Strange: Vols will learn a lot on tough road ahead

Mike Strange
UAB quarterback David Isabelle (17) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sep. 25, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Tennessee won 32-29 in second overtime.

Photo by Michael Patrick

UAB quarterback David Isabelle (17) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sep. 25, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Tennessee won 32-29 in second overtime.

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Tennessee athletes often say they love playing on the road. Shutting up a hostile crowd is even sweeter than basking in the cheers at home.

Whether it’s winning in Athens or Tuscaloosa in the fall or in Gainesville or Memphis in the winter, that’s about as good as it gets.

From 1995-2006, UT went 40-10 in regular-season football road games. Fans got spoiled. It was worth pumping the gas in the tank and enduring the taunts (and worse) hurled their way.

After a month at home, the 2010 Vols are in store for some serious trekking, four of the next five games coming on the road. It starts Saturday at LSU.

Frankly, first-year coach Derek Dooley has no idea what to expect from a young, inexperienced team. By his count Monday, almost half the travel squad will be making its first road trip.

“This’ll be fun to watch,’’ he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.’’

Well, it might not be that much fun to watch.

Dooley is wary of this team’s mindset and for good reason.

“It’s fun to go on the road when you’ve got a confident team,’’ he said.

“They need to play confident, so I want ‘em to be confident. But you earn that right to be confident.’’

And there’s the rub. The 2010 Vols haven’t done a lot to carry any swagger out into the wild, wild world of SEC road games.

False confidence, in fact, was likely the biggest culprit in why the Vols needed two overtimes to survive UAB at home last time out.

You earn confidence with diligence on the practice field and in the video room. You earn it by maintaining mental toughness from the time practice ends on Thursday night up through kickoff.

“That,’’ said Dooley, “is what I think we haven’t gotten yet.

“The importance of preparation in developing confidence. Instead of just walking out there and saying, ‘I’m the guy!’

“We’ve got a lot of that.’’

LSU isn’t the first rodeo for everyone. This senior class is 4-10 in true road games.

They’ve won at the expected stops, Vanderbilt in 2008 and twice at Kentucky in overtime. The other win was at Mississippi State in 2007.

I’m not sure how much swagger is generated from that track record.

Still, give veterans like Luke Stocker, Chris Walker and LaMarcus Thompson some credit. They hung tough at Florida last year and even tougher at Alabama.

But what can be expected of an offensive line that has virtually zero experience dealing with anything like a place nicknamed Death Valley?

“I was going to paint the (practice) field, but that didn’t work for Oregon State,’’ Dooley cracked. “If they had beaten Boise, I might have put a big (Tiger) eye on our field.

“I don’t know how you simulate Tiger Stadium.’’

Dooley knows Tiger Stadium. He coached there five years on Nick Saban’s staff. Then he twice brought his own Louisiana Tech teams there.

The first time, it got ugly. The second time, Tech was competitive enough to pucker up the crowd.

“It’s about like most great venues,’’ he said. “The best thing opponents can do is come down there and play well.

“Because if you allow the crowd to be a weapon, it’ll be a weapon.’’

Tennessee was last there in 2005 and saw both sides of the crowd. It was deafening when the Vols were falling behind 21-0, less so as they rallied for a 30-27 upset in overtime.

However, there isn’t a soul, player or coach, left from that night of triumph over adversity.

It’s a whole new adventure. And it’s fair to wonder how many of the adventurers really understand what it takes.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

© 2010 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 52

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

being on the road can really help a football team focus...no 'home' distractions.

as for this game: if Matt can hit the receivers, and they can catch the damn ball, then we at least have a shot.

I thought UAB was our most piss-poor game of the season. UAB wasn't bad, and we made mistake after mistake. This followed up a fairly good game against UF and maybe half a decent game against Oregon.

We can play some ball; just hope we get going and stay going.

KENVOL writes:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to KENVOL:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

not enough veterans to have swagger.

bigtimevol writes:

in response to KENVOL:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

Gotta say, I agree. DD is a much higher level of coach than the previous "guy". However, we've got to be careful not to use youth and no depth as a crutch. How 'bout a little, "we're gonna' strap it on, open up a can of ..., and see what happens."

CoverOrange writes:

"However, there isn’t a soul, player or coach, left from that night of triumph over adversity."

Not quite Mike, the Chief will be in attendance again.

rockytopatl writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

being on the road can really help a football team focus...no 'home' distractions.

as for this game: if Matt can hit the receivers, and they can catch the damn ball, then we at least have a shot.

I thought UAB was our most piss-poor game of the season. UAB wasn't bad, and we made mistake after mistake. This followed up a fairly good game against UF and maybe half a decent game against Oregon.

We can play some ball; just hope we get going and stay going.

Improved pass protection means more time for Simms to hit those receivers. Right now, that's what has to happen. That line also needs to make a few holes for Poole and Neal. I'm ready to see Oku on the bench for awhile.

flatrock writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

not enough veterans to have swagger.

Kid Kiffin escaped to USC because it was his "dream" job...also, he knew this season was gonna
be a "nightmare".
Dig in, Vol fans. Derek Dooley is the real deal.
He will re-build the right way. Go Vols!

rockytopatl writes:

in response to KENVOL:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

Another point worth noting: Last year's team didn't get nearly as many stupid penalities as this group. There were almost no false starts or personal fouls.

Granted, this year's team is younger and less experienced, but last year's O line was nearly as inexperienced as this one.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Another point worth noting: Last year's team didn't get nearly as many stupid penalities as this group. There were almost no false starts or personal fouls.

Granted, this year's team is younger and less experienced, but last year's O line was nearly as inexperienced as this one.

I did not like some of Kiffin's media foulups (which he attempted to cover with "it's all on purpose"), not his move to USC...

but, you have to be real: he and his staff are good football coaches. Kiffin has a weak spot in that he calls the plays (still doing so at USC??), but regardless he gets a team to play hard.

We even competed for a while against VT, who was a VERY good team last year. Never was happy abouot getting pushed 'down' to that game, thought we'd have matched better with a Big 10 team.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

What I seriously think this team could use too is some cool weather.

Loud_Proud writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Another point worth noting: Last year's team didn't get nearly as many stupid penalities as this group. There were almost no false starts or personal fouls.

Granted, this year's team is younger and less experienced, but last year's O line was nearly as inexperienced as this one.

Are you guys serious? I mean, are we seriously sitting here, talking up lane kiffin on THIS website?? wow..what HAS Tennessee football came to..

tapeworm writes:

Swagger has never won a football game. Usually, when you have swagger, it's accompanied by talent, heart, execution, and a refusal to quit.

mivol writes:

If getting totally dominated by a UAB team is not enough to get this team and coaches fired up nothing will. The UAB games was the most embarrassing game that I have ever seen the Vols play. Road or not, they need to tackle, pass, catch and block and do it like a SEC team not a high school team. As a fan it is hard for me to knock my team but MAN was this game an embarrassment!!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

probably the overrated D. Moore along with Stocker and Jones. They will all be drafted.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to Loud_Proud:

Are you guys serious? I mean, are we seriously sitting here, talking up lane kiffin on THIS website?? wow..what HAS Tennessee football came to..

gotta deal in facts if you want to succeed.

disliking someone is one thing, not accurately accessing them is another.

GerryOP writes:

Time to put it all together guys, the next month is what Tennessee football is all about ... the SEC. A stage every one of you kids wanted to play on and show your stuff. Your time to shine!

Gotta get by LSU if we're going to end up 10-2. Go Vols.

GerryOP writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yup, we're in better shape than UGa! The best they can do this year is 9-3!

mdvol writes:

Basically the same article by Strange that he wrote yesterday. Yes we know October is one long road trip. Yes, we are thin, inexperienced, undersized, slow, etc.

76-68

Vols over #1 Kansas. January 10, 2010.

Six scholarship players.

We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset Alabama in Neyland.
Tear down the goal posts and carry Dooley off the field.

mjaichele#464960 writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Yup, we're in better shape than UGa! The best they can do this year is 9-3!

Folsom Field, Oct. 2nd, 5:00 pm kickoff, The Golden Buffaloes hand Georgia another L for the season, but at least CU has more than 65 players left on the squad.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

LSU is not real good. Remember that. If we win, we will have a special team next year. Same thing for Georgia, Alabama, etc. The win Saturday gave them confidence. Let them have it......

FWBVol writes:

CDD is in a no-win situation with the fans. Some are upset because he keeps bringing up the real issues of no depth and lack of experience, but if he starts over hyping the team and it falls flat then fans will complain too.

I appreciate the fact that he isn't sugar-coating things. We do have a young team and almost half the guys traveling to LSU on Saturday will be making their first college football road trip.

That's the bad news. The good news is sometimes when kids are that young they don't realize they are supposed to be intimidated by their surroundings and end up surprising some people.

Maybe we can catch some Big Orange lightning in a bottle Saturday and pull the upset.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to FWBVol:

CDD is in a no-win situation with the fans. Some are upset because he keeps bringing up the real issues of no depth and lack of experience, but if he starts over hyping the team and it falls flat then fans will complain too.

I appreciate the fact that he isn't sugar-coating things. We do have a young team and almost half the guys traveling to LSU on Saturday will be making their first college football road trip.

That's the bad news. The good news is sometimes when kids are that young they don't realize they are supposed to be intimidated by their surroundings and end up surprising some people.

Maybe we can catch some Big Orange lightning in a bottle Saturday and pull the upset.

Exactly!!
And, since they are kids, every thing changes from week to week.

Once thing for sure: we WILL be blitzed; Chavis sees all those freshmen, plus he has always been aggressive except when it counted.

I sure hope Matt is ready to take some hits.

KFDLaw writes:

They might upset LSU if they can get two touchdowns ahead early and hang on to the lead. If they get behind early, it could be an ugly and long afternoon in Baton Rouge.

shipperman#280095 writes:

I am a Big Orange fan but I am also a realist. We are not by any means a good footbal team. We will be lucky if we get 4 or 5 wins. Just the facts. Anyone expecting 9-3 or 10-2, is just dreaming. LSU will beat us by 2 touchdowns or more, and Bama will beat us as bad as Saban allows them to.

TommyJack writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

I am a Big Orange fan but I am also a realist. We are not by any means a good footbal team. We will be lucky if we get 4 or 5 wins. Just the facts. Anyone expecting 9-3 or 10-2, is just dreaming. LSU will beat us by 2 touchdowns or more, and Bama will beat us as bad as Saban allows them to.

Sounds about right.

vol88 writes:

in response to bigtimevol:

Gotta say, I agree. DD is a much higher level of coach than the previous "guy". However, we've got to be careful not to use youth and no depth as a crutch. How 'bout a little, "we're gonna' strap it on, open up a can of ..., and see what happens."

I'm thinking DD saves that speech for the locker room. I don't care much for giving the opponent bulletin board material when you're on the road a 16 point underdog.

WillieGualt writes:

in response to kcsbigorng:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

None of us really have a clue how the young Vols will perform in a hostile environment. But KCS your right on the money that this game could be a factor in recruiting. If we show improvement, the Senior class in LA will see an opportunity to get early playing time on an up and coming team! Go Vols!

hueypilot writes:

in response to KENVOL:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

A very good example of why I have come to despise the use of the word "swagger" when it describes atheletes and their teams. What in the name of all that is holy did "Kiffin's Team" have to swagger about? They couldn't beat Auburn or UCLA, and got walloped by that juggernaut Ole Miss. Swagger implies overconfidence and overconfidence gets you beat. Talk to Mack Brown about swagger. I'll bet the Longhorns had it. I'd just as soon my teams went into every game thinking they were underdogs. Lose the swagger and go to work.

allvols4life writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

1-3? You must be talking about Georgia.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

This "swagger" thing is overrated. I don't care how much "swagger" you have as long as you can win some games. And, I'm sorry, but NOTHING will make me miss the time we had with Traitor Lane as coach! moving on....

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

now that's funny!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

I am a Big Orange fan but I am also a realist. We are not by any means a good footbal team. We will be lucky if we get 4 or 5 wins. Just the facts. Anyone expecting 9-3 or 10-2, is just dreaming. LSU will beat us by 2 touchdowns or more, and Bama will beat us as bad as Saban allows them to.

nah, I don't see much opp for beating Bama. What I'll be curious about is how much 'heart' we show.

Oregon was pitiful, UF was better.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

What I don't get:
how in the hell can fans be dogging CDD already??

Here is my take: if Phil hadn't been fired, we'd be better....but an 8-10 win team each year. That is IF the fan base had lightened up, and the local media. The atmosphere was horrible at Phils final season.

With Kiffin, we'd be a BIT better, but not by much. We had more talent last season, yet played poorly th first half of the year.

CDD and Wilcox have a LOT of growing up to do, IMHO. This isn't WAC football where each team has one or two studs, and the rest of the team can be ignored.

That still does not mean throwing these coaches under the bus. They where what we could get at th time. Unless we can get Saban or Meyer, I do NOT want to sit through another coaching change.

allvols4life writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

What I don't get:
how in the hell can fans be dogging CDD already??

Here is my take: if Phil hadn't been fired, we'd be better....but an 8-10 win team each year. That is IF the fan base had lightened up, and the local media. The atmosphere was horrible at Phils final season.

With Kiffin, we'd be a BIT better, but not by much. We had more talent last season, yet played poorly th first half of the year.

CDD and Wilcox have a LOT of growing up to do, IMHO. This isn't WAC football where each team has one or two studs, and the rest of the team can be ignored.

That still does not mean throwing these coaches under the bus. They where what we could get at th time. Unless we can get Saban or Meyer, I do NOT want to sit through another coaching change.

I agree with you asking how fans can already be dogging Dooley. Let me start by saying that I have seen none of the last 2 games, only read and heard the information. However, I feel that even with a more "proven" coach, this team would still be sitting 2-2. We just do not have the players and the depth to compete with the really good teams yet. Will it get better in the next couple of years? No one knows. We have to wait and see. I, for one, will reserve judgment until at least the end of next year. I hope that Dooley can get it done. Time to get back to where UT belongs, at the top!

SEAL_9821 writes:

in response to bigtimevol:

Gotta say, I agree. DD is a much higher level of coach than the previous "guy". However, we've got to be careful not to use youth and no depth as a crutch. How 'bout a little, "we're gonna' strap it on, open up a can of ..., and see what happens."

Totally agree! His press conference doesn't give much motivation to anyone much less the team. You have got to be able to motivate and get the team on a high level mentally regardless of how the season is going. I still love Dooley and am glad we have him.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to allvols4life:

I agree with you asking how fans can already be dogging Dooley. Let me start by saying that I have seen none of the last 2 games, only read and heard the information. However, I feel that even with a more "proven" coach, this team would still be sitting 2-2. We just do not have the players and the depth to compete with the really good teams yet. Will it get better in the next couple of years? No one knows. We have to wait and see. I, for one, will reserve judgment until at least the end of next year. I hope that Dooley can get it done. Time to get back to where UT belongs, at the top!

I gotta clarify:
I say that about Phil ONLY because he would have had continuity of recruiting classes, and perhaps would have hired a true pro-style offensive coordinator.

What we will always have to wonder: Cut was obviously a big key to UT's success. Playing the 'wht-if' game....what if Cut had never left?? From what I gather, he was the only 'disciplinarian' on the staff; his leaving apparently opened the door to athletes running the show, and eventually, to Phil's end.

spvol writes:

in response to usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid:

This "swagger" thing is overrated. I don't care how much "swagger" you have as long as you can win some games. And, I'm sorry, but NOTHING will make me miss the time we had with Traitor Lane as coach! moving on....

Miami had plenty of swagger when they came into the Sugar Bowl against our Vols; not so much when they left the Super Dome.

murrayvol writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bob, with all respect, I smell something but it's not an upset.

We can hope. I do remember the LSU game....barely.

allvols4life writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

I gotta clarify:
I say that about Phil ONLY because he would have had continuity of recruiting classes, and perhaps would have hired a true pro-style offensive coordinator.

What we will always have to wonder: Cut was obviously a big key to UT's success. Playing the 'wht-if' game....what if Cut had never left?? From what I gather, he was the only 'disciplinarian' on the staff; his leaving apparently opened the door to athletes running the show, and eventually, to Phil's end.

Timed, I was not speaking to you specifically and I agree with everything you say. I do think that UT would probably be in a much better position had we not gotten rid of Fulmer. However, I do believe he had lost his edge or that the rest of the SEC had caught or surpassed him. I was one of the biggest Fulmer supporters and hated to see him go. But, again, I do think that it had to be done.

hueypilot writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Bob, with all respect, I smell something but it's not an upset.

We can hope. I do remember the LSU game....barely.

The first UT game I listened to on the radio and I guess the press boxes were open then and the crowd drowned out the announcer (George Mooney?) when they stopped Cannon for the two point conversion. Always wondered what made Dietzel walk away from a potential dynasty. Bear might have had some big time opposition had Dietzel stayed there.

BigOrangeBill writes:

Guys, this team I think didn't take UAB seriously and when we started dropping passes and missing tackles, UAB's barely avoided upset begin to take shape. Not an uncommon scenario with freshmen and walk-ons. We proved we can play with bigs (first two and 1/3 quarters Oregon...and even into the fourth quarter against Florida). Mistakes and penalties finished us off. Injuries and a SHORT bench didn't help much, either. Which team will show up Saturday at LSU is a wait and see game. We're playing in a big-time hostile stadium against some super talent that has been made somewhat vulnerable by their ORDINARY coach. If our O line doesn't do better, our QB will not make it much longer without injury. If our D line doesn't do better, ANY QB in the SEC will eat our lunch. Fatique in the late 3rd and all of the 4th quarters is going to happen with our Vols this year. Coach Dooley is doing a good job with a very down team. Let's stand by him, win or lose. Recruiting is KEY to our future. Also developing experience and maturity from one end to the other. Let's hang in there with them! Tennessee is home sweet home to most of us and they are depending on us to stay solidly behind them.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to allvols4life:

Timed, I was not speaking to you specifically and I agree with everything you say. I do think that UT would probably be in a much better position had we not gotten rid of Fulmer. However, I do believe he had lost his edge or that the rest of the SEC had caught or surpassed him. I was one of the biggest Fulmer supporters and hated to see him go. But, again, I do think that it had to be done.

Exactly; Phil played most games late in his career 'not to lose' rather than to win.

I don't know the inner workings, but you get the feeling no one really pushed him, that Chvis only focused on defense and not the team. Cut maybe said the things others would not say.

Who knows?? All we do know is it has sent us dwon, and we are on the edge of becoming a 'marginal' program. There is a big diff between having a bad year or two and being an Ole Miss or whatever.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BigOrangeBill:

Guys, this team I think didn't take UAB seriously and when we started dropping passes and missing tackles, UAB's barely avoided upset begin to take shape. Not an uncommon scenario with freshmen and walk-ons. We proved we can play with bigs (first two and 1/3 quarters Oregon...and even into the fourth quarter against Florida). Mistakes and penalties finished us off. Injuries and a SHORT bench didn't help much, either. Which team will show up Saturday at LSU is a wait and see game. We're playing in a big-time hostile stadium against some super talent that has been made somewhat vulnerable by their ORDINARY coach. If our O line doesn't do better, our QB will not make it much longer without injury. If our D line doesn't do better, ANY QB in the SEC will eat our lunch. Fatique in the late 3rd and all of the 4th quarters is going to happen with our Vols this year. Coach Dooley is doing a good job with a very down team. Let's stand by him, win or lose. Recruiting is KEY to our future. Also developing experience and maturity from one end to the other. Let's hang in there with them! Tennessee is home sweet home to most of us and they are depending on us to stay solidly behind them.

Bill,

Very well said. I agree.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to kcsbigorng:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

they have a weak secondary, but if Mallet can't beat them (best qb in the SEC) I don't see how Simms can pass better than Mallet. Hope for the upset but I see Bama 31 UT 17

tmartin writes:

"From 1995-2006, UT went 40-10 in regular-season football road games". . .

This is incorrect, we lost 13 games that I can remember.
95 Fla
96 Memphis
97 Fla
99 Fla, Ark
00 UGA LSU
02 UGA
03 Auburn
05 Fla, ND Bama
06 Ark

Shake_Bake writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good point! Let's just hope it works well for us with LSU.

We need to just settle down, and play with discipline and focus.

I'm not expecting too much this year, going to take some time; so go out there, have some fun, and learn how to work together as a team regardless if you win or lose.

Go VOLS!!!!

TKO writes:

in response to mdvol:

Basically the same article by Strange that he wrote yesterday. Yes we know October is one long road trip. Yes, we are thin, inexperienced, undersized, slow, etc.

76-68

Vols over #1 Kansas. January 10, 2010.

Six scholarship players.

We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset Alabama in Neyland.
Tear down the goal posts and carry Dooley off the field.

I hope you are of legal age to be consuming that stuff

orangecrush51 writes:

Defensive Coaches : Please teach these players to wrap up on their tackles . This is not ice hockey.
The first player that makes contact must not let go until the whistle blows . Notice how many yards we gave up after initial contact by our defense .

Pompey writes:

in response to KENVOL:

I hate to say it but I sure miss the swagger that Kiffin had given this team. I see them falling back into the Fulmer era.

CDD may be a lot of things but Phillip Fulmer is not one of them...Fulmer never saw the day he had the intelligence and work ethic that Dooley has already exibited.

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

in response to BamaBeacher:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Beat it, bammerbeacher. You're stinking up the joint.

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