Pasquali’s Pix: Vols to embrace the moment, end 15-year skid

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / After freshman linebacker Elijah Herring and the rest of Tennessee’s players celebrated Saturday afternoon’s 40-13 win at LSU, the Tigers held a players-only meeting.

Another testament to a program's growth is when players-only meetings start taking place elsewhere.

Tennessee had been a familiar home to these vent sessions under Jeremy Pruitt, most notably after the Georgia State shocker in 2019 and the Alabama slaughter of 2020. We don't know whether the closed-door gathering two years ago was socially distanced or not.

Yet after the Volunteers traveled to LSU this past weekend and applied a 40-13 drubbing, Tigers players decided a meeting was in order, with junior cornerback Mekhi Garner revealing that information at the start of the week and first-year coach Brian Kelly confirming it Wednesday.

"You're going to have a lot of emotions after a loss like we had," Kelly said Wednesday. "The most important emotion is that they care, and this team cares. They care about the things necessary that go into winning. The line is long for those people who want to win, but the line is not quite as long for those who are willing to do the things necessary to win.

"These guys want to do the things necessary to win and continue to work towards our process of being excellent. Average is not good enough, so I applaud them, and I think it's outstanding that they have the right emotions. They're not pointing fingers, but they want to be accountable and be the best version of themselves, and that's a good thing."

Garner said the meeting started by addressing special teams before moving on to other areas.

Tennessee's recent triumphs over Florida and LSU have certainly lessened this weekend's matchup between the Gators and Tigers, two programs that have combined for five national titles within the past 20 years. Kelly and Florida counterpart Billy Napier are the league's only first-year coaches, and the winner in the Swamp improves to 5-2.

"The margin for error is so small here in the SEC," Kelly said. "You can be doing some good things, but if you're not doing everything well, you can't hide from it, and you'll get exposed. Average is going to get you beat.

"You can't just hit good golf shots. You've got to hit great golf shots around here. This past weekend, we did too many things that put us in a difficult position, and the SEC kind of heightens that on a play-by-play basis."


The 2009 Alabama-Tennessee game will forever be remembered for Terrence Cody blocking Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to preserve a 12-10 win for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, who went on to win that season's national championship.

Former Vols coach Lane Kiffin, who is currently 6-0 in his third season at Ole Miss, was asked Wednesday what would have happened to both programs and to him personally had "Mount Cody" not broken through. Kiffin would serve as Saban's offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa from 2014-16.

"Well, I'm not God, so I can't tell you what would've happened," Kiffin said. "I do think that later on in life everything happens for a reason, but who knows? When Coach was getting on me, he was always able to say, 'We beat you. We went 1-0,' and he was able to hold that over me. He was 1-0 against me, so that's my explanation.

"You could ask the league office for an explanation for all those penalties, though."


Georgia provided some good news Wednesday by revealing that legendary Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley had returned home after being hospitalized with COVID-19. Dooley's 201 wins from 1964 to 1988 are the most at any one school by an SEC coach other than the late Paul "Bear" Bryant, who tallied 232 victories at Alabama.

"Coach Dooley has been tremendous and has represented UGA for so long with such class," current Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. "It's just a wonderful family, and he's been integral to my success personally from the time I was here as a player. He would come and speak at LSU when his son, Derek, was there, and there is just a lot of connected tissue there.

"He watched my wife when she played (women's basketball) here, and he's meant a lot to a lot of people."

The 90-year-old Dooley said through a release that he plans to sign books Saturday at the UGA Bookstore before attending the homecoming game against Vanderbilt.


The most unique trip of the season takes place Saturday, when Arkansas visits Brigham Young University.

"The kids are looking forward to it," Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said. "I don't think we've got anybody who's ever been out there, including myself, so I think we're excited about it."

Fayetteville has the highest elevation of any SEC school at 1,401 feet above sea level — yes, this is me being a geographical nerd — but the elevation of Provo, Utah, is 4,551 feet.

"We showed our team yesterday a picture of their stadium," Pittman said. "It's in an absolutely beautiful area of the country. I don't know if all this being new will affect the way we play, but we're certainly excited to go out there."

Pasquali's Pix

Auburn at Ole Miss: The Rebels have won 13 consecutive home games since losing to Auburn in 2020. Rebels 31, Tigers 13.

VMI at UTC: Rusty Wright's Mocs are outscoring opponents by four points in the first half and by 49 in the second half. Mocs 34, Keydets 14.

Vanderbilt at Georgia: Smart and Clark Lea are the only SEC coaches guiding their alma maters. Bulldogs 45, Commodores 10.

Alabama at Tennessee: Never thought I'd be doing this several weeks, months or years ago, but ... Vols 34, Crimson Tide 31.

Arkansas at BYU: The Cougars are 4-6 lifetime against SEC members, topping Mississippi State twice, Ole Miss once and Tennessee once. Cougars 30, Razorbacks 24.

LSU at Florida: This cross-divisional rivalry is about as even as it gets, with the Gators leading the all-time series 33-32-3. Gators 27, Tigers 24.

Mississippi State at Kentucky: The Bulldogs are having the better season. The Wildcats have won the past two series meetings in Lexington by a combined 52-9. Wildcats 27, Bulldogs 20.

Clemson at Florida State: The Tigers have become ABC's prime-time favorites. Tigers 31, Seminoles 24.

Other picks:

Baylor 28, West Virginia 21

Michigan 35, Penn State 24

Kansas 29, Oklahoma 26

Miami 30, Virginia Tech 27

TCU 33, Oklahoma State 28

Syracuse 27, N.C. State 20

Western Kentucky 36, MTSU 32

Notre Dame 34, Stanford 23

East Carolina 31, Memphis 25

Southern California 22, Utah 19

North Carolina 30, Duke 23

Texas 45, Iowa State 30

Illinois 24, Minnesota 17

JMU 38, Georgia Southern 21

Washington 42, Arizona 14

California 41, Colorado 12

Last week:

Winners — 20

Sooners — 5

Pasquali is 128-22 overall (85.3%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at