By Frank Gale
The Vols were about to reverse their October fortunes last week against South Carolina, but a great play by Carolina’s best defensive player kept them on the wrong end of a 38-35 score. The month of October has not been kind during the Dooley era, and I venture to say that no one within the Vol nation is sorry to see November arrive.
Despite a terrible schedule where the Vols have faced top ranked teams five of the last six weeks, the attitude around the team seems to remain positive as they work to getting the seniors to a bowl game. If you are looking for one of those fire Dooley articles, you might want to quit and read the internet postings or the hype in Jim Butler’s “I love Vandy column." There certainly is enough negativity about UT without me adding to it.
So, on a positive note, back in September when Cuonzo Martin got a verbal commitment from the No. 12-rated national five-star recruit, most thought it would be hard to out do him. This week, new Lady Vols Coach Holly Warlick got a verbal commit from the No. 1 player in the country, Mercedes Russell, to play next season. The 6’5” center from Springfield, OR, instantly makes the Lady Vols a contender next season.
Continuing on a positive theme, the Vols play Troy University in a homecoming game tomorrow with a noon EDT kickoff at Neyland Stadium. I don’t know about everyone else, but I welcome the earlier start after all the evening and night games. Homecoming is always a fun time at UT and this would be a great time to head to Knoxville to take in the sights and sounds on Rocky Top. Chances are getting a ticket will not be that difficult, either. (OK, that could be positive or negative – depends if you are buying or selling.)
Expect a competitive game against Troy (4-4). They will not be intimidated playing at Neyland and have actually played better on the road than at home this season. One game of note, they lost by six points to Mississippi State (7-1) at home in the second game of the season. For fans who like offense, this game should provide plenty of points on the scoreboard as both teams have struggled to keep the opponent out of the end zone this season.
Despite having a 3-5 record entering the game, Tennessee can still win out and get to a decent bowl game. The Vols are 68-17-3 all time in homecoming games with the last loss back in 2008 following the premature announcement of Coach Fulmer’s dismissal that caused needless distractions for the Wyoming game. In fact, they are 29-2 in homecoming games since 1984, with only one other loss coming in 2002 to No. 1 Miami. (What genius scheduled that one?)
The exhibition basketball season is getting into full swing now with the season opener just weeks away. While we all wait for what promises to be an exciting season, there is still some football to be played.
The Vols need the Big Orange Nation behind them as they fight to regain some respectability and send the seniors out as winners. Tomorrow afternoon, the Big Orange should be celebrating a much needed win and "Rocky Top" will echo through the stadium aided by the Alumni Band who will turnout as always for this special game. Go Vols!!!!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)