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Tennessee-Marshall: The Best and the Worst

Best breeding: The Colquitts, who, if they were horses, would be owned by some Saudi Arabian prince.  The yearling Britton's first punt was for a solid 46 yards, and it was downed at the Marshall eight yard line.  So maybe that was all the farther he could kick it, and he just got lucky that it was downed inside the ten.  Not so.  Britton's second punt was 63 yards, and it, too, was downed at the Marshall eight.  His third effort was the best of the night: a 59 yard punt that was downed at the Marshall two yard line.  Three punts for an average of 56 yards per.  All inside the ten, one inside the five.  Oh, and they were high.  There were no returns.

Best sight for sore eyes:  Third string tailback LaMarcus Coker, who followed up the entire team's paltry -11 yard rushing effort last week by running 146 yards on eight carries for an 18.2 yard average by himself.  Even if you take out his 89-yard touchdown run, he still averaged 8.14 yards.

Worst failure to consult the media guide: After Coker's 89-yard run, which was the longest Tennessee running play since 1977 and the third longest in school history, the Jumbotron displayed an informational graphic about the play and identified Coker as "LaMarcus Cocker."  Runner Up:  The normally excellent and error-free Knoxville News-Sentinel, which featured an awesome above-the-fold, margin-to-margin picture (large pdf file!) of Coker escaping the desperation clutch of the last defender on his TD play, but which identified Coker as "LaMarucs Coker."

Best drainage: Shields-Watkins Field,  which laughed in the face of three inches of rain to cap off the last of four consecutive home games while the rest of the city was flooding.  Despite the monsoon-level torrential rains,  this was not a slosh-fest.  Credit the UT Ag department for installing "countermeasures" into the turf such as a 12-inch all sand root zone underlying the hybrid variety of turf known as "Tiftway Bermuda."

Worst drainage: The Neyland Stadium concourse, which featured inch-deep puddles at every turn.  Some Jihadist could have sent 50,000 infidels to eternal damnation just by flipping over a popcorn kiosk.

Worst end of a streak: Yesterday ended a 41-year streak of the Tennessee Volunteer football players entering the field by running through the giant T formed by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band for home games.  Runner Up.Yesterday also ended the 17-year streak for the Vol Walk.

Best fans: Anyone and everyone in the stadium who came and sat through the rain until the end despite one local television station reportedly telling people at 3:30 to just stay home.

Best fans, II: The Marshall Thundering Herd fans, who traveled six hours on dangerous highways, braved the lightning, downpours, and game delays, and smiled after a 33-7 defeat.

Worst career choice: "Ticket broker." Scores of forlorn individuals with soggy inch-thick stacks of tickets held high in their fists were wandering aimlessly in front of the stadium repeating the same best pitch for a bad product: "Four dry together!"

Worst pre-game:  Whenever somebody in the future attempts to label me a disloyal Tennessee Volunteer fan, I'll simply refer them to this post.  I had two tickets, but the person who was going to go with me bugged out, so I headed down to Knoxville in hazardous driving conditions in a car on its last bald tire by myself.  Halfway there, I suddenly found myself unable to steer, but I was able to somehow get the car off to the shoulder.  Blown tire, I just knew it.  I was a bit anxious about having to change a tire in the downpour along the interstate because just a few miles back two police cars were investigating a driver who had careened off into the trees.  When I finally mustered up the courage to get out, I found that my tires were intact.  I must just have hydroplaned, but it sure didn't feel like that.

I got to campus in plenty of time for the Vol Walk, hoping to finally get some photos for the blog.  On the way, I snapped this pic, which pretty much says it all for the day.

Anyway, it was still pouring, and there were very few fans along the Vol Walk route, so I figured I'd at least get some decent shots.  Wrong.  "The team is not walking today, they're bussing it," we were told.  I spent the rest of the day trying to keep my Digital Rebel XT from drowning.

Okay, so into the stadium.  I was forced to enter through Gate 10, the gigantic Green Mile-ish ramp leading to the upper level.  Did I mention it was pouring?  I finally made it to a covered area, and I ended up a captive audience to a spry, profane octogenarian usher who seized the opportunity to bombard me with a twenty-minute soliliquy, the primary message of which was that young whipper snappers like me don't know, and I'm paraphrasing here, anything.

I eventually escaped, and for the next 90 minutes, I felt like an extra on the set of The Fellowship of the Ring rehearsing that scene in the Mines of Moria scene where the Orcs come crawling out of every conceivable hiding place and then scurry back to safety at the first sign of danger. Action!  Scatter into the stadium from every direction like roaches!  Okay!  Back to the bowels!  Again!  Again!  Cut!  It's a wrap!

Finally, finally, we were seated.  It was still raining.

But it was football time in Tennessee.

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