By Frank Gale
The first thing I would like to do is congratulate fellow columnist Jim Butler after his Commodores found a way not to lose the rivalry game. After both teams tried so hard throughout the game to give this game to the other team, it was Jim’s favorite team from Nashville that came out on top 14-10. I can only hope that they parlay this into a bowl trip somewhere warm for our friend.
Things were not all bad last Saturday night. Crossville’s own Curt Watson was honored prior to the game as the Vol For Life Legend of the Game. Curt made the hometown folks proud from 1969-'71 when he led the Vols’ ground attack and was a three-time All-SEC running back.
The Big Orange Nation said goodbye to a group of seniors playing their final home game on Saturday night. Unfortunately, this class will depart with an overall losing record for their time on Rocky Top. They have one more chance this week to end their days in a Tennessee uniform on a positive note.
This game was lost before the replay official got involved to give Vanderbilt a chance to prevail. The Vol offense once again failed to convert a third and one late in the game. This has been a recurring problem for the Vols in recent years and has been a contributing factor in a few losses.
Big Orange fans are finally seeing just how big the rebuilding project is for Coach Butch Jones and his staff. The team that played so well at home in October morphed into what we saw last week. Injuries, mistakes and inexperienced players have finally taken its toll on Team #117.
Now it is on to Kentucky for the final game of the year. The Wildcat team in Lexington has been struggling, but they should like their chances at home against a freshman quarterback making only his second road start. Then there is a defense that has shown vulnerability defending mobile quarterbacks.
The Vols have not lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the same season since 1964. That was Doug Dickey’s first rebuilding year. Let’s hope that history does not repeat itself this Saturday.
The Big Orange Nation that was energized in October is now somewhat disheartened as the team heads into the finale. A victory Saturday would at least start the off season on a positive note. It would also give this hard working coaching staff something to build on for Team #118.
I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Despite a season resembling those from the recent past, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Perhaps, this week we can add a Big Orange road win to that list of things we are thankful for. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)