Tennessee Stat Book
NASHVILLE — Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart can't wait any longer. It's a safety issue now.
He must announce immediately that third-year UT football coach Derek Dooley will not be retained. Otherwise, fans are apt to storm his office Monday morning in protest.
Someone could get hurt.
UT's reputation took another painful hit Saturday evening at Vanderbilt Stadium, where the Commodores administered an Alabama-size whipping to a program they had beaten only twice in the previous 30 years.
The 41-18 defeat assured the Vols of a third consecutive losing season for only the second time in school history.
If you want to compare the two, good luck finding witnesses. The Vols last suffered three consecutive losing seasons from 1909 through 1911, and they needed three coaches to do it.
Tennessee has been beaten worse this season. It has given up more points and more yards. It has missed more tackles.
But it has never looked more pathetic.
The Vols reached their most pathetic point long before the final play, after which the entire Vanderbilt team followed second-year coach James Franklin to midfield.
Tennessee officially went from bad to sad early in the third quarter. Trailing 27-10, it faked a punt on a fourth-and-9 from its own 19.
It was the kind of silly stuff former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme used to do when the Vols were on their way to scoring 59 points.
In this case, you had a punter (Michael Palardy) throwing to a defensive back (Byron Moore). That's probably sufficient information for you to guess that it didn't go well.
But when Palardy's pass fell out of Moore's reach, some critics might have concluded that the punter didn't throw any worse than UT quarterback Tyler Bray on this evening.
The Commodores would have scored in the 50s if two more touchdowns hadn't been called back by penalties. Their performance was hardly flawless, which only magnified UT's ineptitude.
Unlike the majority of Tennessee's seven losses this season, the offense didn't distinguish itself while the defense was falling all over itself. This time, UT's offense was as incompetent as its defense, which has given up an average of 41.9 points through the last nine games.
Bray, who had passed for more than 1,300 yards in the last three games, brought back memories of last season's loss to Kentucky when he completed 15 of 38 passes and threw two interceptions in a 10-7 defeat.
He was even worse against Vanderbilt, completing 11 of 29 passes for just 103 yards and throwing another two interceptions. In fact, he was so off his game, Dooley relieved him with backup Justin Worley in the first half. Given the way Bray was playing, taking him out was less surprising than putting him back in.
As ineffective as Bray was in the first half (6-for-17), it's a wonder the Vols were only down 13-10. Two goal-line stands limited the Commodores to short field goals. Palardy's punting, which twice pinned Vanderbilt inside its 10, furthered UT's first-half cause.
Tennessee fans couldn't have been shocked at what followed, though. If nothing else, this team has proved itself adept at finding ways to lose close SEC games. That wasn't necessary after Vanderbilt outscored the Vols 21-0 in the third quarter.
More than the Commodores were out of reach after that. So were all of UT's season goals.
They can't have a winning season. They can't go to a bowl.
All they can do is try to win at least win one SEC game — in their season finale Saturday at Neyland Stadium. If they can, they also can avenge last season's loss to Kentucky.
But that's no longer relevant to most UT fans. They're more interested in the next coach than the next game.