5-at-10: UT football, Power Poll and Finding the zone

5-at-10: UT football, Power Poll and Finding the zone

November 13th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sportscolumns

Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley cuts a lonely figure walking through the end zone at Neyland Stadium, but he said Monday that athletic director Dave Hart told him no decision has been made on Dooley's future with the Volunteers despite multiple reports that he would not return next year.

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's get going

UT football

Derek Dooley met with the media Monday and said all the right things. He's a smart guy that has dominated news conferences the way the SEC has dominated his Vols the last two years.

Here are some of the highlights from our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown:

- "I'm worried about Vanderbilt, and I can't make that decision. I can give you compelling arguments why I should, and there's plenty of compelling arguments why I shouldn't. It's not going to be your decision, it's not going to be a bunch of these sources' decision -- it's Dave and the chancellor [Jimmy Cheek], and it's their decision.

- "I can't control what they think. We've had a lot of good dialogue. I think he's got a good handle of how I do things in our program, where we are and why we're not getting the results we want. You move on and live with it."

- "Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn't being forthright with me, and I have no reason to think Dave's not being forthright. He's an honest man, he's always been honest with me and I've appreciated how he's handled everything about this. I really have."

And let's not forget , "I didn't ask him that" was Dooley's response when asked whether he and Dave Hart discussed whether the third-year Vols head coach would be a fourth-year Vols head coach. (And we completely concur with ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's writing here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/13/dooley-saga-continues-though-sequel-not-likely/#comments that "Sometimes you don't ask the question because you don't want to know the answer.")

Dooley said plainly that UT AD Dave Hart told the embattled Vols coach that no decision had been reached about the future. Well, if that's truly the case, then there's no one up there paying attention to the past.

It's a results-driven industry. Period. That's the fundamental blessing and curse of sports. You win, you're celebrated and praised. You lose you're chastised and pounded. You know that. Dooley knows that. Heck, the Lil' 5-at-10 knows that and he's 5.

And these results are unacceptable.

As Weeds discussed this morning the perpetual "He inherited a mess," is both true and tired. That's like saying a toddler throwing a tantrum can be excused by saying he's a 2-year old. Well, he is, but three years later, if he's still acting like a 2-year-old steps need to be taken.

It's three years, and the tantrum mess in Knoxville is still a mess that causes tantrums across our glorious state and elsewhere (Hi, JMC).

We listened to Dooley's news conference with a filtered ear - remember we used to be pre-law (Thought is was pre-med? What's the difference?). And Dooley's message was clear and well-structure - much like the UT offense and the antithesis of the Vols defense.

Dooley's message was circular, and the diction was spot-on. So did Dooley slip from that message when saying that Hart said he had not made a decision, or did he craft that sentence artfully. Has Hart not made up his mind, but could the decision already be made from the powers that be in the 865? Is Hart the lone holdout or is he the only vote that matters?

Either way, we say this without reservation - If no decision has truly been made, then Dooley has dominated his meetings with his bosses as much as he's dominated his weekly news conferences.

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Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Houston.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NFL Power Poll

This may be the results-driven 5-at-10.

Ask the Pittsburgh Steelers, who wake up this morning sore and confused - a 16-13 overtime win over the worst team in the NFL a small consolation to waiting on the news about Ben Roethlisberger's injured right shoulder.

Ask the Houston Texans, who stood toe-to-toe and out-clubbed the Bears on Sunday night in a game that reminded everyone why NFL players are underpaid.

Ask the Dallas Cowboys, who saved their season by scoring in a wide variety of ways and dropped the Philadelphia Eagles into the pit of no return. (Side note: Eagles fans are kindred spirits with UT fans, and it has nothing to do with Darwin Walker. No, each group is longing for news that Jon Gruden is interested to coaching their team.)

1) Houston: The Texans are the league's most complete team. Defensively, Sunday's 13-6 standoff in the driving rain in Chicago was impressive. And that's without leader Brian Cushing, who was lost for the season with an ACL injury.

2) Atlanta: The Falcons are a yard away from being 9-0, but that's a long yard. The Falcons couldn't convert from the 1 against the Saints, who have the league's worst rushing defense. That does not bode well for a lengthy postseason run, which is what will define this Falcons team.

3) Chicago: The Bears' loss to Houston also included quarterback Jay Cutler missing most of the game after suffering a concussion. That defense will keep the Bears close, and if Chicago gets home-field advantage, there are not many teams that will have success going into the Windy City in January.

4) San Francisco: Another powerful NFC defense that failed to win Sunday after their quarterback was concussed. The 49ers tied the Rams 24-24 after Alex Smith was knocked from the game.

5) Denver: Yes, the Ravens have a better record, but Peyton Manning and the Broncos are starting to hit their stride. And to think we wondered if he would be able to comeback.

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UTC's Lance Stokes (3) and Tennessee Temple's Aaron Walker (25) reach for a rebound Monday during the host Mocs' 88-53 win at McKenzie Arena.

And they're off

College hoops started this weekend. There were highs and lows and in the grand scheme of things they carry no weight. That's the price of having the best postseason in sports and the most meaningless regular season. So it goes.

That said, we're excited about tonight's hoops doubleheader in the Dome.

We want to see what the UK Cats have against Duke and vice-versa. And when you pit two of the true superpowers from any sport against each other, it deserves attention.

Plus, your Chattanoogga Mocs got started Monday night with a cruising win over Tennessee Temple. Sure the outcome - an 88-53 win against the Crusaders is as telling as whatever the reverse of that will be Thursday against Kansas - is of little consequence, but we did notice two quotes.

First from UTC coach John Shulman - "Could last year's team go 2-for-22 from the 3-point line and win?" Shulman told our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama. "No. I don't care who we were playing."

We agree with that, and it leads us to..."Keep hustling, play defense and rebound -- if we keep doing that, it will give us a chance against any team we face this year," Z Mason said.

Good start for the Mocs, regardless of who was on the other bench.

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This and that

- Speaking of Peyton Manning, has there ever been a more publicized, more analyzed and more dramatized break-up than Manning and the Colts that has ended this well for each side. Manning and the Broncos look like a real Super Bowl threat, and his replacement, Andrew Luck, is doing work beyond his years. In fact, on the overall value Rushmore - the old-school would you trade this player for that player - there are three completely untouchable players in the NFL all things considered (meaning to the team and city, age, position, etc.) are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck. That final spot would be a toss up between RGIII, Peyton, Brees Eli and a few others.

- The more we think about the Lakers decision to go with Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson, the more we're pleased with it. First off, we're not a Lakers fan, so not having to hear from the Zen Master is a good thing. Second, Jackson's demands were over the top - Jacko, you're good and all, but dude, you won titles with MJ and Kobe and Shaq. That's like walking into the room with the Mrs. 5-at-10 and turning heads. Sure, you're in the team photo, but they are doing the heavy lifting. Third, it would have ended badly. Round 3 between Kobe and Jackson would have been Godfather III or Return of the Jedi rather than Rocky III or Indy Jones and the Last Crusade.

- Speaking of excellent 80s movies, SWEET BUCKETS of SUPER EXCITEMENT - it's coming this Thanksgiving. Wolverines. Watch the trailer here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGoe7BdGdlg - and you won't be disappointed. That's right, we're starting the Red Dawn for Academy Award campaign this very moment. You're either with us or against us. Wolverines. WOLVERINES.

- Don't know about you, but we think a complete day of college hoops is cool. ESPN is showing wall-to-wall college basketball today - we just saw the end of Stony Brook's win over Rider - and that's a good thing. In fact, here's hoping UTC could find a way into that thing in the future.

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Today's question

Our man LeBron James went nuts in the second half Monday night, scoring 32 of his 38 points after halftime to rally the Heatles to a road win at Houston. Here's what he told the AP afterward:

"It's the zone," James said. "You know how it is when certain players get in a zone? You wish you could get into it more. But when you're in it, you know how you feel. You know everything you put up ... is going to be pretty good. I just tried to stay in it as long as possible."

The zone is that place that we all know is there but we seldom get to visit. And it's beyond sports, whether it's the time you were funnier than ever or seemed smarter than ever.

The zone is most common in sports, though, because there are so many chances and the higher level of sports are filled with elite competitors. So it goes.

What's your Rushmore of Zone (and we say that knowing that we may need several mountain faces)? Here's the four that instantly popped into our head:

- Lenny Bias putting on a clinic at UNC in February of 1986. Hoops is a tough one, and there are a slew of them: Young MJ in the playoffs against Boston; Old MJ against the Trail Blazers in the Finals; Bird-Dominique; Isaiah Thomas with 25 points in the third quarter of Game 6 in the '88 Finals; Pete Maravich's junior and senior seasons at LSU; Laettner against UK in the Elite Eight game in Philly in '92; LeBron killing the Celtics in the second half a few years ago with the Cavs. There's a bunch, but Lenny Bias was the first one that jumped into our head. (Well, it was the second; the 5-at-10 once scored 21 first-quarter points - a Georgia state record at the time that was later broken by Marietta's Steven Goolsby - at Lithia Springs. Total zone.)

- Lance Rorex, former Lookout Valley baseball player who had hits in 19 consecutive at-bats in 2008.

- Tee Martin completing 23 consecutive passes against South Carolina during UT's national title season of 1998. (Side note: We teared up a little bit writing that thinking about how much fun that was.)

- Jim Craig in the pipes during the Olympic hockey run in 1980. U-S-A! U-S-A! Wolverines. WOLVERINES!