Archive for the ‘Great Games’ Category

Flashback: The Great Games — Kentucky 1997

The Great Games | Gate21.net

Last year, during the off-season, I began a series on the Great Games played by the Tennessee Volunteers football team over the many years as seen through my eyes.  As I am wont to do, I seem to have lost my focus and have not exactly done a capital job of keep that series going.  Imagine that.

Since the off-season is once again upon us—paired with the fact that I have been coming up pretty spare in terms of ideas lately—I’ve decided it is time to once again take a walk down memory lane and re-live some of the greatest games in Tennessee history.  For those of you who missed the 2008 installments of this series, here are the ones I’ve covered thus far:

In addition to my list, Will, one of the sages over at RTT has been counting down the top-50 games of the Phillip Fulmer era in grand style.  Predictably, some of his favorites are on my list as well.  Trust me, his list is worth a look (and is far better researched, far more thoughtful, far better written, and … well … just far better than my little foray into the ghosts of games past).  Since I don’t want to be accused of stealing his thunder, I will be citing to his accounts of his favorite games liberally.

In fairness, it might be best to just skip this article altogether and just go read his work.  Lord knows I would but for the fact that I have to write it…


22 November 1997

Tennessee Football vs. Kentucky Football

(5) Tennessee 59 •    Kentucky 31

Commonwealth Stadium  •  Lexington, Kentucky


Some folks might think I am crazy for including the 22 November 1997 contest between Tennessee and the Kentucky Wildcats on my list of great games.  I can understand why they might question my thoughts on this (or my sanity).  This game was anything but a flawless game for the Vols and was hardly the Tennessee defense’s finest hour.  In fact, the game as a whole was pretty darn sloppy, as was the weather.  Still, for reasons which I will attempt to explain (a feat I will likely fail utterly to accomplish), this game still ranks as one of the great games in Tennessee football history.  The short answer as to why can be summed up in two words:

Peyton Manning

I make no bones about it.  I am a huge fan of the guy  who wore No. 16 for the Vols from 1994 to 1998.  As many have pointed out, both Andy Kelly (1989-91) and Heath Shuler (1991-93) could—in their own right—claim to be the greatest Vol quarterback in the history of the program during the time they wore an orange shirt.  Then, starting only a few snaps into the 1994 game against the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl, everyone in Orange Nation began the process of forgetting everything they ever knew about quarterbacks at Tennessee, as true freshman Peyton Manning took the reins from senior Jerry Colquitt, who quite tragically (and downright depressingly) suffered a career-ending injury in the first series of his first start at quarterback.

The rest, as they say, is history…

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08-09 Tennessee Basketball: An Epilogue

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

The Story of the Season…In a Week

Now that it’s over and done with, I think it’s time to take a look back at this past basketball season. As is with seasons in most sports, this year’s Vols had quite a number of ups and downs and everything in between over the course of a long season stretching from November to mid-March.

But this year’s ups and downs (more downs than ups really) seemed to be more prevalent this season, since this team showed a numerous occasions it’s ability to be terribly inconsistent. At times you thought that this team might still be playing at this point of the season. Other times you wondered what the hell the Bruce and the players were thinking and why they looked like they didn’t care and if they would even make it into the Tournament.

The last week of the season was the story of the season in a complete and total nutshell. A nutshell that interestingly enough was paired up with Tennessee’s spring break and my trip to New York.

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Let’s Keep It Up

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

For those of you that thought the tyrannical lawvol had kicked me out of the Gate, well, I’m sorry but I’m still here. I haven’t posted in a really long time, more or less because I haven’t had much to say. It’s not that there has been nothing to write about – because there certainly has – but my already limited creativity was pretty low. The juices of my mind weren’t flowing. At all. I also am taking a sports writing class in which two of our last three assignments have been of the column genre – or what I more or less view as a much more formal post I would do here. Lame I know…

And honesty, much of what I would have been posting about – Tennessee’ basketball team – would have been a repeat of what I’ve said in the past. This team has the talent, they’re just not playing together. They’re just not playing with much heart. The defense is bad. They can’t shoot. So on an so forth.

Yet what I saw Sunday afternoon on my TV as the Vols beat Florida was a team playing inspired and playing team basketball at both ends of the court. It helps when you hit 10 three-pointers, yes, but it also helps when you’re relatively open, as Tennessee has been in both meetings with the Gators this season. And even though there were the usual moments of defensive lapses, failures to rebound Florida’s missed shots, and a little dicey from the free throw line at the end – you knew Tennessee wasn’t going to lose.

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Happy Monday…

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Weekend Recap and Such

First things first, it’s snowing in Knoxville today. Although it’s stopped (temporarily?) this might be the first time I’ve seen snow actually stick to the ground in my time here in Knoxville (almost three years). I’m from Memphis, and it never snows there, so safe to say it’s pretty cool. Also an interesting little tidbit, as I was walking from my class to TRECS (yes, I spend lots of time there), I saw Renaldo Woolridge and Emmanuel Negedu in a mini-snowball fight. Those guys are from Nigeria and California (although Negedu did got to school in New Hampshire), so snow’s probably new to them too. Of course it’s ridiculously cold yet again, but I guess that’s how it’s gotta be for snow…

From my phone: Circle Park at 11 this morning...

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Much Like Last Year…Almost

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

So yesterday’s 54-52 loss to Memphis hurts. Sure, it’s less the day after, but I won’t lie – I needed a couple hours to chill out and relax after exerting quite a bit of energy and emotion. Things go on and Tennessee has two more HUGE home games coming up this week in the SEC.

I don’t want to spend too much time of why Tennessee lost, because the answer’s pretty short one. Missed opportunities aplenty and just some untimely plays. Memphis was 11-of-14 on free throws, Tennessee was 14-of-23 from the line. Tyler Smith shot 5-of-18 from the field, many of them decent – and contested – looks. Wayne Chism didn’t get the ball enough down the stretch – he only had 7 field goal attempts the entire game.

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The Sweetness

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

To many of you and to many Vols fans, Saturday afternoon is just another basketball game. Sure it’s a big one: national TV, against a cross-state rival who’s reloading after nearly winning a national title last season with a coach who’s easy to dislike. But for me, it’s different. It’s the Memphis game. Probably the single game I want to win this season.

So why is Saturday afternoon not just another Tennessee basketball game, you ask? What is the big deal with Memphis? Well for one, as you may know I’m from the great city of Memphis. I grew up in the Memphis/Shelby County area and have been around that university and athletic program and their fans my entire life. That’s the easy answer.

But it’s more than that. Sure, I could now go into my reasons for really really not liking the Tigers (and almost did), but they don’t get a post like Alabama did. You see, Memphis (the university) and I have a history. We go way back. To 1996…

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Signs of Improvement

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Thanks Kentucky?

After the utter embarrassment of watching one guy score 54 points on you in your own arena – something that won’t stop being talked about this year, so get used to it – Tennessee has made a bit of a bounce-back. Now beating South Carolina was pretty much expected. Last night though? Keep in mind last year’s team – the best in school history – lost in Memorial Gym.

I know Vandy lost Shan Foster and they are lacking in athletes, but I never got the feeling watching the DVRed game (intramural hoops game at 10 pm…) late Tuesday night that the Vols were going to lose. Perhaps the Kentucky loss truly was the wake-up call that can get this team playing to its potential…

No doubt Wayne loves playing Vandy

From the hot start courtesy of Wayne Chism to the constant answers to any signs of a run that Vandy made, that was a very solid win for Tennessee last night. Much was made of the players’ only meeting following last week’s loss to Kentucky during the ESPN telecast, and I think it’s safe to say it’s had some sort of effect on this team.

Now there have been moments of poor play. Many will point out nearly blowing a 15-point lead to South Carolina late. I don’t get too caught up in games like that where one team dominates and the team trailing makes a late run to make it really close. If not for Teddy Valentine and Co., the Chickens probably aren’t within 20 at half anyways. Wayne has as many points as I did, and I was in the student section.

Speaking of Wayne, Vanderbilt and softy A.J. Ogilvy are his biotches. 20 points, 7 boards, and a sweet T last night, and he was really the spark plug, even though he didn’t start. Kudos to Bruce (yes, he can actually coach people) for realizing Wayne’s recent history of early foul trouble in Nashville and not starting him. Brian Williams filled in nicely in both games, as Carolina had nobody big enough to keep him off the glass and Ogilvy might be softer than the softest of the softy big-men, Pau Gasol. Going back to Chism’s technical, if Vandy was normal and put their benches on the sidelines like everyone else, I really highly doubt he gets T’ed up. Plus, he was just yelling in Kevin Stallings’ face…Stallings deserves it…

Tyler Smith has had slow starts in each of his last two games, but has been dominant in the second half of the past two games. That’s good to see from the team’s leader – it was mentioned during the ESPN telecast that Tyler had made a point that he needed to watch his facial expressions/body language, aware of its effects on his teammates. I thought that was interesting and it’s good to see.

More of this please, Mr. Hopson

The two biggest stories from these past two outings have undoubtedly been the improved defense and Scotty Hopson gaining some confidence. I believe Devan Downey had four points at half in that game, and most of Carolina’s points came from the foul line (as I mentioned before, that was a poorly officiated game). Vandy couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the beach last night, but Tennessee’s defense had something to do with that.

You may have also noticed that Tennessee hardly pressed either Carolina or Vandy. I know it’s a Bruce Pearl staple and all that, but given this group’s past defensive issues, if not pressing continues to help improve the halfcourt defense, I’m not sure we’ll see the press this year – at all.

I had said on numerous occasions that Hopson had been settling too many times for an outside shot and needed to attack and do what he’s clearly the best at doing – getting to the rim. He has done that these past two games, and you can see him gaining some confidence offensively. His development is crucial in the ceiling of this team, so hopefully he can build on these past two performances going forward.

The Vols now get set for a big week – Memphis, LSU and Florida, all home games (which of course I love). The Memphis game is always one I personally circle every year – for reasons I’ll explain tomorrow – and LSU is rolling, having won three SEC games in a row in routs, and Florida is Florida. Obviously these three games are all crucial, and they won’t be easy. Hopefully, however, the glimpses of improvement the guys have shown the past two games will continue.


There’s More!

Shame on me for neglecting the exciting things that have been going on with Tennessee football the past however long it’s been since I posted about them last. Obviously the staff has now been completed, as you are very well aware of by now. I won’t go too in-depth on each of the new coaches, but what can you say? Lane Kiffin told us to be patient – and he delivered.

Stealing Lance Thompson from Nick Saban and Alabama was quite the joy, because (a) he can recruit and (b) we stole him from Alabama. The recruiting ability of this staff is without a doubt just ridiculous. Whether or not these guys – outside of Monte – can actually coach is still to be seen, but I see absolutely no reason for any Tennessee to not be absolutely excited about the future of Tennessee football with this staff.

I saw him! I finally saw him!

The recruiting work these guys have put in in just a couple of weeks is something I have never seen before. And the scary and exciting thing is that they have been making waves as well – getting visits from committed prospects and getting in on players who had been unknowns under the previous staff. Give these guys a full year to do this? How can you not be pumped out of your mind about the future of Tennessee football?

On a bit of a side note, I did actually see Lane Kiffin at the South Carolina game – with the rest of the staff and the recruits as they paraded in during first half media timeout – and can confirm his existence. Prior to that I honestly wasn’t even sure if the man existed, seeing as I had never seen the guy around campus or introduced at basketball game I attended – at all. Seriously, he could have been an imaginary puppet figure for all I knew. But hey, when he’s busy traveling all over the country recruiting, I can take never seeing the guy.

These next two weekends of official visits will be just amazing. Quite possibly the two biggest weekends that I’ve remembered since I began following recruiting a few years ago. Hopefully the hoops guys can win and make the atmosphere leave an impression on these guys. They think the crowd is passionate about their basketball team? This is a football school after all…

All of that said, amidst the excitement, let’s temper things a bit. I’m expecting at least a consensus top 15 class this year, and anything would be gravy, given the coaching change and getting in late with most/all of these prospects. As for next season, yes, I know the schedule’s manageable: the four non-conference games should be gimmes, add in the annual November punching bags (Dores and Cats) and winnable home games against Auburn and South Carolina and you have 8 wins right there. Yes, I’m getting WAY ahead of myself…

Eight wins seem pretty doable, but we know we have a ways to go and that it’s going to take time. Lane asked us to be patient in the hiring of his staff and he delivered. I suggest we be patient in letting Lane and Co. build this thing back to a championship level. Can they do it? I think they can and I certainly don’t think I’m in the minority – but it’s going to take time.

Let’s just let them do their work, heaven knows they’ve been doing it tirelessly the past few weeks…

GO VOLS!

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.


Images Courtesy of: Mark Humphrey / (AP) DaylifeAmy Smotherman Burgess / KNS
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