GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers Derek Dooley speaks turnover his players during a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
If you feel like flirting with insanity this evening, ask yourself this question: How much different would this game have been had Fate taken aim at Florida's Chris Rainey rather than Tennessee's Justin Hunter? Not that you want either player hurt, but remove any team's queen, and the entire chess match changes. Those positive vibes infusing Tennessee fans with positive anticipation for this game for the first time in six years presupposed a healthy and effective trio of Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, and Da'Rick Rogers. Remove one of the receivers, and the other gets doubled, and Bray starts wondering why he wasn't more concerned with developing that third option over the first two games of the season. The game plan and everything else went out the window the minute Hunter went down. So yeah, torture yourself by wondering just how different things could have been had Hunter played and Chris Rainey hadn't effectively negated hordes of penalties committed by a Florida secondary defending a passing threat missing one of its star players.
There are some positives to take away from this game, I guess. We've apparently found that "other receiver" in DeAnthony Arnett. Zach Rogers played fairly well, too. Mychal Rivera continues to play a key role in the offense. The defense played on its heels for most of the first half and mostly limited the damage to field goals and kept the game within reach. Bray and the team never quit. Dooley and whoever the leaders on the team are got control of the wheel just before the hole thing went into the ditch, and they did make a game of it with what had to have been a brand new on-the-fly game plan.
But after seven years, aren't we tired of sifting through the sludge looking for positives? This was never going to be Tennessee's year, but there was a transitional window of opportunity against the Gators this year, and yet here we are again. And again, regardless of winning or losing, the worst part is that we didn't even get to see the game we had been anticipating.