Pennington: Crocodile tears and begging for mercy

There’s a saying that fans have been yelling in stadiums since the days of the gladiators.

“No mercy!”

Other sports cliches carry the same meaning. “Hit ‘em in the mouth,” “Take ‘em to the woodshed,” and former University of Tennessee quarterback Bobby Scott’s favorite, “Whip their fannies,” come to mind.

Gen. Robert Neyland’s game maxims at UT include the instruction to “carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.”

Former coach Johnny Majors was famous for his “attack, attack, attack, always attack” pre-game talks.

Five times UT coach Phillip Fulmer has laid at least 60 points on Vol opponents.

So why all the crying this week that Florida took the fight to Tennessee for the full 60 minutes last Saturday?

“Urban Meyer ran it up.” “Urban Meyer showed no class.” “Mommy, that big boy was mean to me.” Oops, I haven’t actually heard anyone say that last one, but they might as well have.

Even some of the players complained in the post-game locker room. Do you think Al Wilson or Dale Jones would have ever complained that someone stuck it to them? Please. They’d have been too busy angrily chewing through their chinstraps and plotting revenge.

Shoot, even Fulmer admitted to biting his tongue regarding Florida’s fourth-quarter antics.

What the heck ever happened to “attack, attack, attack?”

There shouldn’t be any whining, weeping, crying, or complaining from anyone in Vol Nation about Meyer’s “go for the throat” mentality.

Tennessee has laid serious points on its opponents in the past.

Try 70 versus outmanned Louisiana-Monroe. Or 65 against Vanderbilt. The Vols have pinned 48 or more on (formerly) hapless Kentucky six times under Fulmer.

Dating to 1967, Tennessee has dropped 50 digits on an opponent 26 times. Eighteen of those were overseen by the current regime.

“But those UT teams were so much better than their opponents they couldn’t help but score.”

Newsflash: That was actually the Gators’ back-up quarterback waltzing through Vol defenders at the end of Saturday’s game. Do you really think quarterback Tim Tebow couldn’t have easily been in there further dissecting a befuddled secondary?

“But Tennessee never intentionally ran it up on anyone.”

Does anyone else remember the 1993 game against Louisville at Neyland Stadium? The one with the gimmicky reverse on a punt return with five minutes to play and a 28 point lead? Nilo Silvan took the ball from Cory Fleming and raced 69 yards down the west sideline to give the Vols their final 45-10 cushion.

After that bit of trickery, Cardinals coach Howard Schnellenberger appeared to be fuming more than his trademark pipe.

So it’s time for us to start wiping away those crocodile tears. The Vols have been on the plus side of many, many routs in the last 20 years. It’s just that the folks ‘round here enjoyed every numeral of those games.

At the time, Vol fans simply said what Florida fans are saying this week: “If you don’t like it, then stop us.”

Teams from Louisville to Louisiana-Monroe couldn’t stop UT in the past.

This past Saturday, Tennessee couldn’t stop Florida.

The Gators were playing for the pollsters who’ll eventually help to determine who’ll play in the BCS championship game. Meyer clearly thinks his guys will be in the running again this January.

Of those who witnessed Saturday’s game, who could argue?

The fact is, Florida pummeled Tennessee, and the Gators continued to do so right up until the final whistle blew. The Vols had to take it.

I think it’s time Tennesseans start worrying about returning the favor in 2008. They shouldn’t be wasting time whining.

The whining just makes it look like Tennessee is a wounded gladiator lying on the sand of the Coliseum, an opponent’s sword pointing at their neck, left only to pray that the Emperor doesn’t give the “thumbs down” signal.

Complaining just means that Tennessee has gone from a program that used to show “no mercy” to a program that’s left begging for mercy.

And I don’t think that’s the message Vol fans, players or coaches really want to be sending right now.

John Pennington hosts the Hall’s Salvage Sports Source on Sunday at 11 a.m. on WATE.

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Comments » 49

Vol_Chaps writes:

Yup. Perfectly said. Tennessee since 2005 (or since 2002 if you're thinking of bowls) has been more on the level of a Mississippi State than the elite teams of the nation. The only problem is, we're still too busy basking in the very, very faint glow of 1998 to realize that no one takes us seriously anymore.

JOF20 writes:

This is the best column i have seen so far. The only thing better was the one liner from John Adam. "The powre "T" was no match for the power of Tebow"!!!

I agree 100% it's the offenses job to score and Defenses job to stop them from it. if someone scores 100 so be it.

Mr. Pennington...Great job.

tnorthern#228599 writes:

UT couldn't lay 60 on Michigan or Notre Dame, however the offense could lay 60 on the defense if they quit pouting long enough.

txsvol#372416 writes:

Florida student got Tasered. We got Tebow-ed! Good column, John! Get the Gators next year! (Maybe LSU will get them this year, and then lose in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game, or vice versa.) Go Vols!

yeavols#228407 writes:

SCOUT.COM= The decline since 1998 is hard to ignore. The numbers bare out a program that has struggled to approach the success of Fulmer’s teams of 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. Whether it is a case of complacency, lack of player development, staff stagnation, bad luck, or a combination of all of these factors, Fulmer hasn’t won an SEC Championship since 1998 and has only been to one BCS bowl, which Tennessee lost. In post season contests the last seven seasons, Tennessee stands 2-6, including two losses in SEC title games. IT"S CALLED A FAILING GRADE. THANKS for the INSIGHT SCOUT!

utwick writes:

Great article. Accurate and to the point. Quit whining and do something about it. The whining trickles down to the players. Who taught Ainge to seclude himself on the bench after the fumble? Coaches, get off your duffs and coach this young man. Set an example so that he might lead his team by example. Leadership is always in need and we desperately need it at this point.
No one feels sorry for us. We won't earn back respect by pouting. Take it back or else stay on the bench.

shopsports#273141 writes:

We still own the point differential with the 45-3 wonderful evening in Knoxville with Spurrier. It won't be as sweet now but has been fun to look back on.

Pullingguard writes:

Vol players and coaching staff certainly did not act like big boys after the game.. They were mad because Urban did not pull his troops... This team has got to get tough, just does not have the toughness of Vol teams of the past... The entire organization meeds to get tough and maybe it will develope a running game.

madcow26#524674 writes:

Great article. Appreciate the honesty. Hope the team does.

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Totally disagree with you, Pennington. Whine about Meyer running the score up? No. Be pissed off about it because it showed no class, no sportsmanship? Yes.

Sorry, but I'm old school when it comes to this. Keeping the first-string offense in with 8:00 left and up by 29? No class. Spurrier used to do it all the time because, he said, margin of win mattered in the polls and BCS. (We all know he did it because he could and because he's a lowlife swine.)

Fulmer and a lot of other coaches out there are old-school about this too, for which they have my respect. When the game is completely in hand, you don't humiliate the other team, period. That one game you mention where we did it might be the ONLY time Fulmer has ever done anything like that, if you are indeed correct on your facts.

Running up the score when your opponent has clearly lost is poor sportsmanship, period. The team and coaches have an absolute right to be pissed off because they know Fulmer would never do what Meyer did. How many times was Peyton pulled in the 4th quarter and the game was in hand? Tee? Clausen?

Get mad and get even, Vols -- because your gut is right: it was a classless thing to do.

ibvolman writes:

mbumburu, you are way off course. It is a fact that in today's broken BCS system that STYLE POINTS do matter. If a #2 team beats a good opponent, the only chance a #3 team has of jumping them in the polls is to beat their opponent more convincingly. In another post I said clearly that I did not view this as running up the score. It is the defenses job to stop the opponent, and UT defense clearly did not stop anyone. Should UM have taken Tebow out earlier? Maybe so, but not to keep his team from scoring again as much as to spare him from possible injury.

I don't like seeing that many points hung on UT. I bleed orange. But, as it was pointed out in the article, we have hung large numbers on several opponents in the past. Most recently, we hung 50 on UGA last year, or did you not see that game?

Facts are facts. Our D is lame and our O can't control the ball long enough to keep the D off the field. Both of these are a reflection on the superior coaching job the UT players are under at this current time.

invisiblekid writes:

An Al Wilson or Dale Jones wouldn't have allowed their teammates to lay down like we saw in the 4th quarter and I think that's part of the problem, no clear leader on defense. I think Meyer was disrespecting the Vols all week, the coaches with the "top 5 personnel" comments and then again on the field. To be honest, I would have rather heard Phil say what he thought instead of what amounted to a "no comment" on the subject, I think a little insolence would have done some good. If they want some respect from FL,the Vol Nation and everyone else, then go earn it on the field.

mtnvol writes:

Pennington is John Adams lite.

It's not the final score, its the way they got there. Throwing deep with the 1st string half way through the 4th quarter is no class. Throwing deep with the back up QB with about 4 minutes to play is no class. Count me as old school as well, but some things just aren't done, especially in conference where that kind of phooey will come back to haunt you.

And you had to go back 13 years for an example? Pure John Adams! He's a hack too!

jaruk123#472898 writes:

UT....check that Fulmer has zero, no, nada, zippo of a chance of beating Florida by 39 points next year or ever. When Fulmer sees the F on the helmets across the field the pucker factor kicks in so hard I don't see how he can walk and clench his butt cheeks that hard at the same time.

Find a new coach Hamilton or go find another job. I hope Haslem, Thornton, and Goodfriend have a plan.

99gator writes:

spurrier's philosophy was that there is no such thing as running up the score. no one accuses a basketball team of scoring too much. should a player stop shooting the ball. should a batter intentionally make an out in baseball if the score is out of hand. these were things he always used to say. the only sport people complain about this is football. he also believed that a backup player practices just as hard as a starter. when the backup goes in, he should get the chance to throw the ball too.

he never was upset when florida took a beating. i have never heard him complain at south carolina. he always would ask the question, should an option team throw the ball if they have a big lead.

he also believed that beating a team badly gave that team less confidence the following year when you played them again.

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

dtaylor0730, of course I saw the GA game -- and it was 55 points, BTW. But the game wasn't truly in the bag until late. Fulmer pulled the 1s when that happened.

You refer to Pennington's other complete non sequitor: winning by large margins over directional schools in the past. You both don't get it.

Winning by large margins is fine and it ain't the point. Running up the score with your starters when the game is clearly won is the point. Do your homework and you'll find that the points scored in those directional-school games in the 3rd and 4th quarters (whenever the outcome was not in doubt) were scored by the 2s and 3s. Fulmer did not score those points using first string players.

You may have a point about the current BCS formula. I don't know because I don't follow it. Is margin of victory still a component to the BCS rating?

And how ya doing, invisible? I'm back from haitus...where's our Rhodes Scholar from a couple years ago?

DennisVols writes:

The last I looked the clock says there is 60 minutes from begining to end. As a DI in the Army we taught the young men to "kill them all, let God sort them out" In other words take no prisoners. Be men, suck it up, play ball and if you don't want your tail kicked then become better than your opponet.

utnutt writes:


TommyJack writes:

Calling time out with seconds to go so you can get you field goal team in (when you have a huge lead) is maybe grounds for female dogin...but what FL did was no big deal....was surprised at the Pumpkin's remarks...

BuckFama writes:

Man, being called a "Fulmeron" hurts so much. Especially being called that by the by the same uneducated fool, CRVol, who writes, in the same sentence, that "our own" fans and coaches are both "downtroden" (tyrannized; trodden down; oppressed) and "defiant" (boldly resistant to an opposing force)!

It's merely my theory, but I think that CRVOL has transposed the "C" and the "R" in his screen name, and the "R" stands for "Richard", and the "C" stands for "Cranium".

Yeah ... that's it ... RCVol, or "RichardCraniumVol"! Figure out THAT one, RCVol, er...CRVol.

jdcvols#230433 writes:

mbum, crawl back under the rock you came from....if we had the chance to do this to FLA, we would. Every play on the field should be played at 100%+ effort regardless if it is 1st, 2nd or scout team. Our defense got what they deserved. If we had held them to no points in the 4th QTR against the FLA band, you Kool-aid drinkers would be saying we turned the corner! Our team has two choices, lay down for the rest of the season or get mad and take it out on the rest of our opponents. IT's FOOTBALL for gosh sakes. Hit somebody or get off the field.

clcvol writes:

There is a big difference between style points and running the score up. Not to mention, still scoring points with your backups compared to keeping starters in. Keeping your starters in that late in the game is running up the score. When pollsters look at a game, seeing a team win 42-20 and putting the 2nd team in is just as convincing a win as a 59-20 game with the starters in.

OldNumber7 writes:

Telling your men to stop fighting before the 60-min is up is a bad thing to develops bad habits. I applaud UF for taking it to the Vols all 60 minutes - thus developing a good habit.

"Winning is not a sometime thing; its an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit." -Vince Lombardi

Ironcity writes:

The fact of the matter is UF was 39 points better then UT. The sad truth is we gave up just like we did against Cal.. Fulmer talks about this teams character. I don't see it.

auttat writes:

99gator took the words right out of my mouth (Hey, by the way, its Thursday, shouldn't you be on somebody else's site by now?) This defeat not only beats you this year, it beats you in years to come. Meyer is out to win at all cost. Any advantage he can get, he is going to take.

Fulmer backed off against Cal last year and they scored 18 points and gained confidence that they carried into this year. You seriously think we will have any confidence going into next year's Florida game?

Hell, Meyer went for it on his own 35. All we had to do was stop them.

Colliervol writes:

I don't see any big mystery here. Sure Urban ran it up because of exactly what dtaylor said above:
POLLS. I'm sure he is not happy that Florida is the national champ and, yet, all you hear about is USC and LSU and that they are ordained to be in the championship game this year. And Florida was sitting at what, fifth? Hang 59 on UT and you get back in the national discussion. Pretty simple to me and I don't blame him one bit. In today's BCS system, class and $3.00 will only get you that cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Colliervol writes:

On another subject, you guys can sit around and call each other cute little names all day but I'd rather focus on the subject at hand. If you want to read a good article, go to and "sports" and then "other columnists". The first article should be Ron Higgins on the coaching situation.

He regurgitates a lot of stats that people have posted on here but he pretty well sums it up as to the ultimate reason a coaching change is needed. And, unfortunately, I can't find many reasons to argue with it. The coach isn't going to change philosophies and the program is stagnant. Same thing occurred with Johnny Majors and it has caught up with Phil now.

AVolFan writes:

The difference is that you could switch coaches- Meyer coaching the Vols and Fulmer the Gators- and give them a month to train and Meyer would probably still win. Maybe not by 40 points but several touchdowns wouldn't surprise me.

jlange#632002 writes:

The straw that broke Majors' back was getting drunk at a formal UT function and whining to the right folks at the wrong time about his contract. He made an ass of himself in front of the powers that be and paid the price.

StallionVol writes:

While I agree we shouldn't publicly complain about it (and the coaches haven't) -but I've seen us take a knee many times when we could have been justified to keep on playing. Urban has his day coming. It always comes back around.

ibvolman writes:

mbumburu: "Do your homework and you'll find that the points scored in those directional-school games in the 3rd and 4th quarters (whenever the outcome was not in doubt) were scored by the 2s and 3s. Fulmer did not score those points using first string players."

mbum, do your homework! The fact is, Fulmer doesn't install the 3rd and 4th string players except in 2 cases. 1) The Vols have such a huge lead that there is no way the game could be lost. 2) The Vols have been whipped so badly there is no way they could win.

The large scores that UT has hung on other opponents did not come at the direction of the 3rd and 4th string units. The 1st string scored the majority of the points. Sure, on occasion the lower roster players have scored, but they sure the heck didn't score the majority of the points. Get a life! This is football, and the object is to win. UM just clearly sent a message to the pollsters, and to the UT coaching staff. The messages were clear. "FL is a force to be reckoned with." And "Hey UT, here is how you win the big game."

I only wish the UT coaching staff had the know-how to prepare a team to play all out. Our current methodology of just get better as the year progresses is not championship football. Our coaching staff seems to believe that it is acceptable to start out on the bottom in the season, and try like heck to improve your standing through the year. UM's coaching philosophy is to start out on top, and put the burden squarely on your opponent to take you down. Thing of it is, UM knows that unless some serious changes are made at UT, he has nothing to worry about in the future from the VOLS. Any change will likely be another "good-ol-boy" promotion where the same mentality produces the same lack-luster results.

CPF said it was time to get the VOLS back to playing championship football. Take some notes Fulmer! UM showed you how champions play the game. It is 60 full minutes of we will not quit the game. It is 60 minutes of take the fight to the opponent, and do not let up. But before that 60 minutes, it is a lot of hard work to actually prepare the players and develop the talent. I am sick of hearing the VOL fans, of whom I am one, crying because our opponent actually played 60 minutes of football.

I can full well bet with the utmost of conviction that if UT had beat FL by such a large margin, we wouldn't dare be saying CPF shouldn't have run up the score like that.

aj_vol#248433 writes:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Fulmer did not whine.

The article said: "Fulmer admitted to biting his tongue."

Is that a big deal? Give me a break people. I'm sure any of us could have had less self-control after that kind of game Saturday.

Let's see how the season plays out over the next 4-6 weeks before we dump our coach and hire a Gary Gibbs, Paul Hackett, Dave Wannstedt or Charlie Weis to come in and "save" the program.

Fulmer's earned the right to finish the season and the team has earned the support of all true Vol fans. Let's see where we go from here and stop whining about all the games we will "probably" lose to UGA, Bama, SC, Vandy, & KY - the games aren't won or lost on message boards, but rather on the field.

jdcvols#230433 writes:

I wish we could set some rules about names. I'm sick of hearing about True VOL fans or fair weather fans. Just because someone writes something negative about UT does not mean they are NOT True Vol fans. Fans are fans.

Sheepscape writes:

I wonder what all these 'true vol fans' ie koolaid drinkers who accept mediocrity will do when their time runs out?

It's always give Fulmer time, give him a chance. Well he's had plenty of time to correct the mistakes of 05, and yet nothing has improved. Special teams anyone? Running game anyone?

Years have turned into months. What will they say when those months turn into weeks and days?

aj_vol#248433 writes:

Small Mike = "fan"....gimme a break

sampears writes:

I was kind of glad to see Florida run up the score, well felt sick about how we played, but somehow hoped that a good spanking would get the attention of the powers that be. Fulmer, lets face it, can not and will not get it done. We have seen it for years our team is flat, never fired up, he is a terrible motivator. How can other coaches come into a program that is "down" or "not much talent" or “injured players” and WIN right off the bat? We s###! It is coaching. Everyone knows our plays, heck my 11 year old son can figure that out. Where is the fire? Where is the creativity? Doesn’t it suck to be a vol, I say it sucks to be a vol! When does ladies volleyball start?

aj_vol#248433 writes:

Small Mike = "fanatic"...definitely

aj_vol#248433 writes:

How is this season's start so much different than '94?

In 94 we started 1-3 (losses: 23-25 at UCLA, 0-34 vs Fla, and 21-24 at Miss. St) and no one was panicking or flipping out. We finished the season 6-1 with the only loss on the last play 13-17 vs Bama and started a run from 95-98 that ended with 2 SEC Championships and our 1st NC in 47 years.

With the past year's recruits I think this team is about to be very special in the next 2 or 3 years, but they are very young right now.

They just need bigger/better talent on the O and D lines to compete in the SEC.

jdcvols#230433 writes:

Come AJ, I was at the opening game in 1994, and we lost our starting QB on the first series and actually played 3 other QB's in that game..two of which were TRUE freshman and the other a baseball player. We were competitive in the game. We finished the season strong because Peyton grew up quick! No comparisons to this season with a senior QB and talent. How many years have you said "Wait till next year?" or as you so stated "2 or 3 years. Is this the Kool-aid talking???

Sheepscape writes:

94 was also Fulmer's second full year at the helm, not the second decade. Worst loss of his era was 9.15.07 and the most lopsided loss of the UT-UF series.

Basketball_Jones writes:

I'm with alot of you and am sick and tired of the snot bubbling whiners who complain about the score. I used to love watching Spurrier coach at Florida. They walked into a game knowing they would put up 40 on you and more if they could. Its like boxing, you keep pounding that person till they won't get up anymore. Florida made a statement to Tennessee last weekend, they basically said were better than you and there's nothing you can do about it. I have no probalem with that, it shows no mercy and if UT were the team dropping 50 on the Gators all of you would be singing a different tune. Don't be hypocritical and take your medicine and like it.

invisiblekid writes:

Doing fine mbumburu, doing fine although I have to admit there have been so many Rhodes Scholars come through here that I can't remember which one you are talking about LOL.

yeavols#228407 writes:

Get this: I get an email from the UT alumni association chapter in Georgia that a bus trip is planned for the Georgia game. Bus fair, hoopla, and the ticket for just one low price of 85 dollars. WHEN was the last time you could take a road trip with ticket included for 85 dollars? Unheard of..the popcorn, cotton candy, and hot dog in a taxi to the local bar to watch the game for free would cost you more. WOW..I have never seen an offer like this one before! WHOOAAAAA NELLLYYYY..but I think I'll pass. Cost? Priceless!

UTFAN1993 writes:

$2,050,000 annually

utvols1 writes:

The real story (I posted this last week) is that the great leader Ainge was involved in a pick up B-ball game prior to the Cal game. That's when he jammed and broke the pinky. It will come out eventually. This so called leader wasn't really thinking to well then nor when he gave FL fans the gator chomp last yr in K-town and then had to eat some humble pie as the D folded yet again. It starts with the coaches getting these kids to act mature and responsible OFF the field as well as on.

tnvolfan4ever writes:

Thank-You. Couldn't have said it better! Go VOLS!!!

Ohiovol16 writes:

The announcers said it perfectly Saturday: "Urban Meyer hates to lose!" To me Phil Fulmer has accepted losing!

This is a RIVALRY GAME, if you can't stop them then get on your bus and go home, I don't care if your pissed. UT can use this as motivation all they want, but don't forget Florida whipped your butts by 29 points. You think Meyer is worried about UT using that as motivation, he's put the beleief in UT's head that he did it once and he'll do it again next year if given a chance!

I have been a Fulmer guy for a long time (starting to doubt that now), things will NOT change until our coaches change there approach! Quit clapping your dang hands when someone screws up, get pissed, get in there face and get them going! Football is an emotional game and Fulmer is not an emotional person.

mloaks#222092 writes:

I dont care how many the opponent puts up, as long as we dont become Bama, Miami, or OU. I'd like us to be like USC, Florida, and their fans. Decent player attitude and aptitude without the kiddie stuff, real students who play FB also. No more fake guns on I-40, or pickup hoops before FLA games!

Volunatic writes:

urban meyer probably now WISHES he had put in some 2nd- and 3rd-stringers to get a little DEPTH on his team. Lack of depth beat him against Auburn AND LSU.
And now I'm crying the crocodile tears.

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