Dan Fleser: Reality Of Vols' Dire Situation Sinking In

Sunday, October 25, 2020 - by Dan Fleser

During Saturday’s Tennessee-Alabama football game, the CBS telecast came out of a commercial break with an overhead view looking down into a mostly empty Neyland Stadium.


The sparse turnout was directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. But I also wondered if the scene would’ve looked the same under normal circumstances.

It was early in the third quarter but the Crimson Tide already was ahead by 25 points. Moments earlier, freshman Malachi Moore tore the football from the hands of Vols running back Eric Gray, scooped up the fumble and ran 28 yards for a touchdown. Frankly, the play, like much of the game, looked too easy for Alabama. Therefore, it would’ve been just as easy for a fan to leave at that point.  


The TD was the fourth scored by an opposing defense in the past 10 quarters against Tennessee. The Vols offense has countered with three touchdowns during that span.


The stunning statistic is adding up just like the losses. The 48-17 loss to Alabama before a crowd of 23,394 at the beginning at least wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Crimson Tide lost star receiver Jaylen Waddle on the opening kickoff to a season-ending ankle injury and proceeded as if nothing had happened, winning for the 14th consecutive time in the series.


Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke to the fans with one of his more pointed postgame comments.


“Nobody is more disappointed than the people within our program, I can assure you,” he said. “It’s the reason that I wanted the job. I understood the passion, the energy and the expectations of Tennessee football. When I took the job, I knew exactly where it was at, which is why I wanted the job. I wanted this job because I wanted to get it to where it’s supposed to be. It’s a heckuva challenge. I’m excited about being here. I’m not discouraged. The people in our program aren’t discouraged. I know where our program is headed and we’ll get there.”


Defensive lineman Matthew Butler, meanwhile, spoke to the reality of the situation as it pertained to UT and Alabama.


“Alabama has a winning culture,” he said. “We have a winning history.”


He indicated that the chasm between the two is best bridged by execution. Probably more to it than that. But it’s an interesting thought. Here’s a couple other thoughts:


-Saturday’s loss was the 12th by at least 21 points under Pruitt’s watch. In eight games against Alabama, Florida and Georgia, his teams have never come within 22 points. The average margin of defeat has been more than 28 points.


Still think last Saturday’s 34-7 rout at the hands of Kentucky is more relevant than any loss to a conference heavyweight. UT can’t move up if it can’t handle where it’s at right now.


-Not sure anyone wants to read this, but the pandemic has hurt this program to some degree. At this juncture, the Vols needed a spring practice and a good offseason program.


Pruitt said on Saturday that the team has been COVID free for five weeks now. And they have an off week before the next game. Therefore, you won’t be reading anymore about a lost offseason in this space.


-Whoever is next in line at quarterback should’ve gotten more snaps at quarterback. Is it Brian Maurer? He was the only backup who played. The importance of practice notwithstanding, game experience is vital too.


* * *


Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.

SEC FOOTBALL: Standings/Results/Schedule

Randy Smith: Being Thankful In 2020

Dan Fleser: Pandemic Sweeps Away Most Upcoming Vol Activities

Southeastern Conference Football Standings/Results/Schedule 2020 SEC Standings – East Won-Lost (6) Florida 6-1 (13) Georgia ... (click for more)

Thanksgiving this year will be like no other we've ever had and hopefully will never have again. Still, there are always things to be thankful for and, despite all the pain and heartache we've ... (click for more)

The COVID-19 pandemic swept in on Monday and wiped away most of the major events on Tennessee’s athletic calendar for the coming week. After consulting with the Knox County health department, ... (click for more)


SEC FOOTBALL: Standings/Results/Schedule

Southeastern Conference Football Standings/Results/Schedule 2020 SEC Standings – East Won-Lost (6) Florida 6-1 (13) Georgia 5-2 Missouri 3-3 Kentucky 3-5 Tennessee 2-5 South Carolina 2-6 Vanderbilt ... (click for more)

Randy Smith: Being Thankful In 2020

Thanksgiving this year will be like no other we've ever had and hopefully will never have again. Still, there are always things to be thankful for and, despite all the pain and heartache we've gone through as a nation this year, it's time to focus on the good things in our lives. I am thankful for my family, as always. I've prayed since day one of the coronavirus pandemic ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Tennessee Has 4,404 New COVID Cases, 53 More Deaths

The number of coronavirus cases in Tennessee is 352,376 on Thursday with 4,404 new cases. There have been 53 more deaths from the virus, for a total of 4,519, said state Health Department officials. The state currently has 2,178 people hospitalized from the virus, 5 less than on Wednesday. There have been 312,885 people who have recovered from the virus in Tennessee (89 ... (click for more)

Georgia Has 26 New Coronavirus Deaths, 2,946 New Cases

Georgia state health officials reported on Thursday there have been 26 additional deaths due to the coronavirus. The current total is 8,716. There were 2,946 new cases as that total reached 413,909 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Hospitalizations are at 34,587, up 174 from Wednesday. Here are the numbers by county: Catoosa County: 1,997 cases, up 25; 29 deaths; ... (click for more)


County Employees Need A Bonus Too

A few weeks ago we learned that Sheriff Jim Hammond was asking for a second raise. Earlier this year Hamilton County employees were notified that "due to COVID-19" there would be no raises for employees of any kind this year. I guess Mr. Hammond didnt get that memo about no raises. Why is it that some employees will be getting a raise and others are not? That doesn't really ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Second-Best Meal

Just in the nick of time comes a prudent health advisory for this holiday weekend: If you happen to see 15-to-20 cars gather at one house in your neighborhood, immediately rush to your refrigerator and drink a large glass of milk as fast as you can get it down. You’ll be able to sense the cold milk with your teeth, which is why drinking milk is one of the best things you can do ... (click for more)