The following is a true Halloween story experienced by the High Holy Sports Editor this week:
On my walk around the outside of Neyland Stadium to The Daily Beacon newsroom today, I almost stepped on an 8-foot black snake slithering its way toward the river.
It was a sign. The evil spirits are leaving.
They are the same evil spirits that caused the Tennessee football team to lose five home games in the past three seasons by a combined score of 165-54.
When I saw that snake, I thought about Casey Clausen's fumbles in the rain against Florida in 2002. I remembered the 34-14 home loss to Alabama that year and the homecoming embarassment to Miami.
I thought about the end-of-half fumble returned for a touchdown by Georgia last season. I even had a quick flashback to Oct. 2 when the Vols failed to produce anything good in a 34-10 home loss to Auburn.
As soon as the black snake crossed so I could continue my journey, though, all evil memories were forgotten.
The Dark Ghost of Tennessee's Past is gone. It seems he can no longer stomach the success.
I don't blame him, either. If I were a Vol-hating ghost, I wouldn't want to be around if UT earns a spot in the SEC title game after capturing its second straight 10-win season in front of 108,000 proud, orange-clad fans on Nov. 27 when the Vols play host to Kentucky.
It almost seems inevitable.
But it's not.
First, Tennessee must head to South Carolina on Saturday, where - in a week of curse-reversing - the 'Cocks are looking to reverse their curse of losing to the Vols. USC's last four losses to Tennessee have come by a combined 21 points.
Gamecock coach Lou Holtz - who has suffered six consecutive losses to Tennessee dating back to the 1991 "Miracle at South Bend" - is nearing the end of his career and still has his team in contention to win the SEC East. All he has to do is conjure up the ghosts of his illustrious past for Saturday's game.
But if that were going to happen, why would the Vols' evil spirits be leaving?
I decided to ask the snake - instead of giving me any insight, though, the serpent just hissed at me.
I responded by putting my hands in the shape of a "T" (think: upper-case cross) and hissed back at him.
He quickly struck his head toward me.
Then he hurried away from Neyland because he was scared. It seems the power of the "T" has returned.
It sent chills down my spine.
The spooky prediction: Tennessee 28, South Carolina 9.
- Matt Giles is the sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in journalism. He can be reached at mgiles@utk.edu.