There’s no doubt everybody was excited 55 years ago today, when Tennessee defeated North Carolina at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, the one in North Carolina, not the one near Nashville. No. 20 Tennessee won 29-7 and would be ranked No. 13 the next week for Homecoming.
The Homecoming opponent would not be a directional school, but the nation’s No. 1 aggregation, the LSU Tigers, coached by Paul Dietzel, and featuring the “Go Team,” the “White Team,” and the “Chinese Bandits.”
Vol fans huddled by the radio this night more than a half century ago to catch snippets of the LSU broadcast on WWL Radio.
What they heard was a classic game between the Tigers and Rebels in Baton Rouge. That was the game, Halloween night, Billy Cannon had the now-famous 89-yard punt return up the east sideline to the north end in Baton Rouge that helped win the game, 7-3.
Despite this, the Gay Street experts were somehow convinced Tennessee would win. How that could happen, no one could explain. But they knew, in their heart of hearts, Tennessee would win. Somewhow, fans of that day just knew the Vols would pull off a major upset.
Vol fans also celebrated long into the night, worrying about LSU Sunday and into the week.
They knew the decade of the 1950s was rapidly coming to an end, but could not have fathomed the Vols would beat the No. 1 team in the nation, then lose to Ole Miss, decisively, to Kentucky, and, finally, to Vanderbilt.
The 1960s were just ahead and what a decade that would be. The last victory of this decade was a week away.
Friday, Oct. 31, 2014