By Frank Gale
The Vols got back on the winning track last weekend; although, many of the Big Orange Nation were dissatisfied with the way the defense performed. For me, a 55-48 win is still a win and the defense is something that will eventually get fixed.
In the meantime, enjoy the positives, a record setting day by Tyler Bray with 530 yards passing and two receivers (Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson) combining for 400 yards receiving, both UT single game records. Even if it was against Troy.
Now it is time to continue the momentum tomorrow and win that first SEC contest of the season. (Can’t believe it is November and I had to say that.) With both Missouri and Tennessee entering the game having played difficult schedules this season, both teams will be looking to get to 5-5.
Tennessee showed this season their offense can play against the better SEC defenses. The Tigers have a good defense but, I dare say, not on par with South Carolina or Georgia. This matchup at home against an unranked SEC foe is just what this team needs after a difficult schedule has left many on Rocky Top in turmoil.
The Vols have won eight consecutive games in the month of November at home going all the way back to the Kentucky game of 2008. The odd thing about this is — three different head coaches have contributed to the streak. They also haven’t lost to an SEC opponent at home since the Arkansas game in 2006. With the offense hitting on all cylinders, odds are those steaks continue tomorrow.
Coach Dooley says he is going to invest most of his time on the defensive side of the ball. Not a surprising move, especially with so much at stake in the next three games. After a very disappointing effort against Troy last week, look for the defense to surprise everyone and have a solid game tomorrow. These players still have pride and talent, they will get this fixed.
The Vols will be going for the school's 799th all time victory when they take the field tomorrow for the 12:21 p.m. EST kickoff. If you needed proof that Tennessee has been one of the nation’s elite programs, consider that only seven other programs have reached the 800-win plateau.
With Vanderbilt a week away, I can’t believe that Jim Butler hasn’t been beating down my doors to bet something outlandish on the outcome. Having benefited from an easier schedule, the Commodores have a chance to actually have the record that I thought Tennessee would have — 8-4, if they win out. Could it be that Jim knows the ugly truth that Tennessee is still Tennessee and Vandy is well? You know the rest.
Tomorrow one team will leave Neyland with a chance to salvage some of their season while the other will be left to ponder what might have been. Whether or not the Vol Nation turns out in force, there will be enough loyal UT fans to provide a home field advantage. At the end of the afternoon, the Big Orange will have this tiger by the tail and will continue their quest for a winning season in Nashville next Saturday night. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)