John Adams: Alabama a good game to get past

John Adams

The University of Tennessee is never short of honorees. It honors former players, current donors, and almost anyone else who is in the vicinity of Neyland Stadium on game day.

So I assume it already has scheduled its honorees for the Oct. 29 game against South Carolina.

My advice: Either change the list or add to it.

UT needs to honor its 1981 football team that day. Why? Because it can best relate to what the current Vols are going through.

Coach Johnny Majors' 1981 team opened its season by losing to No. 5 Georgia 44-0 and to No. 10 Southern California 43-7.

This team has it even worse.

The Vols lost to No. 1 LSU 38-7 on Saturday. And no one should expect them to do anything more against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday.

But UT can do something about what comes next.

That's right. I'm looking past the storied UT-Alabama rivalry to what lies ahead.

If you want to play fantasy football and invest emotion in what was once the biggest game of the year, feel free. But the big picture is more pertinent than what used to be the big game.

This isn't the kind of game UT fans should anticipate. Instead, they should look forward to getting past it.

In a best-case UT scenario, it plays as hard as it can, improves on its weaknesses as it did against LSU, avoids injuries and moves on with heightened confidence and without an Alabama hangover.

The 1981 team can speak to that. After being outscored 87-7 in its first two games, it won seven of its last nine regular-season games and then beat Wisconsin in the Garden State Bowl.

Longtime UT publicist Bud Ford gives Majors much of the credit for that team's resurgence.

"When we were at our very worst, he was at his best," Ford said.

Based on last season, you could say the same for second-year UT coach Derek Dooley. The Vols started out 2-6 in 2010 before winning their last four regular-season games.

The turnaround could be attributed mainly to a schedule that softened considerably over the last month. Yet some teams might have been so traumatized by the beginning, they couldn't have handled the lesser opponents to come.

If the Vols survive Alabama with their psyche intact, that doesn't mean they can beat South Carolina the following week or Arkansas two weeks later in Fayetteville. But they could be more competitive than they were Saturday and are expected to be against Alabama.

UT fans don't want to think about the alternative.

Vanderbilt looked competitive enough in a 33-28 loss to Georgia on Saturday that it could threaten the Vols next month. In fact, if the Commodores beat Army on Saturday and defeat downtrodden Kentucky in November, they could be a victory away from bowl eligibility when they take on UT in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 19.

At least, the Vanderbilt game now looks more difficult than it appeared in preseason. Conversely, the South Carolina game should be less difficult, especially since star running back Marcus Lattimore just suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Gamecocks already had made a quarterback change, going from fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia to Connor Shaw, and their offensive line is struggling.

The first-half play of the offensive and defensive lines against LSU was cause for UT optimism. Both faltered in the second half against the nation's No. 1 team, but — once past Alabama — they won't face a comparable challenge to what they experienced Saturday.

As distasteful as Tennessee fans find losing to Alabama, such a loss isn't the worst thing that could happen to the Vols. Being adversely affected by the loss would be worse.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 11

murrayvol writes:

Thanks John. I needed that.

Classof72 writes:

Maybe our QB will throw the deep sideline ball long and outside, instead of short and inside. That will be progress. Let's hope for no unforced errors, good effort, and no injuries. GBO! Go CDD! Just wait 'til next year, or maybe the year after that, or the year after that... Whatever.

CroKev writes:

in response to TheBlue:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OK KNS, I think this qualifies for a poster and his "comment" being removed. If your purpose is to allow readers to cut and paste the same comment ad nauseum, then ignore...

CroKev writes:

Everybody knew it was going to be rough after losing Lathers and J. Jackson but losing Hunter and then Bray was almost a deadly blow. I really have to wonder if Nance and Worley couldn't do a better job than Simms (As the announcer said, Simms doesn't have a shot in the NFL but could be a great coach one day). I think I'd at least rotate one of those two in during a series.

Secondly, switch Stone and Bullard (am I starting to sound like a broken record?). I watch so many games with shotgun schemes and I've never seen an NFL or college bad snap yet this season. I watch Stone for one game and there's a bunch of them.

Finally, remember all the talk about Fugate getting some carries? He's not even starting right now but I'd like to see some formations where we send the FB between the tackles. The plays take so long to develop that by the time Poole and Lane get to the line of scrimmage, our young line cannot stay with their blocks. I'd like to see some 250+ pound back running North-South with abandon a few times to see if we can at least average 4 or 5 yards a carry.

Finally, with all the talk about Mathieu last weekend, he sure didn't do too much in that game. If Bray had been in the game, D. Rogers could have had a season-best type of game.

snakeplissken writes:

I'm more concerned about Walls saying he and his teammates relax at halftime and don't come out mentally prepared the second half. Where are our defensive coaches at halftime???????????

yankintenn#395643 writes:

Lane Kiffin-the gift that keeps on giving...

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Tired of the excuses. Beat somebody. We need it.

BAMABABE writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ahhh where to begin....first of all our WRs dont have any speed?? i guess u haven't seen Maze yet..and you can try to rush our QB all you want, but in case u didnt know our O-Line is shaping up to be a pretty big part of our success....as far as our "napoleon", i guess your still suffering the effects of Fulmer and Kiffin on Tenn...pretty sad state they left yall in...too bad you couldn't get Saban to come straighten things out for ya, i guess poaching some of our Athletic Department was the best you could do...i actually like Derrick and have been pulling for Tenn to give the fans something to hope for, but after reading this it reminded me what yall are like and why the 3rd Sat in Oct is such a great rivalry..last but not least...good luck with your plan for stopping the run...Trent should have another 100+ yd game to go with the other 6 he already has...see yall Sat!! ROLL TIDE BABY!!

dislikethemtrolls writes:

in response to BAMABABE:

ahhh where to begin....first of all our WRs dont have any speed?? i guess u haven't seen Maze yet..and you can try to rush our QB all you want, but in case u didnt know our O-Line is shaping up to be a pretty big part of our success....as far as our "napoleon", i guess your still suffering the effects of Fulmer and Kiffin on Tenn...pretty sad state they left yall in...too bad you couldn't get Saban to come straighten things out for ya, i guess poaching some of our Athletic Department was the best you could do...i actually like Derrick and have been pulling for Tenn to give the fans something to hope for, but after reading this it reminded me what yall are like and why the 3rd Sat in Oct is such a great rivalry..last but not least...good luck with your plan for stopping the run...Trent should have another 100+ yd game to go with the other 6 he already has...see yall Sat!! ROLL TIDE BABY!!

Soooooooooooooooo, you were pulling for Derrick and Tennessee, but just one fans comment about how he thought would be best to stop the tide causes you to change your mind? Geezzzzzzzzzz, don't take much to set you off. Our defense has held up pretty well, short of an occasional lapse where they give up a big play. If the offense could stay on the field awhile and give the defense a rest, this team could be a lot more competitive. GO VOLS!!!

snakeplissken writes:

in response to CroKev:

Everybody knew it was going to be rough after losing Lathers and J. Jackson but losing Hunter and then Bray was almost a deadly blow. I really have to wonder if Nance and Worley couldn't do a better job than Simms (As the announcer said, Simms doesn't have a shot in the NFL but could be a great coach one day). I think I'd at least rotate one of those two in during a series.

Secondly, switch Stone and Bullard (am I starting to sound like a broken record?). I watch so many games with shotgun schemes and I've never seen an NFL or college bad snap yet this season. I watch Stone for one game and there's a bunch of them.

Finally, remember all the talk about Fugate getting some carries? He's not even starting right now but I'd like to see some formations where we send the FB between the tackles. The plays take so long to develop that by the time Poole and Lane get to the line of scrimmage, our young line cannot stay with their blocks. I'd like to see some 250+ pound back running North-South with abandon a few times to see if we can at least average 4 or 5 yards a carry.

Finally, with all the talk about Mathieu last weekend, he sure didn't do too much in that game. If Bray had been in the game, D. Rogers could have had a season-best type of game.

Worley was moved the second string for a reason. Nance is only here because he was part of the package to get Da'rick. Nance is practice squad fodder so you won't see him play.
I have no idea why Dooley gets pissed when Stone heaves the ball over the qb's head about once each quarter. He did it in August practice and he still does it, and they just let it continue.
Yes we do need a bruiser north-south runner. Fugate and Bartholemew could switch out blocking and running for each other. That garbage of running a midget (Young) wide ain't gonna work against good teams.
Disagree with you about Da'rick's play against LSU. He got intimidated by LSU and just wanted to run his mouth back at them. They got into his head and he wasn't near as effective as he could have been.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

I'll take JA's comments a step further. Bama looks like some of the past USC, Miami and Nebraska teams, at least for now. But if I were UT, I wouldn't mail it in. Not to them or anybody else. See you Bama, in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

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