By Rafael Garcia
Sr. Contributing Writer
November 29, 2011
Kentucky 10 Tennessee 7
The question of how low this program can go has been asked many times this season. The answer has never really been given until this past Saturday in Knoxville. The Wildcats of Kentucky came in trying to end a 26 year losing streak to the Vols. Better teams have played this team only to come up short. In one game the Vols were down 20-0 only to come back and break Kentucky’s heart. One day the streak had to end and this would be the day for Big Blue fans to celebrate.
There were reports long before this game that the interest of this team was about at zero by the time they got whipped by Arkansas. After that some players were accusing others of looking out for their stats before looking out for the team. There was way too much dissension in the locker room and players were working on their own agenda. You would think that they could muster up some kind of want and desire for this UK team. What they did was play one of the most embarrassing games in UT history. They played flat and uninspired and fell to Rocky Top bottom.
The running game has been sorry all year and they continued that with 61 yards on the ground and just 215 in the air. They made the UK defense look like a real SEC defense. The Wildcats came out with fire and they were determined not to lose this game. At the half it was 3-0 UK and there were players celebrating a bit early. Still, they came out in the second half and outplayed UT like all other teams have this year. A wildcat formation was botched by Rajon Neal when he fumbled the snap. The worst part was that he said he was looking for the ball but could not find it. Funny, the replay shows the ball was basically in front of him the whole time. It is plays like this that has plagued this team all year.
Now the stakes get higher for head coach Derek Dooley. He is now under fire for all the failures of this team. Every team needs leaders and this team sorely lacks one. The seniors and juniors never made their mark and Dooley will need that in order to survive another year on the hill. He made remarks after the game about telling the media that this would happen. He has been accused of throwing players under the bus in public as opposed to doing it in house. Whatever the problems are, he must address them now. He needs to give the team a few weeks to reflect, then whip them into football shape. He may be a good recruiter, but is he a good motivator? Can he put the attitudes in check or lose his team altogether next year?
As for Kentucky, the jury is still out on the job status of Joker Phillips. He has had a few miserable years he would like to forget. The near future doesn’t look too bright so UK will have decisions to make as well. It was a great way to end to year for them though. They have looked awful too many times this season and made up for that in this game. For now the streak may be over, but can they sustain it? Can Dooley bring the Vols back from the dead or will he be buried under the scrutiny he is facing? It will be a long off season full of questions and work. One thing is for sure around here and that is the fans will stand for this no longer. It is time to examine what they have on the hill in the program and get it right. Dooley will get one more year and it will not be to go 6-6 or 7-5. If he cannot pull that off then he may want to go back to Louisiana and go fishing.
Vanderbilt 41 Wake Forest 7
It has been a remarkable season for the Commodores. At the start of the year they had a new head coach in James Franklin from Maryland. He was the head coach in waiting there but decided he would make his own mark. He said that he wanted to change the culture at Vandy and turn their losing ways around. He recruited one of the best classes ever and went out of his way to promote the school. As the season wore on, this team started to win games and look better. By mid-season they were on the verge of something special. Vanderbilt University Football is going bowling folks. After just one year Franklin put the Dores back on the SEC map.
Zac Stacy was the starting tailback in his freshman year, but he was replaced by Warren Norman. This year he started behind Warren on the depth chart, but he was called into action when Warren got hurt early. All he managed to do was run into the Vandy record books. He finished up the year with 1136 yards that is now the single-season record. He still has one more game, probably the Liberty Bowl, to add to that total. If Georgia beats LSU that could bump the Dores in the Gator or Chik-Fil-A bowl.
The senior class becomes the first class in history to go to two bowl games. It has been a tremendous year and should get better going forward. The recruiting class coming in is a good one and the team should improve on their win total. The school will need to do some things to ensure they can keep their new coach. He will be courted in the next tear or two as he improves this team. When you look back on the season Vandy could have won 8 or nine games. With the return of players like QB Jordan Rodgers and WR Jordan Matthews, the future looks bright on West End Ave.
Alabama 42 Auburn 14
Well, it was payback day for the Tied and did they get their payback. Trent Richardson may have put himself at the top of the Heisman list. He made up for his disappointing showing against LSU and ran all over the Tigers for 203 yards and a touchdown. QB A.J. McCarron threw for three first half scores and the Tide defense dominated in this one. Next stop for Bama looks to be the BCS title game and a rematch with LSU.
That is one game that everyone will want to see after the thriller the two teams played a few weeks ago.
LSU 41 Arkansas 17
So much for the fight the Razorbacks were supposed to put up. They started out just fine as they converted two turnovers into a 14-0 lead. After that, it was over. The Tigers pounded Arkansas into submission and outscored them 41-3 the rest of the way. It was worse than the final score suggested too.
The Tigers will now play Georgia for the SEC championship on Dec. 3 in Atlanta and with a win move on to the BCS title game. LSU has been well prepared all year and they will probably play for the title even if they lose to the Bulldogs.
Georgia 31 Georgia Tech 17
Florida St. 21 Florida 7
Miss. St. 31 Ole Miss. 3
S. Carolina 34 Clemson 13