You are anxious to get home and sit down before the Television, push the record button on recorder and see the Big Orange take on South Carolina in Columbia. You are aware than many UT football fans are so upset with how this years season has gone, that they are loosing interest, and may not be watching. Your team handled Mississippi State 34-6 two weeks ago, and lost 29-9 to Alabama last week.
But as a loyal Vol football fan since the age of 6, having traveled many miles while in the Army to see the Vols play in Knoxville and other places, how could you not watch, and hope. Yes, you realize that the confidence you have had in the past, has dissolved to desperate hope, even against South Carolina, which could almost always be a certain W in an otherwise disappointing season.
This years game pits Coach Phillip Fulmer against his old nemesis, Steve Spurrier. In days of old, Spurrier VS Fulmer was almost always for the championship of the SEC East when Spurrier was the coach at Florida. Not his year. Your coach of 17 years, having won 150 games at Tennessee, is having more than his share of misfortune and losses.
You are aware that the fan base is divided, between running Phillip Fulmer off, or hanging on to give him the opportunity to bring the Vols back to glory days. Few have doubted that he is a good recruiter, but many have began to doubt that he is the motivator who can get the most from the many Blue chip recruits who come to Tennessee. They are looking around and seeing what others are doing at Alabama and Georgia, and wishing " we had a coach like that". Words from the athletic director, obviously concerned of the growing concerns of not only the fans but of the growing number of disgruntled the boosters with deep pockets as well, have not always been 100% supportive.
As with the last weeks game against Alabama, you are hopeful this will be the breakout win which will turn the season around and save the coaches job. After all, the Vols did play better against Alabama than they had against others, and just could not measure up to the Crimson Tide, who were highly motivated by one of those coaches "like we would like to have".
As you watch South Carolina intercept a ball and run it back to the one yard line, and return a fumble and run to our 4 yard, line and score on both opportunities, you wonder why you don't feel the deep disappointment you felt in other games this year. Are you getting numb? Are you accepting the fact that this year is lost? Even a minor Bowl bid may be out of reach.....how could this be? You still hold on to the hope that the Vols will come back in the second half, and when Ut's best football player by far, Sophomore Eric Berry returns a spectacular interception, leaving two Gamecocks on down on the turf in pain, your hope spikes.....Yes we can come back!
But we did not. Some questionable calls, and failures to get first downs on critical third and fourth down plays, and a very good south Carolina defense which covered our receivers very well using mostly one on one coverage, and stacking the line on a young QB who they knew could not beat them by passing, saw to it that we did not come back. Our defense played well, but as in so many of the games this year, mistakes by the offense accounted for most of South Carolina's points.
With three games left, and the possibility of only one or possibly none of UT's three remaining games to be televised on a national or regional network, you realize that you have probably seen your last Vol game of the year, and you certainly won't be traveling to see one in person. But you hope they win all three and you hope the Vols get a Bowl bid.
You can only hope that by next year, the Vols have ironed out the problems with the offense and that the mistakes that have plagued this years team are somehow eliminated. You know it is too much to hope for, that Tennessee could go out to a junior college somewhere and find a decent QB, and wonder how in the world the Vols failed to recruit one of the thirty or so excellent QB's around the nation this year who are making names for their selves.
Of yes, and one last hope!!! You hope they give Fulmer one more year to turn it around.