (especially on defense) comes off a heartbreaking loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Volnation deserved to win that game. The players played to win. We found out that Team 118 is the first team since Phillip Fulmer to GET IT. They finally understand what it means to be a Vol, and they know HOW to play like Tennessee Vols. First off, you never give up. Not up by 40 or down by 40, you give 110% until the end. This Vol team fought for 60 minutes, and lost to a team we were better than. They just happened to have Todd Gurley. Second, we play as a team; there is no STAR on a true Vol team. The Georgia game was a group effort for the entire 4 quarters, but Gurley proved just too much. It also didn’t help that we had 2 turnovers in the 4th quarter, 1 in our own end zone I might add. Third, as a Vol, we play Tennessee Tough; no one out works us or outplays us. We are also very resilient. Justin Worley was the epitome of a Tennessee football player last Saturday. He played like a Tennessee quarterback should. He knew the offense, went through his reads quick, and got the ball off even quicker. He changed the heart of each Tennessee fan who had previously disliked him, and believe me, they were the majority. He got hit viciously on the elbow by a Georgia defenders’ helmet. All seemed lost when he went out and Nathan Peterman came off the bench. Worley jogged to the locker room for X-rays, and then 3 possessions later, he jogged back on the field ready to go. Justin walked up to Coach Butch Jones and told him he was ready to play. LET’S GO! The most significant thing Justin Worley has ever done. He finally etched his name into the Tennessee Quarterback fraternity, which was reaffirmed when Peyton Manning & Condredge Holloway consoled him after the tough loss.
Let me say this right now in front of all of you.
THE TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS WILL END THE STREAK SATURDAY!
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have faith that my Vols will beat the Gators, and put themselves right back in the conversation for Atlanta. The Gators secondary will not be able to handle Justin Worley and the young playmakers on offense. Jalen Hurd will run for 150+ & 2 TDs. Also, for those of you who don’t know, the team with the most rushing yards wins the rivalry game, pretty much every time. Jeff Driskel will eat his words, and who knows, he might even watch the stadium empty onto the field.
Vols 27 Gators 21

Tennessee vs. Utah State: My Take

Sitting in my military history lecture this morning, I found my eyes following the second hand of my watch, and all I could think about was the number 5. 5 days. 5 more days until the streets of Knoxville flood with orange & white. 5 more days until 102,000 Vol fans stand up and see the Pride of the Southland Marching Band form the Power T that is the University of Tennessee’s attack formation. It signals Butch Jones’ second season on Rocky Top, a season most Vol fans hope will show that the Vols have finally turned back around. Regardless of all the hype around the team and the questions that will be answered on Sunday, the only thing that matters is that The Tennessee Volunteers are back in Neyland Stadium! It sends chills up every Vol fans back, and causes the entire city of Knoxville to flourish in the fall. There isn’t a better place in the nation to be on a fall night than Neyland Stadium under the lights.
 
As a Vol fan myself, this season is the single most important season in the history of the Tennessee Vols football program. All the experts don’t think it is a make or break year for Butch Jones and the Vols, but they don’t understand how the dynamics of the football team, university, and Knoxville work. The success of Knoxville as a city is directly proportional to the football teams’ ranking and the popularity of the University of Tennessee. This also works both ways and if any of them are subpar, then the entire culture suffers, and so does the social scene.
 
I’m NOT saying that Butch Jones should be fired if he doesn’t perform well, or that his job should is even in question if the Vols don’t go bowling. I love Butch Jones and I only have the upmost confidence that Jones’ will change the direction of the program, in fact, I think he already has. But I know that when the football team is playing well, then everything in Knoxville is better. The people are nicer. More people go out on the weekends. Going to school is easier. Businesses flourish. Knoxville has this vibe around it, and you can tell that Knoxville is a happier, better place to live in if the Vols are winning. I care for my city and my team, and I know that Butch Jones and the 2014 Tennessee Volunteers will turn things around. It might not be through huge wins, or an SEC title this year, but that aura around Knoxville will return.
 
I decided to find 4 players (2 on each team), and an off the field reason why this game will be one to be remember for a long time by both programs.
 
Player number one isn’t much of a surprise. Chuckie Keeton, quarterback for Utah State and considered to be a dark horse Heisman candidate for some in the media. Keeton is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, however we are all interested to see how well he plays after suffering a season-ending injury last year. Keeton will be a tough test for the Vols mostly inexperienced, shallow defensive. If the Vols aren’t aggressive, and let Keeton take the game to them, 102,000 people could be in for a long night.
 
Player number two is Vols Wide Receiver Marquez North. Launching his sophomore campaign as the Vols number one WR, North has a bunch to offer, but still a little more to prove. We know that North can make the big plays (possession catches) when his team really needs a first down or score. What we don’t know, is if he can be a consistent, day in day out threat to SEC cornerbacks. We won’t find the answer to the latter until later on this year, but we will find out how much his hard work has paid off this off-season. The coaches are high on him, and they think he is poised for a breakout season this year. The Vols need at least one wide receiver that they can count on to make big plays and score throughout the season. Not to mention he needs to keep staying healthy.
 
Player number 3 is Utah State running back Joe Hill. A senior, also coming off injury, Hill is a talented back that could give the Vols some trouble with such an inexperienced defensive line. Joe Hill will have to have early success against the Vols if the Aggies expect to come out with a win on Sunday.
 
The final player on my watch list for this game is LB Curt Maggitt. Another player coming off injury (in fact, he is coming off multiple injuries), Maggit looks to have immediate success in Neyland, and could even dominate given the right circumstances. Maggit will have to stop the run from Hill and Keeton, while staying honest enough to the pass if he wants to have a good start to 2014.p1792989912-3
 
Now that I have said some on the field things, I must tell you why it is the off the field aspects of Knoxville that will excite fans from both programs. This weekend, Labor Day weekend, is the premier weekend for people to be out and about having a blast. First off, it’s a three-day weekend for the university, and all the students are currently in session. No one goes home for this weekend. Second, it’s the first UT football game. Enough said. Third, This is the last hoorah for summer activities as well as the unofficial end of summer in Knoxville. And last, but definitely not least, Boomsday is on Saturday. The largest Labor Day firework show in the nation, including a falling waterfall of fireworks brings about a half a MILLION people every year to downtown Knoxville for the weekend. I’m unable to describe how excited everyone gets, and what a great experience it is for all fans. This weekend in Knoxville will be one giant block party festival featuring, fireworks, and football all weekend.
 
I thought it would only be appropriate at the end of this article to make my own prediction for the score of the game. So here it goes…Tennessee 31 Utah State 14. Let’s play some college football.
 

A Window into the Past & Sensationalism

Sensationalism has forever changed college football from a midday Saturday dogfight into a pompous, high scoring, social event. Don’t misunderstand me; sensationalism will naturally occur in any situation given an opportunity to make money. I just don’t want the word sensationalism to hold a negative connotation or a positive one, it is just part of history, the way things are. But we should not forget what college football was like before the jumbotrons, cable TV, and party atmosphere came onto the scene. Obviously, I was not old enough to experience the period of time previously mentioned, so I thought I would find someone who was. I interviewed a man (he shall remain anonymous) who experienced Tennessee football as a child in the 60’s & 70’s, and has been a diehard Vol fan for his entire life. I wanted him to show me what Volunteer football was back then, to peer into the past nostalgically, and shed some light on being part of Volnation back in the day. I asked my interviewee to take me through a typical Saturday in Knoxville 40 years ago. I want to paint a picture for my readers as he did for me, and if all you take away from my story is that football is just different now, then I have done my job. Hopefully through this alternate perspective, we can understand where we came from, and maybe even where we (fans) should push to take Tennessee football in the future.
 
Our window into the past opens with the city of Knoxville. Back in the late 60’s & early 70’s Knoxville was a small town compared to the medium-sized corporate hub it has become. Farragut was nothing but a bunch of farmland, and anywhere past Bearden was considered the great beyond. Knoxville was full of blue-collar workingmen whose only request at the end of the workweek was to blow off some steam. For those average joe’s, the one event they could count on was Tennessee football. We must remember that everyone didn’t get to watch the game, only those who held tickets were blessed enough to see the Saturday fight. There was no cable, no PPV, and rarely was a Tennessee game televised unless it garnered national attention. Games were mostly played at noon, and Knoxville was quiet up until then. There were few, if any, retail or restaurant chains, which meant that most of the stores were mom & pops and thus, closed for game day. The people who tailgated were mostly out of towners, and there was little to no party atmosphere in contrast to today.
 
Tennessee football was like going to church, it was just what Knoxvillians did on Saturday. Lawnmowers couldn’t be heard, and only a few cars would be seen on the road. However, the cars that were on the road were being frantically driven to get an errand done before kickoff. If you did have to do some yard work during the game, you better believe they had the radio on full blast, listening to John Ward. John Ward always will be the voice of the Vols. Vol fans everywhere would mute their televisions, put headsets on, and drown out the world in order to hear John Ward.
 
Going to Neyland Stadium on a Saturday was not just a trip back then, it was an adventure. This adventure took place every Saturday like clockwork, and I’m sure other Vol fans set off on similar journeys. For my interviewee, the adventure started on Gay Street, where his father dropped him off to obtain boiled peanuts or an Orange Julius at Nan Denton’s. After circling Gay Street, his father would pick him back up, and they would drive in search of the ever elusive parking spot on the east side of Henley Street. If you were lucky, you could find a spot behind Church Street Methodist. After parking, fans would funnel down a path that herded Vol fans to the train trestles on their way to the stadium. The most difficult part of the journey was what my interviewee called the “Trestle Shuffle”. A sea of orange walked over the unprotected train trestles, and the only noise you could hear were the deafening screeches of girlfriends & wives as they tried not to fall through the trestles and hit the creek below. Needless to say, the University would never allow fans to walk through places unprotected nowadays.
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Once inside the stadium, you didn’t hear Rocky Top blasting over the speakers, or advertisements on the jumbotron to promote the University, but rather the thud of the football against the punters foot, and the “leather poppin” from hard hits in game. It’s hard to hear yourself think during a game now, much less be able to hear the quarterback call an audible, or the lines smash together. Of course some of the noise comes form the 102,455 that line the field, which I am not complaining about. Pre-game warm-ups, as well as the entire game, were tailored to include the fans, but most importantly, the kids. There was no net behind the field goal post; so naturally, kids would flock to where the kicker’s kick would land in the stands. No kid even thought about running away with the ball, they just threw it back onto the field in order to get another attempt at catching it. They wanted to feel like Tennessee football cared about them as much as they idolized the players. The University would give out hundreds of tickets to local little league football organizations so that they could come be a part of Volnation, even though it was a game the Vols would most likely win by 50 points. Tennessee football has lost the inclusivity it once promoted, chose dollar signs over passion and fandom. But that’s just the world we live in, and we call this sensationalism. It’s hard for a normal, average Joe to even obtain a ticket these days, but that won’t keep us out of Volnation, or Neyland Stadium. We stand up and scream when the rest of the stadium is sitting, we wear our orange like a badge of courage, and we never waiver in our fandom. The former description is what it means to be a die hard Vol for Life, and Tennessee football has finally found the man who gets it. Butch Jones. Butch Jones has reignited fire in the bellies of even the most fair-weather Vol fans, and he understands that the old school must be mixed with the new in order to succeed in Knoxville.
 
Now that we can see a different perspective of Volnation, I urge all Tennessee fans out there to attend games because you want to watch YOUR TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS fight against another team, not to meet friends, take pictures, and drink alcohol. As we move closer and closer to kickoff, we will delve into the X’s & O’s this season, but I thought this was a story that needed to be heard by everyone. One sentence sums up Tennessee football of the past, a saying that will forever echo in my head as a beacon of light leading the way towards mixing old school and new school. This adage comes from the great Bobby Denton prior to kickoff, on the subject of concession stand costs, and means more to Volnation than words can express. “Please Pay These Prices, And Please Pay No More!”