It really is a lot of fun to do, you know? I grew up during the development of the UT-UF rivalry in the '90s, a painful time for most of us. I hated watching us get smoked by the likes of Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel, Doug Johnson, the Bachelor, etc. On top of all the pain associated with losing, I hated those games because they gave Spurrier a chance to make some snide remark and get away with it. Trash talking has always irked me, but the only thing you can really do to shut a trash talker up is to beat them on the field. On a few memorable occasions, we were able to do that to Spurrier-led Florida teams ('98, '01), but more often than not, he got away with his Citrus comments because we couldn't beat the Gators.
Because of those experiences during my formative years, I maintain a healthy dislike for Spurrier (on a completely unrelated side story, my grandfather was an optometrist in Newport and checked Steve Spurrier's eyes once when Spurrier was a kid...I have let him know several times that he could've saved us all a lot of grief with a few carefully placed pokes, but I guess that would've robbed us of a villain, right?). Because of Spurrier's ability to consistently emerge victorious and his penchant for talking smack after the fact, I have always enjoyed the games where we have been able to return the favor.
Last night was no different.
Continuing in my pattern from last week, below are my observations after watching the game.
- The members of RTT are all right :) Now that I'm in the real world and live farther away from Knoxville than I care for, I haven't gotten to many games in the last few years. Up here in ACC country, nobody is in touch with or seems to care about SEC football...which is interesting since ACC football is so incredibly lame (Question: if Georgia Tech is the ACC's best team, why were they trailing my alma mater late in the 3rd quarter last night? Ponder that one, ACC fans). Last night was my first experience with participating in the live game threads while watching the game on TV. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to chat with like-minded people who appreciate the splendor of UT/SEC football. So, thanks for that.
- I liked the black jerseys if for no other reason than they were something different. I grew up with Fulmer and enjoyed the highest highs and suffered through the lowest lows, but at the end, it was kind of boring. Kiffin has been anything but boring thus far, and the black jerseys were just another example of that. Now...while I'm on the topic of the jerseys, I think last night was a lot more about what the jerseys represented than the actual jerseys themselves. Obviously, the color of the shirt on a player's back doesn't change the way he plays. What might make a difference, though, is playing for a coach who you feel supports you no matter what. That's what Kiffin did with the black jerseys, in my opinion. He listened to the players, he empowered the captains to take action, and he embraced something they were excited about (I'm sure Hamilton would've listened if Kiffin had asked for the jerseys, but it had to be more convincing coming from Berry and Hardesty directly). That's what I think encourages me the most as we move further into the Lane Kiffin Era. He's getting the most out of his guys because he's willing to listen when they want to shake it up.
- It was a satisfying win if not the most statistically astounding win. If South Carolina holds on to the ball in the first 15+ minutes, then things turn out much differently. SC's defense is strong and was able to keep UT from any sort of sustained drive. UT's only drive of longer than 60 yards was the one that ended in the blocked FG. That being said, the Vols took advantage of the turnovers and cranked out a business-like victory. I seem to remember enjoying those back in the glory days.
- Montario Hardesty is a beast. He has been lost in the shuffle over the last few years amongst his injuries and the overall struggles of the team. Now that he's healthy and he's the main man...I am able to appreciate the fact that he's really good. That spin move he made to get our 2nd touchdown last night was a thing of absolute beauty. I hope he's able to finish out the season strong because he has NFL potential.
- Crompton did what he had to and didn't force anything. I think that I could've hit Austin Johnson on that first touchdown pass, but Crompton played well enough to get us through. There were a few throws in there that made me wonder if he was reverting to his pre-"4th quarter of Auburn game" self, but he was not too shabby overall. As long as he stays within himself, we've got a legitimate shot at 8 wins.
- I just can't say enough about this defense...they are outstanding. From a yardage perspective, no, it was not their most impressive night. That being said, they continue to do what they need to do to help us win ballgames, and in last night's game, they helped us maintain a comfort level when the offense was stuck in neutral. Each group of the defense had an impressive outing. The defensive line got great surge all night, especially Dan Williams. We talked on the game thread about shutouts/wins being greater than sacks, but it was nice to not go 0 for October in the sack department. The linebackers played well despite suffering more injuries. We struggled when Reveiz went down in the Ohio game, but Greg King was able to come in last night and maintain the high level of performance. In the secondary, Janzen Jackson can flat out bring the noise (though he could use some more Stick-Em on his gloves :P). The only downer comment I have about the secondary is that I'm starting to be legitimately worried EB won't get his 15 yards. November does look to be filled with potential INTs, but if nobody will throw at him, he might not get it. That would be immensely disappointing.
- I want the Elias Sports Bureau to look up the last time that any team in Divison I (I guess in the spirit of political correctness, I should call it the FBS) had 3 consecutive field goals blocked. 3 in a row?! Really?! This is simply echoing Will's thoughts, but the inability to kick a field goal is extremely disheartening. I hope that Alabama was the only game where horrific special teams comes back to bite us.
- This might be the sort of comment that invites bad karma down the road, but I do not fear Spurrier anymore. True, he has doubled the number of wins SC has in this series despite being there only 5 years. It is definitely worth nothing that those 2 wins came against the 2 worst teams that UT has fielded in my memory. We beat his last team at UF ('01), lost 2 heartbreakers in the 2 seasons before that ('99, '00...I was there and I still maintain that Jabar Gaffney did not catch that ball), and beat him in '98. It's almost as if Al Wilson singlehandedly stole his mojo on that crazy September night 11 years ago.
- Maybe that lost mojo has adversely affected Spurrier in every game he coaches. He has lost at least 5 games in each of his previous 4 seasons in Columbia and I think that's going to happen again this year. Either South Carolina is doomed to play bad football forever, Spurrier doesn't communicate as well with players as he did 10-15 years ago, or South Carolina simply can't recruit the caliber of players that Spurrier had at Florida. While each of those options may contribute to some extent, I think the combination of 2 and 3 are the more likely/more damaging realities.
All in all, it was a convincing and satisfying win, even if it wasn't always the most polished performance. It helped ease the pain of the Alabama game a bit for this fan, and it was apparent that Kiffin didn't let the players dwell on it too much. Hopefully we'll take care of Tiger High next week setting up a showdown with the Rebels for a possible January 1st bowl game. Go Vols!