Different degrees of bad

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

Fortunately, for Tennessee, there are different degrees of bad. The Vols were awful against Florida but worse is possible. Give that some thought.

Six turnovers are not a world record. Once upon a time, one quarterback lost nine interceptions.

Tennessee ineptness was bad enough, borderline shocking. It showed from the start in how often and how hard quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was hammered. Blockers were mostly ornamental. They didn’t do much blocking. Far too many plays ended with minus yardage. That low blow to Jarrett’s knee could have been devastating.

Thomas Jefferson’s “All men are created equal” also took a hit. The Gators were very unequal. They ran around and over similar-sized Volunteers who didn’t appear as swift or strong. Or as dialed-in. It was embarrassing at times. The Vol defense wasn’t as bad as the offense but there were Florida runners and receivers untouched by human hands.

In fairness, there were plays where I was proud the Vols didn’t give up.

The difference in the two teams stunned followers on both sides and in the middle. Gamblers couldn’t believe it. Florida was favored by four points. The Gators are far short of great. That is really scary.

One myth evaporated. Changing coaches did not instantaneously solve the problem. The search continues for a cooperative Southeastern Conference foe. Tennessee has lost 10 consecutive league games. The end is not in sight.

Incidentally, Tennessee is 3-17 against Florida since the 1998 national championship re-celebrated Saturday evening.

What happens next? I have been advised to avoid the trip to Georgia. A good doctor thinks it might make me sick. We have agreed there is a risk. I remember how I felt exactly 37 years ago. It was just 44-0 that afternoon.

This is a very fine Georgia team. Disciples think it is great (with freshman Cade Mays starting). They fully expect to knock off Alabama and take over the world.

Chuckle, chuckle.

This is not the first time the Bulldogs have been full of themselves. So it was in 1907. The late Tom Siler shared a charming yarn about Georgia coach Bull Whitney bringing in ringers from Atlanta for the Tennessee game. He invested serious spending money plus travel expenses and free food. Georgia fans bet heavily. Georgia lost, 15-0. You can look it up.

Whitney swore off cheating. He said he couldn’t afford it.

There is a strange void in the Tennessee-Georgia record. This could have been a forever rivalry. Sadly, there were no games between 1937 and 1968. Robert R. Neyland didn’t like going to Athens. He didn’t like what passed for restaurants and hotels. He didn’t like Wally Butts, Georgia coach.

The General was strong enough to say no and get away with it. The thaw came six years after Neyland was gone.

I like Athens. My favorite Tennessee trip there was 1969. The Volunteers were No. 3 in the country. The Bulldogs were ranked 11th. Vince Dooley honestly believed the pollsters were shorting him.

Doug Dickey had planned for Bobby Scott to fire fastballs to Gary Kreis, Lester McClain and Ken DeLong. Don McLeary was going to run sweeps and be the outlet receiver.

The script proved worthless. God intervened. Cold rain started on Friday and didn’t stop.

Difficult conditions were just right for rugged Curt Watson. The sophomore fullback chewed up the sacred turf between the hedges. He gained 197 yards on 19 carries. Tennessee won by two touchdowns. Georgia fans threw oranges.

Alas, the daddy Dooley era also included Herschel and Bill Battle’s fake punt.

Peyton Manning owned Georgia. In three games, he completed 88 of 119 for 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 167.8.

Peyton’s last game against Georgia was against Jim Donnan’s best team. Tennessee gained 628 yards, 343 from Manning. His TD pass with less than two minutes left (and the Vols already up 18) so infuriated Donnan that, instead of the customary postgame handshake, he fired off a stream of expletives at Phillip Fulmer.

Donnan supposedly harbored a white-hot hatred for Fulmer. That really helped. Tennessee won the next year and the Vols ended up with cute little orange cards with the number 8 printed on them. That was for consecutive victories.

The cards were soon out of date. Tennessee won nine in a row. Erik Ainge was the quarterback when the Vols scored 51 in Athens.

Now and then, the worm turned. Larry Munson gave us that memorable radio line: “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose!”

Derek Dooley went 0-3. Butch Jones’ last hoorah was 41-0 Georgia and it felt worse, bad enough to cause indigestion. Jeremy Pruitt goes south to fight with a short stick.

The great physician means well. He is trying to protect me from myself. He thinks there is a connection between proper care and old age.

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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