|Where does Dooley go from here?|
|Monday, September 17, 2012|
You’re Derek Dooley. You’re Tennessee’s football coach. What do you do?
You see your team come apart like a second hand suit in the fourth quarter of a 37-20 loss to rival Florida.
You see your highly touted quarterback suffer a mental meltdown. Tyler Bray sprayed the ball all over the field in the second half, but few of his passes wound up in the hands of the intended receiver.You caught Bray’s best pass of the second half, but you were standing well behind the sideline stripe. Nice catch, but you risked a celebration penalty when you spiked the ball. But, hey, it was all over but the booing by then.
This is your football team. A 2-0 start had Vol Nation back in your corner. Even you had to be shocked when AP voters put you in its Top 25.
You were playing a Florida team that, like yours, had not proven itself. On paper, it seemed a tossup. It was one of those swing games that could very well set the tone for the rest of the season.
Just as the vultures were returning to their nests, the way you lost to Florida has them all stirred up again.
That’s not a good sign if you dare look ahead. You have the Akron Zips this week at home. Former Auburn Coach Terry Bowden is their coach. He knows the SEC.
The Zips lost 56-14 to Central Florida and 41-38 in overtime to Florida International. They mauled Morgan State last week, 66-6.
This just in: ESPN has announced that Game Day will not be in Knoxville Saturday. Neither will many of the 102,455 fans that made Neyland Stadium come alive with hope that the Florida seven-year itch would be scratched. Instead, Smokey still has fleas.
So after you give Akron the brush-off, your team faces the brunt of its schedule. You need a signature win and now in your third season, you’re still looking.
Your next four games are between the hedges against Georgia, in Starkville against a 3-0 and ranked Mississippi State team. They should be 5-0 when you play them.
Then you come home to play defending national champion and currently top-ranked Alabama, a team that just annihilated Arkansas. You polish off that part of your schedule with a trip to South Carolina for some low country cooking.
You’ll know what kind of team you have by then. Is it one that will stand up when the heat is on? Is it one that will go hide in a corner when someone punches them in the face? Or is it one that will come out swinging?
You not only have to worry about Bray bailing out on you. That Sal Sunseri coached defense that we heard so much about in the off-season, created running lanes wide enough that Alberta the Alligator could have run for 100 yards in a skirt.
What about the hype about your 3-4 defense and giving opponents multiple looks to confuse them? The only players that appeared confused were yours.
Florida running back Trey Burton took it 75 yards to the house out of the Wildcat formation.
“We didn’t get the check,’’ you said. “Nobody recognized it.’’ Yikes.
The Gators gobbled up 223 yards and three TDs on seven plays in the final 18 minutes.
You’re Derek Dooley. What do you do?