Vol fans were still smiling today in 1967, almost three weeks after Tennessee put the finishing touches on a 9-1 regular season with a 41-14 win over Vanderbilt, in a campaign that brought home the first SEC title since 1956. Doug Dickey had said the fourth year of his tenure at Tennessee would be special, and he was right.
The Vols lost the season opener at UCLA, yet rolled through the next nine opponents by a combined score of 243-95, settling some old scores in the process. The Vols knocked off Alabama 24-13 on Oct. 21, the first win over the Crimson Tide since 1960, and Ole Miss by 20-7 on Nov. 18, the first win over the Rebels since 1958.
The Alabama game was so inspirational that one exuberant Vol fan posed the ultimate question in a call to the KNS: “Does Coach Dickey intend to come back to Knoxville with the team or will he just walk up the river?”
The season finale against Vanderbilt was the last on Shields-Watkins Field for a number of seniors who helped bring Tennessee back into national prominence, among them Bob Johnson, Dewey Warren, Charlie Fulton, John Boynton, Albert Dorsey, Jimmy Glover, Walter Chadwick, Derrick Weatherford, Elliott Gammage, and Joe Graham.
Dickey called it a team effort all the way.
“I think a lot of players on that ’67 team played better than they were,” Dickey said. “Coach Bryant always told me that your great players have to play great and your average players have to play real good. That’s the secret to being a great coach.”
The Vols finished the regular season No. 2 in the nation, and played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Vols came off the mat of a 19-0 halftime deficit and had a shot at the victory in the waning seconds, but kicker Karl Kremser’s last-second attempt for the win faded to the right and the final was 26-24, Sooners.
That loss did not diminish the accomplishments of this team in the least.
In Dickey’s second, third and fourth years at Tennessee, the program was definitely on the upswing. The Vols were “back,” and Vol fans were convinced the team could win any time they took the field.
The 1965 team had a two-page picture in Sports Illustrated after the tie with Alabama. The exploits of the 1966, 1967, and 1968 teams were also chronicled therein in later issues.
The Vanderbilt game was the last played on the Shields-Watkins Field grass, so carefully tended by John Deanie Hoskins and Jim Wagner for so many years, until Sept. 17, 1994.
In the middle of 1968, word came that the field would be covered with something called Tartan Turf, a product of 3M, with the grass being pulled out and the artificial stuff put down.
Artificial turf stayed on the field in one form or another until the end of the 1993 season and another victory over Vanderbilt. Then came the ever-so-joyous announcement that grass would also be “back” for the 1994 season.
The 1967 Vols were quite a group. They are on the short list of teams Vol fans bring up as one of their favorites.
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016