By Steve Williams
It was good to see Tennessee finally win a big-time football game, but I couldn’t fully enjoy the thrill of the 38-31 come-from-behind victory over Georgia, not after those three previous losses UT had suffered this season.
I couldn’t help but think where the Vols would be in the Southeastern Conference standings and national rankings had they notched wins over Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas – three teams they led by at least 13 points.
They would have been right where those Gators were when The Associated Press poll was released Oct. 11 – No. 8 in the nation and atop the SEC Eastern Division.
But Tennessee lost 31-24 in double overtime to Oklahoma, 28-27 at Florida and 24-20 to Arkansas.
Amidst the frustration and disappointment, head coach Butch Jones, who has a $3.6 million per year contract through 2020, was trying to sell the Tennessee fans on the Vols being “competitive” in those games, compared to where they had been in previous years.
I wasn’t buying.
Instead of trying to portray disappointing defeats as positive results, Jones could have gained more respect by owning up to mistakes he and his coaching staff made.
Tennessee clearly could have won all three of those games. Coaching decisions were costly, particularly against Oklahoma and Florida.
Choosing to kick an early field goal from inside the 1-yard line instead of going for a touchdown may have prevented the Vols from blowing out Oklahoma.
Turning conservative on offense and defense down the stretch against Florida allowed the Gators to come back and win for the 11th straight time. Actually, the way I see it, Florida was there for the taken for the third year in a row under Jones.
Joshua Dobbs running the ball only seven times for a net of seven yards against Arkansas certainly hurt.
For this Tennessee team to be successful, Dobbs has to be allowed to be his dynamic self. Like he was against Georgia.
There were times against the Dawgs that Dobbs played like he wasn’t going to allow Tennessee to lose. That he wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of a victory.
The win over Georgia could have put the Vols in the driver’s seat of the SEC East race had they not crashed in those earlier games. But now Tennessee is far back in the pack and a longshot to win the SEC East. The Vols need to win out and see the Gators lose to LSU, Georgia and either Vanderbilt or South Carolina to make it happen.
I still have hope.
The Alabama team that Tennessee faces in Tuscaloosa this coming Saturday is beatable. It will be the Tide’s eighth straight game without a break. The Vols will be rested after a week off. That makes a difference.
Here’s another reason to be hopeful. In last season’s 34-20 loss, Tennessee outscored No. 4 ranked Alabama 20-14 over the final three quarters with Dobbs finally at quarterback.
Tennessee has nothing to lose this week and there are a couple of things I would like to see happen to set a spirited tone for this game.
First, UT athletic director Dave Hart needs to request permission for the Vols to wear orange jerseys. Secondly, if that request is denied, Butch should send the Vols on the field in orange jerseys anyway and take a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The juice the Vols would get out of it would more than make up for the penalty.
Defy the antiquated road uniform rule guys and have some fun Vols.