You know, if you'd told me at the beginnng of the year that the Vols would go 9-2 in the regular season, win the SEC East outright and represent the Eastern Divsion in the Championship Game on Saturday, I'd've been a happy, happy man. Add in that we'd beat Florida, Georgia and Alabama and I'd be eccstatic.
It's this "small" fact that I have to keep reminding myself about as I consider the Vol's last couple of games. I think I've been spoiled by the Vol's previous November successes. We've had an awesome winning percentage in November under Fulmer and it's easy to forget that some of those games were closer than we care to remember. For every drubbing of Vandy, there were a couple that were close. I remember Peyton Manning going up to Lexington and the Vols falling behind early only to see Peyton will us to a win based on his sheer talent and leadership alone.
Let's face it--when you're as a down in football as Kentucky and Vanderbilt are and you've been losing to Tennessee for 20 years and you rarely, if ever, have hope of going to a bowl game, you're gonna bring your best game to Tennessee. Also, with the game being the last one of the season for each team, it's their bowl game. Look at Tennessee the past two years--two good seasons marred by the memory of a less than stellar bowl performance. You're remembered by your last game. So, it's easy to see why Vandy and Kentucky would come out and play like there was no tomorrow--because for them, there is no tomorrow. At least Kentucky can say, "Yeah, but wait til basketball season." Vandy's women used to be a dominant program, but it's fallen off in recent years. You almost gotta feel sorry for Vandy--they've really got nothing to look forward to anymore. They stink and it ain't gettin' any better. And the outloook don't look good for any time soon.
I'm happy that Tennessee won. Don't ever doubt that for a minute. But the way we won didn't necessarily thrill me. I know in the end what matters most is that we took care of business and certainly it was cruel of us to toy with Kentucky for so long--to let them hope they might win. But I'm concerned that the Vols are playing up to or down to the level of their competition. I don't think we've had a great game since Georgia. I haven't felt the same intensity from the team--the will to win. I hope they can find it for the Auburn Tigers next week, but it's not a switch you can flip on and off.
But as for the UT/Kentucky game yesterday, let me say a few things. Once again the officials need to be fired immediately. There were at least TWO pass interference calls on Bret Smith that were NOT called. Also, the same definition for personal foul hit out of bounds should apply to both sides. The officiating was absolutely terrible, which has been a major complaint of mine all year. Another thing that bugged me in this game--and in a couple of other games this weekend--was the coverage calls another coach, player, school official and starts talking to them on the phone and the announcers don't call the blessed game I'm watching. I did not tune in to hear about Spurrier going to South Carolina or to hear Tommy Tuberville talk about his sesaon. I tuned in to see the game I tuned in for. I want to know who is doing what and feel like you're paying attention to the game I'm watching and it's not an afterthought on your agenda. At least being in the great state of Tennessee, I could tune into the V0l Network coverage while JP blathered on about SC for five plus minutes.
Finally, I saw this quote in the paper this morning:
''Our guys played a heck of a game, and the wrong team won,'' said a visibly upset Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks, who slammed the table during his post-game interview
No, coach, the right team won. Your team went into self-destruct mode in the last ten or so minutes of the game...and as a Vol's fan, I thank you. Also, I think you're crying because you are gonna get fired. And this lastest self-destruct doesn't help your cause.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/28/2004 01:33:00 PM