Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

October 10, 2013

Rocky Top Beat: Vols impress in heartbreaker Saturday

CROSSVILLE — This past weekend, the excitement was back at Neyland Stadium. Long time attendees told me they had not heard that amount of noise since the late 1990s. Younger members of the Vol Nation, who had not experienced that kind of atmosphere, now know what it will take going forward to make the 12th man relevant in future games. 

Tennessee had a large number of recruits attending the Georgia game and the atmosphere last Saturday, despite the overtime loss, could help sway some of the recruits in the direction of Knoxville to apply their talents.

The “Smokey Gray” uniforms certainly impressed more than one recruit as well. 

Many players have grown up this season before our eyes. This team, at the halfway point of the season, does not resemble the fledgling team No. 117 that Butch Jones inherited when he came to Rocky Top. The team that took the field last Saturday has developed poise and confidence allowing them to compete against the best, at least at home. 

Butch Jones has developed this team the way he told us he would before the start of the season.

Forget the record and look at the process, sound familiar? Improvement along the way is already evident and with so many underclassmen playing at a high level, the future of UT football has a great upside. 

Top 25 teams still loom in the second half of the season. But none will be any better than the competition they have already played in the first half. No. 1 Alabama and Missouri will present challenges for the Vols on the road but  No. 25 Auburn and No. 12 South Carolina will have to deal with the Vols on their home turf. 

The Vols have won the games in the first half of the season they were supposed to win and almost had that elusive victory over a top 20 team. It was certainly a bitter loss, but a glimpse into the future of Vol football under Coach Jones. 

Speaking of the future, the Vols are rumored to have agreed to a game at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016 against Virginia Tech, something that has been in the works for years. It could break records for attendance with over 150,000 fans expected to attend. The good news — Tennessee should be a championship quality team by then. 

Building on the progress attained in the first half of the season is the next challenge facing Team No. 117. With South Carolina on the horizon, it is important to keep the intensity on the field and in the stands. Not an easy atmosphere to duplicate week in and week out. Just remember, this team adjusts well at half time, something Vol fans have not seen over the past few years. 

The Vols will be taking a well deserved week off along with their foes down I-40. Jim Butler can relax as his Commodores finished the first half with an identical record as the Vols. The second half for them includes that showdown at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 23 that could decide bowl eligibility. You might want to hold off on any bowl trip plans Jim. 

The Vols have been able to keep most of their playmakers on the field the first half of the season. The defensive line benefited with the return the past few games of Corey Vereen and Jacques Smith to the line up. A few others are expected back over the coming weeks which should make this team deeper and stronger the second half of the schedule.

Buckle up Big Orange Nation, you could be in for a wild ride to the finish line this season. Go Vols.

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)

Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Vols begin preparations for season opener in eight days

    The start of fall practice is only a mere eight days away. Coach Butch Jones has to be ready to get Team #118 on the field and to start preparations for Utah State.

    July 24, 2014

  • Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Even when Tiger Woods finished just a few strokes from last place at the British Open, he was one of the  featured topics in stories coming out of Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Vols focused on Utah

    The SEC media days have come and gone with no real news being generated. A successful media days appearance is usually defined as leaving Hoover, AL without giving a future opponent bulletin board material. Using that criteria, Tennessee left without any major gaffs.

    July 17, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: Good things must come to an end

    The Dr. Pepper Classic, a long-time tradition at McKenzie Arena, affectively-known as the Round House, will seize, as a couple of teams dropped out, leaving the university in a "lurch," according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press Tuesday morning. Teams wanted a cash guarantee to play, which couldn't be provided (at this time).

    July 10, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Majors Invitational tees off Sunday at Lake Tansi

    It is the second weekend in July and that means Johnny Majors is at Lake Tansi this weekend to host his annual golf tournament. It is always a treat for the local UT fans to interact with those that have been a part of the Vol football program. They come to the plateau each year to renew old acquaintances and share the stories of gridiron prowess from past years. By the way, the stories sure seem to get better with time.

    July 10, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: 'Dores make history with CWS win

    History was made at the College World Series in Omaha, NE, this week, as the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team won the school's  first national championship in any sport since the Vandy women's bowling team won the 2007 national crown.

    June 26, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Tyndall hire closes the book on Martin era

    The University of Tennessee was able to close the books on the Cuonzo Martin era of Vol basketball earlier this week when they hired Donnie Tyndall to lead their program. Athletic Director Dave Hart, who conducted the search and the hiring on his own, appears to have found the right coach for this team at the right time.

    April 24, 2014

  • ROCKY TOP BEAT: You never know what will happen next with TN sports

    When you cover UT sports, you never know what is going to happen next. The past two weeks were no exception as they were filled with "the good, the bad and the ugly."

    April 17, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: Spring in full swing with Masters under way

    With "March Madness" over and the Masters golf tournament under way in Augusta, GA, you know spring has sprung.

    April 10, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014