If Vandy Coach, James Franklin, plays the card game, bridge, I wonder if he might enjoy this weekend’s game? To be clear, I have no idea whether Coach Franklin plays bridge or any other form of cards, but I use it simply for my "bridge" analogy.
This week, the Vols have stated and rightly so that they are taking a "have to" approach to becoming bowl eligible. The Vols stand at 4-6 on the season, 2 games short of becoming bowl eligible with 2 games to play. While maybe somewhat disappointing, I don’t think it was ever unrealistic that the Vols would again find themselves this season in this position for the third consecutive year awaiting the Vandy game, especially after this year’s schedule. Unfortunately many of these current Vol players have not been able to accomplish that goal. Maybe the third time is the charm?
In the game of bridge, I liken the Vols to having announced their strongest suit. It gives the opponents and your partner some idea of what cards are in your hand. The Vols' "strong suit" appears to be "have to" which = "want to" as far as I am concerned. I have no doubt this team wants to win. I think they have "wanted to" win a lot of games that they couldn't.
Once the game of bridge begins, it is as simple as trying to take enough "tricks" to win the game and accomplish your announced goal. The Vols are at home where they have played better (albeit the Auburn game was not one of them), they "have to" win, and if payback is in the Tennessee vernacular, then that should be on the Thanksgiving table for Vandy to eat.
There’s a hitch. Even in the game of bridge, a player can be too zealous, play cards incorrectly, lose track of what has been played; all the while your opponent is holding that one or two cards that will keep you from attaining your stated goal. This occurs often, especially when the opponent knows how to play the game or can take advantage of your poor play.
Point: "Have to" IS an obvious attitude position. "Want to" may not be enough, especially for a squad that for years has had difficulty closing out a single game or team goals.
Vanderbilt is playing solid football now, but they are not Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, or even Georgia (though Vandy beat an entirely different Georgia team than we played).
I had an opportunity and privilege of asking a question to Head Coach, Butch Jones, at a luncheon I attended at Neyland Stadium this past summer as part of a sponsorship appreciation event hosted by the Vols. I asked Coach Jones: "You have ~ 20 seniors on this team…how have they responded to the coaching changes and new challenges?"
He offered an insightful response but made it clear that maybe some of the improvement that needed to occur at Rocky Top had to start with the seniors. Well, seniors…..brush up on your bridge game. This team needs you and it’s time.