Tennessee quarterback attempts to calm head coach Derek Dooley after a call is made during a game against Missouri Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee fell to Missouri 51-48 in quadruple overtime.Photo by By Allison Love
Here we stand. The program is broken.
The University of Tennessee is too proud and too powerful to start 0-6 in the SEC, nevermind to do it in back-to-back seasons.
The University of Tennessee, the home of Neyland and Atkins and White and Manning and Fulmer and Berry and too many other college football Hall of Famers to name, can not abide this.
The University of Tennessee and its 102,000-plus-seat football coliseum can not afford or allow crowds of 65,000. The disinterest and apathy are the biggest by-products of this bad product.
After Saturday's 51-48 four overtime loss to a Missouri team that has played two-plus months of an SEC slate, the reports (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/12/derek-dooleys-time-at-ut-appears-close-to-end/) from our UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown that Dooley's end is on the horizon make sense. And we could not agree more with our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer, who wrote here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/12/its-time-for-hart-to-talk-about-plan-for-ut/#comments that Dave Hart's silence was golden and loud and clear about Dooley before Saturday, but now that reports have surfaced that the cat is out of the bag, it's time to name that kitty.
The Vols' latest meltdown — another classic, snatch-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory moment in which if they make just one play among several they win — was the latest in a season full of hair-pullers. This is not about tough schedules or tough breaks or being close anymore. This is the University of Tennessee, and it's broken.
Saturday was the final straw for even the last Dooley defenders we know. And granted, Dooley was given a tough job that was made tougher by the circus and the circumstances in and around Knoxville the last three years.
There are a list of turning points that could have turned this ship and left the Johnny Vols Fans everywhere asking "Why fire Dooley?" as opposed to "Why has it not been announced?" But heading into the last two games of the regular season — and almost to a person the reasoning behind not announcing the happenings and discussions in the UT football offices Sunday are an attempt for the team and coaches to focus on Vandy and possibly making a bowl game — if Dooley's not the answer, who is?
Here's a list of names from what we've heard and believe would work best for the Vols moving forward:
1) Jon Gruden, TV analyst. Yes, we know he was a young assistant there. And did you know his wife was a UT cheerleader? Oh, you knew that? That said, we've heard there are some very high-profile UT boosters that are going to make him say no multiple times. He likely will, considering there are just as many reports that he's the top name on a slew of NFL boards too, including in Philadelphia. Let us be clear: We do not expect Gruden to be the next UT football coach, but that does not mean it's not being discussed by the power-brokers in the 865.
2) Bob Stoops, Oklahoma coach. Crazy, huh? Well, he's a name we've heard more than once in the last 36 hours.
3) Charlie Strong, Louisville coach. Despite the disappointing loss Saturday, Strong and Co. have done work in Louisville, and while Cards AD Tom Jurich has said he's willing to make Strong the highest-paid coach in the country, there's one thing the Cards can't give Strong: The chance to coach in the SEC.
From there, it's a hodgepodge of names that range from impossible (gang, Lovie Smith is not coming from the Bears to Knoxville) to the nostalgic (Phillip Fulmer is not coming back) to the unrealistic (we're not going to name names, but to the person that emailed about whether Russ Huesman could be a candidate, know that as great a job as Russ has done with the Mocs, that's not happening).
Here are two names that have not been mentioned a great deal: Bobby Petrino and Kirby Smart. Take that for what it is.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) runs through the tackle of Alabama defensive back Deion Belue (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.
Around college football
What a Cuh-Razy weekend, huh?
— How much fun is Johnny "Football" Manziel having right now? Sweet buckets of energy and effort, the young, running-and-throwing prodigy did the unthinkable Saturday. He went to Tuscaloosa and slayed the beast that is the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was a magical game to watch, and in truth, everyone watching with the possible exception of Johnny Manziel's folks, were waiting for Alabama to score in the final minute. That didn't happen, and the unbeaten Tide lost 29-24.
— The 5-at-10 was in the stands Saturday night for the Auburn-Georgia game and the two biggest cheers of the night were for Spirit, the eagle that flies into the stadium before kickoff (it's a pretty cool sight if you have not experienced it) and when the Alabama score was announced. Of course, there was not much for Tigers fans to cheer in the 38-0 whipping that the Bulldogs delivered. Which brings us to...
— The Fab 4 (plus 1) picks went 4-1 for the third consecutive week. And gang, hitting 80 percent against the spread is not too shabby. Overall, we're 39-16-2 after hitting Arkansas State (giving 7 in a 43-21 win over La.-Monroe), Oregon (giving 30 in a 52-17 win over Cal), Georgia (minus 15 in a 38-0 win over Auburn), UT-Missouri over 60 (UT's defense delivered for the Fab 4) and missing on Louisville (minus 2 in a straight-up loss at Syracuse).
— Side betting note for those of you who like this sort of thing: Idaho was getting 40 points Saturday night at BYU. And 40 points is one of those monster spreads that catches the 5-at-10's eye. So, the final score was BYU 52, Idaho 13. Yes, the Vandals won in Vegas' eyes by a slim point. Well, that number is made even more interesting by the fact that Idaho kicked a 35-yard field goal on the LAST play of the game. Who's coaching the Vandals now a days, Luca Brasi?
— Derek Dooley is far from the only coach neck-deep in turmoil. Pirate Mike Leach is under fire again for treating his players poorly at Washington State. Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is being questioned about putting his hands on an assistant. There are some reports that Gene Chizik has actually adopted a screenplay where he reprises the role as Bernie the corpse from "Weekend at Bernie's," in a special, made for TV version of "Weekend Tailgate at Bernie's."
— The national championship chase has been completely reshuffled thanks to Johnny Football and the Aggies. Alabama is now No. 4 in the BCS, one spot ahead of Georgia, and those two one-loss teams will meet in the SEC title game. For the SEC to be a player in the national title game for the seventh consecutive year, the Tide or the Bulldogs will need help. Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are the top three and each is unbeaten. If all three stay unbeaten, the experts project Oregon and K-State will play the title and that the Pope will excommunicate the nation. If two of those three lose, the winner of the SEC title game is back in the mix. (That said, Notre Dame's predicament is very much like Auburn's in 2004: Each started so low in the polls and made gradual ascensions during the season that when the BCS polls started rolling out, the hill was too steep to climb.)
— Sad end for the Mocs, who played Wofford tough in another tough OT loss to one of the SoCon powers.
Somewhere the 1972 Miami Dolphins popped the corks on some champagne or some Metamucil or whatever their drink of choice is these days because with the Falcons' loss at New Orleans on Sunday, the Dolphins are assured of at least another year of being the only NFL team to finish the entire season unbeaten.
We'll get more into this with Tuesday's power poll, but the Falcons are still on the short list of the best teams in the NFL. They are built for the modern NFL, and quarterback Matt Ryan has become an MVP candidate. That said, the Falcons need to be able to run the football better than they did Sunday.
Against a Saints defense that came into Sunday allowing an NFL worst 176.5-yards per game, the Falcons managed just 46 yards rushing. Worse still, the Falcons threw the ball on nine of their 13 snaps on goal-to-go situations. (And it's tough to argue the play calls since Michael Turner ran four times for minus-2 yards in those situations.)
That said, this was still a game for the Falcons to win. Atlanta started quickly and had a 10-0 lead — and Ryan was 9-for-9 for more than 100 yards in the first 10 minutes before Julio Jones went down with an ankle injury — and had a chance to take the lead late but was stopped on three plays inside the Saints' 4.
As for our other NFL team, well, last week we ere over critical about the prospects of the Tennessee Titans. Welcome back Jake Locker, and the Titans put together one of their best and most complete performances in recent memory Sunday. Tennessee whipped Miami 37-3 and head to the bye week 4-6.
Is that where the Titans want to be? Surely not. But it's still not the dire, doomsday situation we purported last week. Alas, the 5-at-10 may be prone to hyperbole. So it goes.
This and that
— Wow, how about that Jeff Gordon losing his cool and control Sunday. Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champion, retaliated on the track and wrecked Clint Bowyer. The benches cleared and the lug nuts came off in the aftermath and there was no shortage of drama. And yes, the 5-at-10 was as entertained by it as you were. But, here's a question: There's no doubt that drivers settle scores and go after one another, and it falls under that monster umbrella of "That's racin'" and we can accept that. But what would be the outcome if Bowyer was seriously injured, or worse killed? How liable would NASCAR and Gordon be, and could — since we all know it was intentional — Gordon or whichever driver was seeking revenge be on the hook for criminal charges?
— So the Lakers canned Mike Brown on Friday. Had all but agreed to bring Phil Jackson on board and reignite the Bryant-Jackson duo that won five titles in L.A. Then, BANG, they hire Mike D'Antonio, and reunite him with former Suns point guard Steve Nash. Something screams to us that the soap opera that is going to be the Lakers is going to be fun to watch. And what's the over/under on when the "Kobe's not happy with fewer shots" stories start to circulate? We'll take Dec. 19.
— Sweet buckets of upsets and emotion, congrats to Wes Moore and the Lady Mocs for a huge, Huge, HUGE win to open the season on Friday night. Wow. Beating UT is always a special thing for UTC fans, and beating the Lady Vols is something that can never be taken away from Moore, those players and the program. Kudos.
— From the files of "Social media is not for everyone" we bring you Charlie Beljan, the until-now-sledom-heard-from PGA golf who won the Children's Miracle Network event Sunday (first-place paid $846K). In one of his first Twitter attempts, Beljan called President Obama "the biggest D-Bag the country has ever seen. Holllllla." The account has since been deleted.
— College hoops started this weekend, and here are two quick thoughts: On a team filled with high school superstars, we loved that former walk-on Jarrod Polson bailed out Kentucky with 10 points off the bench in a 72-69 win over Maryland; the outdoor games on battleships has run its course. Big night Wednesday, with UK-Duke in the Georgia Dome.
So we know the current stink-i-tude of the UT football situation. Almost all of us concur on the outcome. But what do you believe is the Patient X moment of this tire fire? Is there one moment that if it had gone the other way, we would be looking at something completely different?
Which was the biggest global killer for the current UT football debacle:
— Da'Rick Rogers being dismissed. Could you imagine Tyler Bray throwing to Rogers, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter? Wow, that could generate leads even the UT defense could protect. And to be fair, the Vols offense had probably been working all offseason looking for ways to maximize this potential Lethal Weapon 3. That said, offense hasn't really be the problem. (Side note: To the utter shock and awe shucks of everyone, Da'Rick has Da'Clared for the NFL draft.)
— Not being able to stop a UK wide receiver at QB. Think of it this way: If UT beats Kentucky last November, the Vols go to a bowl game. Plus, that would also change the second-worst stat hounding Dooley's resume right now: The Vols are Vandy-and-13 in SEC play since the end of the 2010 season. The worst stat? Well, it's 0-for-15 against ranked teams of course.
— Playing off the UK win, if they had gone to a bowl and maybe had won it, would seven UT assistants go scrambling for higher ground? Likely not. But the most important assistant — former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox — might have stayed, which leads us to...
— Hiring Sal Sunseri — SAAALLLLL!!! — has been a complete disaster. That said, Sunseri and the Vols' DBs are sooooo cute when they try to cover people.
— Missed chances against Georgia and South Carolina. Yes, missed chances are exactly that — missed — but these Vols are starving for confidence, and just one victory in those type of environments would have been huge and a powerful force for the players, fans and coaches. Sadly, the lack of any meaningful victory — Dooley's biggest win is likely an OT win over Vandy at home, and that speaks volumns — is just as huge. And just as powerful.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...