Life Without Lofton. Playing the first of an undetermined number of games without star guard Chris Lofton, coach Hulk and the Pantheon lost to the Ole Miss Rebels 83-69 after leading by 10 at the half. Of course none of us got to see the un-televised game, but it sounds like it didn't look pretty. About halfway through the second half, Ole Miss guard Clarence Sanders kick-started a 20-2 run. After that, Tennessee couldn't get any closer to the Rebs than nine points. The Smiths did combine for 38 points, but that appears to be the sole bit of good news from the box score. Ramar had the kind of double double you don't want: 16 points and 10 turnovers.
Lofton says (UTSports.com audio link) he's able to put more and more weight on his sprained ankle and would like to be ready to play Sunday against Kentucky, but healing completely for the long term is the priority.
Up next: the Vols travel to Lexington to take on the Wildcats in Rupp Arena.
The Feeling is Mutual. There's a fantastic post over at Gator blog Saurian Sagacity on what makes the Florida-Tennessee rivalry what it is. An excerpt:
To you fans of other conferences, imagine if your conference deciding game was played virtually in mid-September every year since 1992? Take Tennessee's 1993 season as an example. After losing by 7 to Florida in Gainesville the 3rd game of the year, they ran the table to finish the regular season 10-1. Their reward? A trip to the Citrus Bowl, while Florida beat Alabama for the SEC title and went to the Sugar Bowl. Or, take Florida's 1998 season. A 3 point loss to Tennessee at Knoxville in overtime kept a 9-2 (1 conference loss) Florida team from the SEC championship game, which UT won along with the 98's MNC.
For Florida and Tennessee, it is not only the shot at a conference championship that is played for the second or third Saturday in September, it is a shot at the MNC. For two teams with 3 MNC's since 1996, no year was that more evident that the present one, where Florida's come-from-behind 1 point victory in Knoxville kept the train going that rolled all the way to Glendale on January 8th.
Also featured are sections on Why We (the Gators) Hate Them (the Vols) (1997, 1998, and oh, so sweet 2001) and Why They Hate Us (Jabar Gaffney, Steve Spurrier, and perpetually being a roadblock to an SEC Championship). Go read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Rocky Top Talker Lunicidal Vol for the link.
- Circle the Wagons. Yes, coach Cutcliffe interviewed for the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator position. Yes, he turned it down even though it would have doubled his salary. And yes, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor is a finalist for the head coaching position at Howard University, which could close to double his salary, and no, we don't know yet whether he'll be leaving.
A Firm Foundation? GoVolsXtra's Drew Edwards recently had a really nice article ($) comparing the 2006 football season to the remodeling of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. The line that's getting all of the attention, though, is this quote from coach Fulmer:
From our standpoint, it was a nice comeback year. Especially considering the issues we had and our schedule. You have a one-point loss to the national champions, a four-point loss (to LSU). The bottom line is you've got nine wins. Nine wins is OK at Tennessee. It's OK.
There's a gob of good stuff in that piece, though, so if you have access, go check it out.