“Not a Happy Camper”

Dr. Jay Julian well remembers the 1968 Tennessee-Auburn game well, Auburn 28, Tennessee 14, in a game that was considered a mild upset, unless, of course, you were on the Tennessee side.

It had been raining all day, and Alabama and LSU had played there earlier that afternoon. The final straw came when “Doc” was told the band couldn’t perform at halftime. As expected, he was not a happy camper. Asked about it after the game, he said he didn’t understand it.

He said the band didn’t drop or spill anything. The field wasn’t in danger. He could have added that none of his band members wore cleats, but he didn’t.

In those days, there was no “Rocky Top” in the band’s repertoire, so that wasn’t a concern. (That famed song didn’t come along until 1972.)

All of that made as much sense as anything else that happened that day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

“They Didn’t Have a Prayer”

There was a time at Mississippi State in September 1987, the Vols’ first trip there since 1950, when whoever was in charge of the pre-game festivities forgot to cue the minister for the invocation. There he was on the sideline at the microphone, ready, willing, and able to show his talents. Then he wasn’t there, and no one knew exactly where he was.

That event was not forgotten in the stories of the Vols’ 38-10 victory that day.

More than one sportswriter took note of the omission, noting in their stories that “even before the game started, it was obvious that the Bulldogs didn’t have a prayer.”

That may be reaching for a lead, as some journalists might say, but when deadlines are approaching, you take genius from whatever source it might come.

Sometimes you just have to look a little harder than usual.

You can hear a lot by listening, Yogi Berra once said, or is alleged to have said.

That’s for sure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Cloud 9?”

Sometimes a big win causes dire consequences the next time out. When Tennessee defeated Alabama in October 1982, the first win since 1970, the next opponent, Georgia Tech, had lost at Auburn 24-0 that same day.

John Majors did everything he could to bring the Vols back to earth, including having players jump off an imaginary “Cloud 9.” Coaches preached that the most important game was the next one. They did everything they could to help bring the players back down to earth.

Apparently, nobody was listening.

Nobody believed him.

It didn’t work. Georgia Tech won 31-21 at Grant Field the next Saturday, and it wasn’t that close.

The Vols did recover. Memphis State fell the next week, and all was once again right with the world.

There was another misstep that season, with the Vols losing at Vanderbilt, but would not lose again to the Commodores again until 2005, then again in 2012 and 2013.

Someone called that ending the story on a sour note, but that’s what happened in 1982, 2012, and 2013.

Sour, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, July 21, 2014

“Only Yesterday”

Doug Dickey always said the 1967 Alabama game, Tennessee 24, Alabama 13, at Legion Field in Birmingham was the key win during his time at Tennessee.

That’s why finding the tape of the game on YouTube was so great.

It was fun watching the Vols of 47 years ago knock heads with the Crimson Tide.

There was the 67-yard drive off the opening kickoff for a score, Bubba Wyche, Bob Johnson, Richard Pickens, and a host of Volunteers leading the way. Albert Dorsey intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter, taking the final oskie in for a score that clinched the victory.

Steve Kiner, Jack Reynolds, and Vic Dingus were great, as were the rest of the defenders in orange.

All in all, it was a great day, many years ago.

But watching the tape, it only seemed as if it were yesterday.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

“The Best Press Box in the Country”

There was a time Tennessee’s Shields-Watkins Field, the old Crump Stadium in Memphis, and the now-demolished Orange Bowl were near locks as the three worst press boxes in college football as voted on by the Football Writers of America, gentlemen who should know what works in press areas… and what doesn’t.

When Tennessee built a new press box in 1962, it fell to Gus Manning to brief Gen. Neyland, then at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, about the progress of the west side and press box addition. Neyland had apparently tired of the constant criticism of the press coop and let his feelings be known once construction was underway, with a stipulation, of course.

“By golly, we’re going to build a best press box that will be the best in the country, and, furthermore, let’s hope that it improves the quality of writing that is done there,” said “General,” as Gus called him.

The General died before there was a game played in 1962, covered from the new press box towering over the west side, but history will have to be the judge whether he got his wish.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

“Knowing It Before It Happens”

Funny thing how some people know what’s going to happen before it happens.

Ed Murphey, a Vol track star and SEC champ in the mile in the 1950s, had a unique recruiting pitch to Vol-to-be Johnnie Jones, out of Munford, Tenn.: “Some day you’re going to score the winning touchdown against Alabama.”

(That was in the days alums and fans could be involved in recruiting.)

Was it recruiting hype or not? What did Ed know?

The year was 1983, Oct. 15. Alabama was ranked no. 11. Tennessee was unranked. The ball was on the Tennessee 34-yard line. The call was “48 option,” with quarterback Alan Cockrell under center.

He was to decide whether the play went left or right. The noise was so loud one lineman went the wrong way, but Cockrell ran the play to the left side, and Jones made it happen, 66 yards to the northeast corner where all the Tennessee fans were. He made it all the way without being touched.

The final was 41-34.

It was a memorable run in a memorable game.

When you think about this game, you might think about a man named Ed Murphey.

Friday, July 18, 2014

“How You Finish”

The football series with Sewanee, which started in 1891, the year the Vols started playing football, was one marked by two significant streaks.

Sewanee, a powerhouse of those early days of college football, won 10 of the first 11, by a total score of 246-24. In the 12th game of the series in 1914, the Vols started a streak of their own, winning 11 in a row, outscoring Sewanee 269-29.

The overall record in the series is Tennessee 12 wins, Sewanee 10, but Tennessee dominated the later games of the series, much as Sewanee did the early games. It did take Tennessee four games to score on Sewanee in the early days of the series, with Sewanee pitching seven shutouts along the way.

In games between 1926 and 1939, Tennessee won all six, giving up but 15 points.

The series may be close in the final results, but Tennessee overcame a considerable deficit to gain the edge in the series.

The Vols played in Sewanee three times, Chattanooga seven times, and the remainder in Knoxville.

For the Vols against Sewanee, it wasn’t really how they started, but how they finished.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

“Names, Names, Names”

The question for today relates to Tennessee football players’ names, how their “stage name,” if you will, differs from their real name.

Noticed that Alton Howard, known to some as “Pig,” has been referred to, interchangeably, by both monikers in a great many media.

Wonder what his “official” name, for game programs and publicity material
might be?

There has always been a debate over names.

Elizabeth Majors said one of her sons was named John when he came to Knoxville, but became Johnny. The name was true with Bob Majors, who became Bobby, and, to a lesser degree, Bill Majors, who became Billy in some quarters.

There was a debate whether William Buxton, a defensive tackle from the early 2000s, was actually “William” or “Buck.” Phillip Fulmer called him “William,” but he was “Buck” in the media guide.

Kyle Cruze came from East High School in the 1950s, but was known to all as “Buddy,” so that’s what he was on the roster.

Vol fans knew Joseph M. Wyche better as “Bubba,” even though he was listed as “Joe” Wyche in a mid-1960s football media guide.

There are others, to be sure, but we always have to be precise with names, whatever they are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2014

“A Model of Decorum”

Most times over the years, the Vol Network booth was a model of decorum, a precision-tuned machine.

Occasionally, however, that decorum was broken, and you took your chances with the consequences.

At the 1995 Arkansas game in beautiful Fayetteville, either Maurice Staley (No. 21) or Marcus Nash (No. 12) caught a pass. The Vols were wearing the white jerseys with the nearly invisible numbers, so things were a little iffy with the identifications.

Stat man Russ Bebb leaned behind John Ward ever so furtively, maybe not so furtively, asking anyone who would listen, “Was that Nash” [making the number 12 with his hands] or Staley [making the number 21]?”

About the time, the spotter made the number 12 [Nash] with his hands, Ward turned around with one of those disapproving stares, and the conversation died.

Deader than heck. (Not, of course, to be confused with “Working like heck.”) There wasn’t a lot of frivolous talk, you know.

We all laughed about it later, but for a moment the decorum was broken, and Ward wasn’t happy.

In the Vol Network booth, a happy John Ward was much, much better than the other kind.

By the way, Russ was a great statistician, able to calculate the length of a punt and the return nearly instantaneously on one of those deals with the stylus and the paper you wrote on and then erased by pulling it away from the backing. Don’t know what they’re called, but we all had one when we were kids. Any idea what that is? Help, please.

In any event, the Vol Network booth was a great place to be, win or lose, preferably win.

Don’t know how it is these days, but that’s the way it was way back then.

Monday, July 14, 2014