As the General said, don’t ever give up

Marvin Westwestwords

Do not despair. There is an immediate future to replace the recent past. UMass is coming to Neyland Stadium. I am almost certain Tennessee can defend a last-gasp 63-yard pass if the Minutemen throw one.

Do not lose hope. The trusty law of averages says the Vols will win big games now and then, even in the very difficult Southeastern Conference. Butch Jones has built a 14-19 record against league foes. This being his fifth season, the coach expects significant improvement, beginning any day now. All those new assistants will soon be acclimated and key players will have gained experience.

Do not be afraid. The schedule is properly arranged for success. Georgia and South Carolina must come to our house. An open date separates them. Advantage Tennessee!

After that, the Vols will have educational opportunities at Alabama and Kentucky. Greatness will be on display in Tuscaloosa. Progress will be the object lesson in Lexington.

After that comes a change of pace, Southern Mississippi, probable underdog, purchased with cash.

Alas, Tennessee fans may never get over how the Vols lost to the Gators on the last play of Saturday’s game. Another pain may linger, that first down opportunity at the Florida 1 – which somehow went backwards and led to a field goal.

What a sequence of plays: Near interception, false start, incomplete pass, screen for nothing, interception.

I can already hear the rehash at Glenn’s barber shop, how great was John Kelly except when he mocked the Gator chomp, how beautiful were some of Quinten Dormady’s throws and how ugly were some of his decisions.

Not even Butch could come up with a valid explanation for safeties getting beat deep on that final twice-in-a-million heave.

It is true that fans really remember what happens in November. Do you honestly believe anything to come will gloss over Gainesville mistakes? Do you truly expect this Tennessee team to suddenly get smart, finish in a rush and earn another little bowl bid? Coaches would like that. Coaches get bowl bonuses.

This is not poking fun or piling on. This is reality. These Volunteers are peddling their wheels like hustling hamsters in wire cages – and, like the hamsters, they aren’t going anywhere. Great recruiting simply has not evolved into consistently great performances.

Do you recall the Vanderbilt game of 10 months ago? How could that have happened? Did you see the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic? OK, the ending was classic Hollywood. Generally speaking, the defense wasn’t ready for prime time.

It was better in several ways against the Gators – until it lost the game.

The outcome was an apparent surprise to Coach Jones. He had said he expected his Volunteers to prevail. He thought they thought they would win. Such confidence supposedly comes from past success. Jones is 0-3 in Gainesville.

Don’t give up. Do not ever give up.

To quote the late, great Robert R. Neyland: If at first the breaks go against you, don’t let up, put on more steam.

Justin Martin often errs but he got that message. He declined to surrender. He chased down a runaway Gator and swatted away the ball a few inches from a touchdown. Alas, it wasn’t enough.

Neyland was a very wise coach. If you are keeping score, his record against SEC foes was 62-15-5.

Oh, but the game was so different way back then, you say.

Correct, but he matched wits with the famous rivals of his day and repeatedly prevailed. His Vols took on whoever showed up in opposing colors, no excuses, no alibis.

Way back then, the team that made the fewest mistakes usually won. Same as now, blunders were deadly. Tickets cost less but touchdowns counted the same, six points each.

For some reason, I can’t recall a Neyland team that ever looked like this.

Marvin West invites reader reactions. His address is



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