VOL. 131 | NO. 219 | Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Brick by Brick, UT’s Season Falling From Rocky Top
By Don Wade
When Butch Jones arrived at Tennessee, he adopted a “brick-by-brick” mantra for describing the building of the Vols program. And the bricks did appear to be getting stacked higher: five wins in 2013, seven wins the next year, and nine last season.
After a 5-0 start, Tennessee has lost three straight, including a 24-21 upset by South Carolina. Vols coach Butch Jones admitted the team lacked energy at the start of the South Carolina game, a recurring problem this season.
(Photo by Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire)
This year the Vols started 5-0, but had to perform several Houdini acts to escape from self-dug holes and to rally for victories. At that point, Rocky Top could still reach the SEC Title and perhaps beyond.
Since, the Vols have lost three straight. Losing to Nick Saban and Alabama, well, you get a pass on that. Losing close to Texas A&M? Understandable. Could happen to almost anyone, if slightly disappointing.
But losing at South Carolina to Will Muschamp and his just left-the-prom roster?
An unforgivable college football sin. One made worse by the news that running back Jalen Hurd has announced his intentions to transfer. It gives the whole thing the feeling of a house crumbling, brick-by-brick.
The Vols started slow – again – in the 24-21 loss to South Carolina and even the head coach admitted the players seemed absent Saturday-level intensity.
“I thought we were lethargic, lacked energy, on the sideline and at times seemed disinterested,” Jones said. “It starts with me.”
Nice rhetoric, but how does this happen?
Tennessee was still in good position to possibly win the East Division when the South Carolina game started. Now, the Vols need Florida to lose twice. And although there was a time when upcoming games with Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt would loom as sure wins, that’s not true now. Kentucky (5-3, 4-2) is very capable of beating this UT team.
“You can’t look past any game,” said quarterback Joshua Dobbs. “Especially on the road in the SEC, you have to be locked in. Obviously, that was shown (against South Carolina) that at any given point anyone can beat anyone.”
The 12 Big (alias, The 10 Clowns)
If you haven’t stopped grieving over the University of Memphis not getting into the Big 12 – no matter that the league’s grand pooh-bahs ultimately decided not to expand at all – you have been wasting your time and your tears.
Barring extreme late-season chaos, the Big 12 will not have a team in the College Football Playoff (the first rankings were to be released Tuesday night after this went to press). The league’s last two unbeaten teams, West Virginia and Baylor, got bounced last weekend.
That’s more than enough excuse to shut out the Big 12, which will not a have a league title game until after the 2017 season.
One other bit of Big 12 News: The league announced it will not form divisions and so next year’s title game will be between the top two teams in the overall final standings. Very, very odd. Like, you know, pretty much everything else connected to the Big 12.
Leonard Fournette’s Revenge?
When No. 15 LSU plays at top-ranked Alabama this Saturday, running back Leonard Fournette will be looking to make a statement. Remember last year? LSU was undefeated, Fournette was running toward the Heisman Trophy, and then Bama stuffed him for 31 yards on 19 carries in a 30-16 victory.
Fournette has consistently denied looking toward this game, saying, “I’m not gonna put no circle on one team.”
But he’s human. And as he showed against Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 22, finally healthy after missing three games with an ankle injury. Fournette ran through the Rebels for 284 rushing yards and three TDs.
Said Saban: “He looks as good as ever, maybe even better.”
Memphis Numbers of Note
• Memphis is third in the nation with 20 takeaways and the Tigers have scored 58 points off turnovers, accounting for 20 percent of the overall scoring output (299 points).
• Wide receiver Anthony Miller’s 12 catches vs. Tulsa was one short of the school record. Maurice Avery made 13 receptions vs. UAB in 2003.
• Defensive back Arthur Maulet is tied for 13th nationally with 11 passes defended this season.
• Placekicker Jake Elliott is first in the country with an active consecutive PATs streak of 178.
• The Tigers are 1-2 this season (win over Temple, losses to Navy and Tulsa) when wearing their “ice white” pants.
“We’re moving forward. Adversity is part of football” – Memphis coach Mike Norvell on the challenge now that the Tigers have lost two straight and the glow of his honeymoon period might be dimming a bit.
“We’ve got two hands on the steering wheel, but we didn’t win it” – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on the ACC’s Atlantic Division race now that the Tigers have wins over Louisville and Florida State.
“Maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were.” – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after his team lost its first game, 37-20 to Oklahoma State.
“This to me is the real football – real PAC-12 football.” – Washington coach Chris Petersen after the Huskies’ 24-17 win over Utah kept them among the unbeaten.
“This is a very elementary statement, but we’re not a good football team” – first-year Missouri coach Barry Odom after the 2-6 Tigers lost their fourth straight game, 35-21 to Kentucky, to remain winless (0-4) in the SEC.