Tennessee's 2-5 record in football is nothing new. If you have checked a media guide or consulted with one of your 130-year-old neighbors, you know the first UT team to play a full season went 2-5.
But in the 118 years between that 2-5 team and this one, UT fans got spoiled.
General Neyland had a lot to do with it. From 1926 through 1932, his UT teams lost two games in seven years. That's three fewer losses than the 1892 and 2010 Vols had in seven games.
It's not all about Neyland, though. UT has started out 2-5 or worse only 10 times in school history.
Derek Dooley might be a first-year head coach at UT but he knows the history. He also knows how it impacts his team.
"Players didn't come here for this," he said.
Not only are the Vols 2-5, they haven't been competitive in three of their losses. Oregon and Alabama outscored them 63-0 combined in the second half at Neyland Stadium. They trailed Georgia by 20 points at halftime. And they will enter Saturday's game against South Carolina as a double-digit underdog for the fifth consecutive SEC game.
This is foreign turf even for the veterans who experienced a 5-7 season in 2008. As unsuccessful as that team was, it never gave up more than 30 points in a game. This team has given up 27 or more points in three different halves.
Dooley is more familiar with such circumstances. In his first season as the head coach at Louisiana Tech, his team also was 2-5 after seven games.
But not all 2-5 starts are the same.
UT fans aren't accustomed to their team being non-competitive against the best teams in the SEC. Louisiana Tech fans were prepared for the worst against the WAC's preeminent programs - Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State.
"I think they had a greater history of not playing well in some of those games," Dooley said. "There was a greater history of getting run out of the stadium in games when things went bad.
"Whereas here, I get reminded every week that this is the first time since (the) stone age that this has happened. ... This is new, we're in uncharted territory."
You can see how the shock of it all might impede a team's resilience. It's easier to put lopsided losses behind you when they're more familiar.
"Yeah, but there's also a downside to it, because there's an acceptance," Dooley said. "We can't allow that to happen with our team.
"It worries me when we talk about, 'Well, they're inexperienced, they're not very deep.' It's an excuse not to win, and it can't ever get that way. ... I tell the team all the time we'll never compromise the standard."
Although Dooley often refers to his team's inexperience, he offsets that with precisely targeted criticism, as if to make sure the "inexperience" is taken as an explanation, not an excuse.
Even if his team is inexperienced, he's making it accountable. He's also trying to come out of one of the toughest stretches of UT football - since the Stone Age, maybe -with an improved team, not a demoralized one.
So he repeatedly urges his team to ignore the scoreboard and focus on competing and improving, even though he knows the instructions would be easier to follow at a program with a less successful of history.
As he said, these players didn't come here for this.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.