Hey, cheer up Vol fans.
So what if your team's offense can't start the game running. So what if your team's defense can't stop the running game.
So what if your team was in danger of becoming Duke's fifth victim in its last 44 games.
So what, Vol fans.
At least the Gators are back!
And isn't that reason enough to be happy?
You got what you wanted Saturday, right? Florida beat Georgia and now the Vols have as good as chance as any to represent the East in the SEC Championship.
I mean surely you couldn't have expected your team to blow anybody out, right? How selfish that would've been.
Your suddenly beloved Gators put your suddenly listless Volunteers back in the conference title hunt and now scoring 23 points against Duke isn't enough?
Remember what team we're talking about here. Tennessee blows people out about as often as Phillip Fulmer turns down an offer to "supersize" it.
Seriously, when was the last time it happened? The blowout part ...
When was the last time UT truly destroyed a team that was apt for the destroying? How long has it been since the Vols knocked out a weakling early and didn't let them get back up and at least put a fight?
Think about it.
Can you remember the last time an opponent came to Knoxville and looked and played as if they knew - without a shadow of a doubt - that they didn't have a prayer?
There was a time when it did actually happen.
For all you young ones out there, there was a time when the UNLVs, the La-Monroes and the Dukes of the world came into Neyland Stadium and were never 100 percent sure they'd come out.
Did you get that feeling Saturday? I sure didn't.
I saw a Blue Devils team that looked confident from the start. And I saw a Tennessee team that didn't do one thing to make them feel any differently.
These aren't your older brother's Vols, people.
They just don't have that fear factor anymore. They don't have that killer instinct.
They don't have that quick-strike offense that used to make teams thank God they were still getting a nice payout at the end of the day.
Now they come in and think the payout could be a victory.
And why wouldn't they?
It's not like offense-deprived Vols of the last two years can score enough to put anybody away by halftime.
No, the offense isn't the only problem. The coaching decisions are becoming increasingly questionable at times and the team's rushing defense is merely a rumor.
But the offense's inability to get off to a quick start (as in the first three quarters) and the coaches' inability to stick with what's working (the no-huddle offense) has dragged this team down to that wonderful world of mediocrity.
"Whether it's concentration or intensity or whatever that little edge is," UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders after the Duke survival, "we don't seem to have that edge until we have to have it.
"That's the frustrating part. Until we have to go out there and get it done, it's like we don't get it done."
Oh, good observation.
And there was more where that came from after the game Saturday.
Head man Fulmer acted as if he was thrilled with the victory. He called this a "dangerous" game and said he was "glad to get a win" against a "determined" Duke team.
"It wasn't a great day for us," Fulmer keenly observed, "but it was enough to get a good win - a good, solid win in a tough situation."
"We won tonight without our starting safety and without our starting tailback," Fulmer explained. "We had some other things going on ... Mark Jones was very limited."
Oh, and I suppose Duke's talent base isn't limited?
But hey, baffling postgame comments were the norm Saturday.
Time after time, UT's players and coaches said their team could've played better, but kept insisting that "a win is a win."
Um, wrong answer, fellas.
A win isn't always a win.
A win over Duke is a given. It's a predestined occurrence.
It's a hand-wrapped gift sent straight from the gods of college football.
But apparently not anymore.
Not with these Vols.
What was it that co-captain Kevin Burnett said after an inspiring win over the mighty Blue Devils?
"We love to make it exciting coming down to the end," he noted with a laugh. "That's just how we do."
Get used to it, Vol fans - that's just how they do.
- Brett Edgerton is sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Expecting a blowout? That's just a pipe dream these days
Published: Mon Nov 03, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:33 p.m.