John Adams: Montana has Vols guessing

John Adams

Derek Dooley talks about the state of the team

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner and I began our Sunday conversation about the Montana Grizzlies, UT's opening opponent. But we quickly moved on to something, as Louisiana natives, we know more about: alligators.

"Zigzag," we say almost simultaneously, referencing the running pattern recommended for eluding an animal with such deceptive speed.

Fortunately, neither of us has ever had to execute the alligator-escape game plan. In fact, I've seen more than 100 alligators in one day on an Everglades bicycle trail and never noticed one of them move more than inch. But if one had even slightly opened its jaws, I immediately would have steered in a zigzag pattern.

The zigzag method is so ingrained, it's no wonder that when I mentioned the supposedly alarming speed of grizzlies, Waggner asked, "Straight-line speed?"

I hope so.

The state of Montana is another mystery. I talked to 15 different Vols, and the closest any came to a Montana connection was starting offensive guard Zach Fulton, who visited Idaho when his father was working in Boise.

Then, I tried word association. Among the responses to "Montana": "some dust and sand," "hot;" "cold;" "small, kind of low-key;" "flat, where Indians used to roam."

Cornerback Marsalis Teague remembered from a social-studies course that Helena is the capital of Montana. He also once knew a girl named Montana.

Most Vols know more about the team than the state. Sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter has seen enough video to address Montana's secondary in detail.

"Their DBs like to bail out fast and play pretty deep," he said. "We have to take advantage of that."

The Vols are getting accustomed to taking advantage of opening opponents. They beat Western Kentucky 63-7 in 2009 and defeated UT Martin 50-0 last season.

If you can't resist stereotyping, you probably have surmised that Montana is another overmatched opening opponent. There's no hiding from its FCS status, as categorized by the NCAA. But there's nothing inferior about its record.

The Grizzlies were 7-4 last season and have averaged 11 victories per season for the past 18 years. They haven't won fewer than seven games since 1992 and haven't had a losing season since 1985.

"I've heard they're like Appalachian State," UT's Anthony Anderson said. "I've watched (Appalachian State) play a lot."

Name-dropping Appalachian State could be a motivational ploy by the senior cornerback. In the four years since Appalachian State upset Michigan in Ann Arbor, imagine how many FBS coaches have mentioned the Mountaineers before taking on an FCS opponent.

The pregame warning probably just slipped Houston Nutt's mind last year before his Ole Miss Rebels were upset by Jacksonville State.

If you want to raise the upset alert, spread the word that — based on Sunday's scrimmage — Montana has a dual threat at quarterback, which could conjure up images of Armanti Edwards running and passing Michigan silly in 2007. Gerald Kemp, subbing for injured starer Jordy Johnson, rushed for 112 yards and passed for two touchdowns in the Grizzlies' scrimmage.

One more cautionary note: Montana is right above Wyoming, which inflicted Appalachian State-like damage on UT in Neyland Stadium four years ago.

Other than that, there's not much else I can tell you about UT's opening opponent, except to remind you it comes from a dusty, sandy, hot, cold and distant land where Indians once roamed.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 164

AHOUSE writes:

no comment

cloudodust writes:

The closest I've come to anything Montana was at Arby's. It's the home opener, it counts and Tennessee needs to come to play...every week. GBO

TommyJack writes:

Adams. Not one of your best.

troubleinc writes:

Mr. Adams - please go back to your beloved state of Louisiana. I am sure that the Tiger fans will find your wit fresh and amusing. Speaking as a Vol fan, your humor became stale for me over a decade ago.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

In this day and age, EVERY opponent must be taken seriously! Score early and often and keep the pedal pushed to the floor!

bean3669 writes:

Is Montana REAL??? I would like to purchase the entire state of Montana and put stupid people there!

VolAlum03ISBACK (Inactive) writes:

Native Americans used to roam pretty much everywhere in North America...sad really. I would say that Montana is a different beast altogether from UT Martin or Western Kentucky. For one, they are competitive in their respective division, something UTM and WKU were not.

We keep talking about how the Vols competitiveness going into this season is an asset, especially at certain positions where we may be lacking in raw talent. For Montana, that competitive attitude facing more talented teams is the norm rather than the exception. UT better watch out or it could find itself in a rehash of the UAB game.

Still, the Vols always play hard in the season opener. I fully expect a blow-out. Still, on any given saturday....

UTbassdrummer writes:

Let's respect every opponent as if they can beat us, but let's
also beat Montana by the speed limit.

Londonjohn writes:

Somewhat surreal, starts out with alligators and self survival and ends with Montana word associations. In the interim, he throws in a few FCS upset stories. Ironically, I learned almost nothing about the Montana Grizzlies aside from their season averages. Personally, I would prefer that Adams' reporting zig zag a little less and focus a little more on an actual topic.

tdvol1989 writes:

The game plan better be designed for an efficient victory. If we get up by 2 scores, we need to go ahead and pound them into submission. If we start junkball deep throws with a bunch of near misses, this one could go UAB on us.

We still have a lot of young players in key roles. We need a disciplined focused plan more than a highlight reel. Get up by 4 scores in the 4th Qtr, then do what you want. But don't start jump balls to Hunter because you think you have a matchup advantage. Get efficient first even if that means we are a little conservative with the game plan. Force our O-line to push MT off the line and run for 300+ yards. Montana should not be able to play with us physically, but they absolutely will be a handful if we go out there trying to create a highlight reel.

VOLliven2it writes:

I met some Montana Grizzlies fans here in Chatt. when they played for the title a few years ago. They didn't win that one but played hard. The fans were very nice and liked the area. They also take their football, even at FCS level very seriously. I expect they will not be enamoured nor intimidated but we in the end will show we are the superior team. The worst either fans or the team could do would be disrespect them. That goes for anyone who doesn't know that Montana is a beautiful state in a wild and wonderfully open land.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Man, do I remember Wyoming.

Ouch!

volhome#407234 writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Man, do I remember Wyoming.

Ouch!

I remember that one. That is where Mike Hamilton had started pulling the rug out from coaches and players mid-season. That is the one we would have won, if Mike would have kept his yap shut about firing Phil until after the season. I remember that he used that as his model to deal with the BB team last year. The quotes were astonishing. Fortunately we are past that and can move on the focus directly on Montana. Guys, do your stuff, do it well, do it early, and do it often. Go Vols!

Kelly8 writes:

John Adams is an idiot! Get him! He should be fired! Montana is an FCS school that UT will beat by 40! How dare he not talk about their dual-threat Heisman-caliber NFL-ready quarterback! He's a real sleeper, ya know...them Titans should get him to replace Vince Young...wait a minute...the Titans got rid of VY? Well I mean I also like the Colts...they have Peyton ya know. And I call him Peyton cuz we reel good friends...my mama used to cut his hair. Well, she knew a lady that saw him get his hair cut once...

Listen up, morons. We will beat Montana by 40, and there is nothing else to say about it. Adams has to write about these slouches because they are our next game. What else is he supposed to say? You put Griffith or that guy with the jacked up grill on the byline (Gribble?) and you all would be fawning over how clever it is.

GBO! Play Free Bird!

Kelly8 writes:

in response to vol1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Finally someone agrees with me. I guess myself and vol1 are two of the few edumacated people on this site.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor got hit by a Pontiac Montana once. Witch Doctor springy and rubbery so bounce right off. lol
Bones never lie.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to Kelly8:

Finally someone agrees with me. I guess myself and vol1 are two of the few edumacated people on this site.

Nope, There are others. Mo and Wy are both great places. Vac there often. As for Adams, well just what would you write about Mo football? They are not a heavy populated school or state and certainly the weather doesn't help Recruiting good players. As for Zigzagging when running from Alligators That's good to know and I want to thank Adams.
When it comes to scoring on Mo we best not let grass grow under us.

volfaninutah writes:

We better prepare for these guys. They are in contention for the FCS every year it seems. And we are STILL young at the skilled positions. Hate to get embarrassed on opening day. That would really make a long season... just sayin'

orpheusmjp writes:

Montana has a great football tradition and following among FCS schools. I went there w/ the ETSU band when ETSU had their 1 good playoff season in 1996.... ETSU went 10-3 with a 1st round win over Brian Westbrook and Villanova, only losing to ECU, national champ Marshall (w/ Randy Moss), and Montana (who only lost 1 game- to Marshall in extremely close championship game).

When we went to Montana, the fans were great.... cocky, but very warm. The weather on the other hand was wicked.... 3 below and snow everywhere... even our charters had chains on the tires. We got beat down in front 20,000+ that came out in that weather. Funniest thing was watching Pepper fighting in the snow w/ their mascot.

UT should win handily, but Montana will be a tougher than suspected out.... a fairly easy win but not quite as easy as the 2009 and 2010 openers. Hopefully this win will set the stage for 8-4 or 9-3!

SummittsCourt writes:

This is not going to be a contest. Coach Dooley will have the Vols prepared and they will win easily. There will be no Wyoming redue here folks.

GR82BaTennesseeVOL writes:

in response to AHOUSE:

no comment

and yet you did anyway...

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor got hit by a Pontiac Montana once. Witch Doctor springy and rubbery so bounce right off. lol
Bones never lie.

That's because you failed to use the zig-zag method, right Doc? Maybe this article will teach you something when the next woman gets after you. Remember, zig-zag is a method of escape, not just a rolling paper.

utchuckster writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor got hit by a Pontiac Montana once. Witch Doctor springy and rubbery so bounce right off. lol
Bones never lie.

That was my Pontiac Montana- sorry

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

That's because you failed to use the zig-zag method, right Doc? Maybe this article will teach you something when the next woman gets after you. Remember, zig-zag is a method of escape, not just a rolling paper.

Witch Doctor Zigzag now, Witch Doctor got confused and Stopped Dropped and Rolled and knocked got my feathers out. lol
Bones never lie.

DannyVol writes:

Speaking of Zig-Zags, I wonder what Adams was smoking before he wrote this steaming pile...

BruisedOrange writes:

Okay. Part of me sympathizes. It's the toughest time of the year to be a sports writer. The demand of voracious fan interest far exceeds the supply of new information--especially when the writers can't even watch practice.

Has anyone ever taken last night's leftovers, half a burger & some fries, and tried to transform it into a reasonable breakfast of meat, gravy, bread and hash browns for two yammering kids?

If you can find enough filler and the right spices, you can sometimes hit a Denny's grand slam out of the kitchen. But if all you've got to work with are two DB quotes, some bayou memories, and a 3-month old scouting report... well, it's going to take more than a sprig of parsley and cloth napkins to hide the fact that some mornings you're just serving hogslop.

[Note: I only stopped to write this because I'm supposed to be writing on a book now--but I don't even have a gatorgrizzlyzigzag anecdote to work with. Thank you, Mr. Adams, for letting me feel a little less pathetic this morning.]

p.s. maybe a dash of Tony Chacherie's would have helped

CrankE writes:

"...there's not much else I can tell you about UT's opening opponent..."

Translation: I have to write SOMETHING, but I'm too lazy to come up with anything good.

CrankE writes:

Thank goodness we now know that Adams runs in a zigzag pattern every time a Gator opens its mouth. Adams vs. Gators. I guess there IS one time that I could root for the Gators.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Did anyone here happen to comprehend this paragraph:

"The Grizzlies were 7-4 last season and have averaged 11 victories per season for the past 18 years. They haven't won fewer than seven games since 1992 and haven't had a losing season since 1985."

So I'm thrilled that some of you morons are NOT coaching the team. Montana is a very good football program, a much better program than ours (league vs. league). We can lose. It can happen.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You may not want to accept it as an excuse, but it was a huge reason in my eyes. It might be easy to say that YOU wouldnt have let it be a distracton, but we are talking about 18-22 year olds that didnt even know if they would be playing at UT the next year or who the coachs would be. I think after that week of the intitial shock of the firing the team did just what you said and pulled together to beat Vandy and Ky by 2 scores each and they were certainly better than Wyoming. So, whether you accept the "excuse" or not doesnt take away the fact that it had to be a huge distraction for the coaches and players. I just hope this Montana game doesnt turn out to be like the Uab game last year.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

No opponent should ever be overlooked especially one like Montana that has had tremendous success thru the years..I'm sure the coaches will have the Vols WELL-PREPARED for this game knowing that this game should NOT BE TAKEN LIGHTLY..I think Montana will play us even through a half and then we will pull away and win by 17 points..31-14 is my predicition.

Smokey is still on the prowl for some Grizzlies to throw on the grill..

keviningeorgia writes:

In 1979 a good friend of mine offered me a pair of tickets to actually go see a UT game live. It was going to be my first game at Neyland and he offered me a choice of tickets for Rutgers or Notre Dame. This was long before Rutgers was considered in any way a good football program by southern standards. Though they regularly beat Ivy League schools as an independent, they came in a big under dog to Tennessee, in it's 3rd year of rebuilding under Johnny Majors.

In my infinite 20 year old wisdom, I decided I wanted to see the Rutgers game because:
A) It came sooner in the year and 20 year olds are not known for patience
B) It was a "guaranteed win". While top ranked (at the time) Notre Dame certainly wasn't.

On gameday, KNS published a column asking "what is a Rutger?" It went on light heartly about how it must be some sort of potato and how it was a strange a name for a school, paying no mind that the actual team name was the Scarlet Knights.

On a beautiful autumn day in Knoxville, I attended my first UT game. The shocking final score was Rutgers 13 - Tennessee 7. The next week the suddenly down trodden Vols beat mighty Notre Dame 40 - 18 and it could have been worse as I recall.

The simple morale here - Don't take anybody for granted when you are rebuilding...

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fulmer lost his grip on his players. He walked a fine line trying to treat players like men in the 90's and did it well because he had a nucleous of mature young men on the team who responded well.

Unfortunately, a number of recruits who came on beginning in 2001 and continuing took advantage of that. The most noteable one in the early stages was Kelley Washington. He was a locker room cancer (according to some from that team) but Fulmer went to bat for him again and again. By 2002, behind the scenes, the inmates were running the asylum. Fulmer still had great talent and they could beat anyone when the players wanted to. But, when they pouted, the team played below expectations. And when Fulmer tried to "crack the whip" those players "showed him" with sub par performances at key times. In the end Fulmer's own loyalty did him in. Perhaps he gained that strong sense of loyalty after all the uproar and claims of his own dis loyalty to Majors, who knows?

It's good to be loyal but if you don't get the same in return, it's time to cut the cord.

TommyJack writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Some things never change. Such as Walt's delusions.

KevDVol writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For me, that was Hamilton's the first step toward the door. I thought that anyone who could so miscalculate the timing of ending such an important chapter in our history, was probably going to continue making bad decisions. Why did this even get brought up? That article is so useless that we had to come up with something else.

tulelakevol writes:

in response to orpheusmjp:

Montana has a great football tradition and following among FCS schools. I went there w/ the ETSU band when ETSU had their 1 good playoff season in 1996.... ETSU went 10-3 with a 1st round win over Brian Westbrook and Villanova, only losing to ECU, national champ Marshall (w/ Randy Moss), and Montana (who only lost 1 game- to Marshall in extremely close championship game).

When we went to Montana, the fans were great.... cocky, but very warm. The weather on the other hand was wicked.... 3 below and snow everywhere... even our charters had chains on the tires. We got beat down in front 20,000+ that came out in that weather. Funniest thing was watching Pepper fighting in the snow w/ their mascot.

UT should win handily, but Montana will be a tougher than suspected out.... a fairly easy win but not quite as easy as the 2009 and 2010 openers. Hopefully this win will set the stage for 8-4 or 9-3!

I live out west, and just got back from a trip to Missoula, and they are NOT scared of UT. Locals think they can take it to the Vols. I had my UT flags flying on the truck of course, and had to tell them to lay off the cheap whisky. Agree that they will play tough.

hueypilot writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Some things never change. Such as Walt's delusions.

Penn State isn't a very good example. Since the 1950's Penn State has had two head coaches, Rip Engle and then elevated an assistant Joe Paterno. Kinda like the Dodgers under Walter Alston and then Tommy Lasorda. Some organizations have a bias against change and these are two, tho the Dodgers have gotten away from it.

Penn State for years was isolated and independent and played a bunch of northeast patsies. Pitt was terrible in those days before Johnny and Dorsett, and in a three year stretch once, Bud Wilkinson liked to point out Joe PA had only lost two games. Both those losses in the early 70's were to a middle of the SEC Tennessee team. He'd schedule one tough game a year against an Alabama and feast on Rutgers and Temple and Navy the rest of the year. So Joe had a free ride for years until he got into the Big Ten and now they can't fire him. Kinda like Bobby Bowden at FSU.
Phil wasn't that kind of an icon. But to give him his due, he only lost two games in his entire career to an opponent who was deemed to be a lower tier, ie a Northern Illinois, a Louisiana directional school, a Jacksonville State, a Southern Miss. and that was to Tiger High when we thought their kick runner was down but he wasn't and to Wyoming when the program was in a huge state of disarray. Before him Johnny lost to Rutgers, Army, Virginia, North Texas State. All embarassments to the program. And after the Wyoming loss, to Phil's credit he got the boys to buckle down and beat Vandy and keep the streak alive against KY.

I will always remember Phil giving us that magical season in 98 and the whole decade of the 90's, but he feasted on inferior programs at Tuscaloosa, at Athens, at Lexington, Nashville, at Auburn, and got past Steve a couple of times. The league got a lot better in the 2000's and Phil didn't get better with it.

Time to move on with the new boy. Go Vols

jack_2222#231746 writes:

in response to bean3669:

Is Montana REAL??? I would like to purchase the entire state of Montana and put stupid people there!

too late- ted turner already owns montana and he's the king of stupid.

troubleinc writes:

in response to InDestruCtible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

People like you are why it's so much fun to watch the Florida program begin to rot.

Volunatic writes:

in response to UTbassdrummer:

Let's respect every opponent as if they can beat us, but let's
also beat Montana by the speed limit.

Montana's speed limit or ours? They have a 75 mph speed limit these days.
(I drove through there in the mid '90's, when they had signs saying the daytime speed limit was "Reasonable and Prudent". I asked a cop what that meant, and he said '85 mph is usually okay'.)

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm not a ranter. I believe in civil discourse and disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Paterno coached at Penn State for 50 years by mid 2000's, Fulmer for 15. That's about 35 years of track record not being taken into account as far as loyalties are concerned. You are comparing appless to oranges there.

In the 2002 Peach Bowl against Maryland, a particular segment of the team purposely played poorly in their 30-3 loss. No one could be singled out but according to my very credible source that lopsided loss was a reult of players making a point to the coaches. There also was a less organized thing in the 2000 Cotton Bowl (35 - 21 loss to K State) where certain of Fulmer's star athletes purposely laid down on their team in the bowl. They already had their personal futures assured and were going to be drafted. So, dogging it in a bowl game didn't hurt the individual in these cases.

No one was more a supporter of Fulmer than me. I was interviewed on the local talk shows as a rebuttle to fans who were calling for his head in the mid 2000. But, even I felt it was time for a change when he was finally let go 2 years ago.

Hamilton did do a poor job with the Kiffin hire but I understand why he did it. Hopefully he got it right with Dooley...

Volunatic writes:

in response to volfaninutah:

We better prepare for these guys. They are in contention for the FCS every year it seems. And we are STILL young at the skilled positions. Hate to get embarrassed on opening day. That would really make a long season... just sayin'

I agree 100%. In terms of media respect, the Vols have nothing to gain and possibly everything to lose by this being the opening game. However, in terms of experience, this will be a good opener-- Montana is well-coached and their players will not be intimidated.
Montana could beat a lot of Division IA schools most seasons. The Vols better be prepared to play well.

hueypilot writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And that's all you got to respond to my filibuster? Weak Walt. Give it up on Phil. He had lost the support of the team, the alums, the boosters, the administration. Kinda like Obama now. It was time for a change.

GainesvilleVol1 writes:

All I know is I'm ordering the game on pay per view, putting meat on the grill, stocking up on survival beverages and will watch UT play some team from Montana.

Getting close!!

GO VOLS!!

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I got that the records were similar over a similar period, Walt. But, Paterno had enough support within the Penn State community to withstand his critics. That support likely was due to the length of his entire body of work, over 3 times as long as Fulmer's. There is one undeniable fact here. If Fulmer had the same amount of support within the UT establishment in 2008 that he had in say 2005, he wouldn't have been forced out. But finally, due to inconsistant winning, he lost.

Next up, Mark Richt at Georgia. Another really good person who hasn't been able to keep his players out of jail or the headlines lately. While no longer maintaining a consistant winner over the big names in the SEC. If he does go 0 - 2 early this year, he will be on a short leash and nothing short of a comeback SEC championship will keep him head man at UGA. Just my opinion on this one as I have no inisider info there.

Fair or not, it's the way business is done in college ball these days. As an average fan i have a hard time really getting sentimental for these guys. Their representatives insist that contracts are structured so that the head coach leaves with enough money to ensure he wont go without most anything he wants in the future. Very few expect to have a career last over 10 years with any school nowadays. Fulmer knew he was an exception to the rule. Also, at some point in the future, Fulmer will again represent UT. Watch and see...

traderjoe writes:

Yawnnn....when will he start talking about Montana's naked cheerleaders, all perfect 10's, to get people to go to the game? Maybe if they had Fulmer wrestling a grizzly at half-time...wait, I think they had bear wrestling in the 80's. I'd go with the naked cheerleaders.

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I have to agree with you.

That is why I think Paterno is having more success now, is he is letting those Modern coaches have more control. Penn State was getting ready to fire him, when he broke his leg and had to go up into the booth. He let the other coaches do their job, and Penn State became respectable again.

Volunatic writes:

in response to traderjoe:

Yawnnn....when will he start talking about Montana's naked cheerleaders, all perfect 10's, to get people to go to the game? Maybe if they had Fulmer wrestling a grizzly at half-time...wait, I think they had bear wrestling in the 80's. I'd go with the naked cheerleaders.

A girl who is a Montana "perfect 10" is about a "7" or "8" in East TN.

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to InDestruCtible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Blahhh blahh bablahh blahh UT bad, Dooley bad. Blahhh bablahh, blahhh UT bad blahhh blahhhhhhh….

OrangePsyched writes:

DC your gators are going down and in your heart of heart you know it. Driskel? What happened to Brantley and his miraculous transformation now that his offense has changed to a pro style? You're grasping for hope. Sorry man...Vols 31 gators 20.

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