On Saturday night, the Vol players tired down the stretch, causing Coach Dooley to comment that he was disappointed in the teams effort. "I think the team quit after the pick six" said Dooley. Later, Dooley added some insight to what he meant. "Sometimes players, nowdays, they get so focused on wanting to win that they don't enjoy the competitive element of the game. They don't enjoy when it gets tough, how to fight through it." Dooley wants his players to play "without thinking about the result and thinking more about how to compete that play. What happens with our team is we get so caught up in getting behind, we start thinking about losing the game and we don't compete."
That's exactly what happened against Oregon. They got their dauber down, knowing they were falling deeper behind, became dispirited, and allowed the Ducks to run all over Shields-Watkins Field. The players have a long way to go to "carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes" (the Seventh Maxim of Robert Neyland), especially against quality opposition.
With a teacher like Dooley (his words quoted above cause me to call him a teacher - a very high compliment), these players will learn how to give 60 minutes against the best teams. I'll be you will see better fight from the Vols next week if they're down a couple of TDs when tired in the second half.
As far as the fans are concerned, I'm not so sure.
On Saturday night, by the time the third quarter ended, there were expanses of visible bleachers in the old house. I'm not speaking only about the West grandstand (you in the know know of what I speak). I'm talking about the whole joint.
I know there are reasons for everything. There are many reasons why droves of Vol fans left Saturday when the fourth quarter rolled around and the game was pretty much done. It was a night game - already 70 minutes longer into the night than normal for a 7:30 start. It was wet. The young team was being overrun by big plays. Many fans have a long drive, and a late night game makes the home arrival time pretty late. Getting a head start on getting out of the parking lots/on to the buses and onto the freeway is an appealing option.
Last night reminded me of the Florida game two years ago. That, too was a rather sub-par performance, to put it mildly. In the middle of the second half, Neyland Stadium looked like it was hosting a horse show, except that fans were streaming away from the facility, all caught on the CBS cameras. And, it wasn't a night game.
It was embarrassing. I will never forget it. I'm sure it had an effect on the players. No doubt in my mind. But there were many subtexts during that episode that don't apply to the Oregon game, and there's no reason for digging up bad memories.
However, as the players "quit" on Saturday, so did the fans.
So, I want to open this forum to the question of our fans and their occasional penchant for leaving early.
What do you think about it?
Do you ever leave games early? Reasons? Are you growing disenchanted with the Tennessee fanbase? Are they justified in their leaving? Does it bother you at all?
Have at it - for more than 60 minutes, please!