It’s Saturday, September 29th at 12:00 EST. We’re 3.5 hours away from the start of the one of the most difficult schedule stretches that the Tennessee Volunteers have faced in years. As I sit in preparation for this afternoons game against the number 2 ranked Georgia Bulldogs, I can think of a thousands jokes to try and put up my best defense mechanism in a last minute effort to avoid the reality of how hard the next month is going to be as a fan of the Big Orange.
Now, I do want to make a clear point that I do not believe the Volunteer team is as bad as the Florida game went. During the Florida game most fans were leaving Neyland Stadium while those at home were probably watching old episode of The Office, and checking the score on their favorite mobile app so they didn’t have to watch the disappointment of a game. I am approaching the Gauntlet, not expecting wins, but hoping for little victories that fans of the Big Orange want and need to see.
If you’re a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers, and I am writing with the best intent, you have a natural desire and impulse to see a terrible game, event, or scrimmage and completely overreact. If your expectations are inaccurate you don’t for a second point the finger at yourself for making those outlandish expectations, but blame every coach, player, and administration member for not meeting them. Let’s take a deep breath for a second and reflect. Hindsight is 20/20 but for all the fans who believed in the “Brick by Brick” and other sales pitches that Butch Jones made, we took those (now evident) empty promises and we would talk smack like we were fans of the best team in country yet we were shocked when they didn’t come true. We’re still in a place of rebuilding and some fans, if not most, were abruptly reminded of that last Saturday night.
Going forward I am not expecting anything. In my opinion, Tyson Helton’s offense has been flat, and I honestly am not expecting anything from it. The defense has held its own in some cases, but when you can’t get off the field on third down, and the offense goes 3 and out, I am not expecting anything. What I am expecting going into the Gauntlet is for this team to show a mentality and desire to punch someone in the mouth, the ability to make plays and adjustments that, although we might lose the game, we can show the SEC that we’re not planning on staying a “rebuild” for long.
I don’t want to see players arguing with each other and blaming one another, but I want to see leadership by the veteran players to say, “move on to the next play and do better.” I want to see Pruitt bring the intensity that he has in the past, but I want to see players respond. Again, last week’s game went south so fast, that I don’t think the players quit, but like the famous saying goes, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.” I want to see this team grow into a group of players that expects that punch, takes it on the mouth, wipes the blood from their lip and keeps coming. The Vols may not be the best team on the field, but as a team that has nothing to lose – they can be the most dangerous..
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