By Joe Rector
Cooler temperatures rolled in on game day, but they in no way dulled the enthusiasm of Volunteer fans. The University of Mississippi arrived in Knoxville to do battle with UT. Saturday’s opponent was led by Lane Kiffin.
Most of us remember good ol’ Lane. He accepted the head coaching job at UT in 2009. With him, he brought his dad, defensive guru Monte Kiffin, and Ed Orgeron. They set out to recruit some of the highest rated high school players, and Vol fans were fired up about a program being revived and relevant once again.
As it turned out, some questions about recruiting practices arose, and in the blink of an eye, Lane and his crew pulled a Jed Clampett. The anger with a coach who left Rocky Top was fiery, and its flames were fueled when Kiffin stated that the job at USC was better to him than the one he had at Tennessee.
UT fans reacted by burning mattresses, painting slurs on the rock, and marching on campus. Who could blame them? A man comes to save Tennessee football, has a successful season with an even brighter future on the horizon, and then leaves.
Lane had come back to Tennessee as the Alabama offensive coordinator and whipped our football behinds soundly. The only uglier thing for a UT fan was witnessing Butch Jones walking the sidelines of the Crimson Tide as a low paid analyst while receiving thousands of dollars from a UT buyout of his contract. It seems that the hefty sum provided enough financial stability for Jones to kiss the ring of Nick Saban,
When Kiffin flopped at USC, some UT fans celebrated. His move to Florida Atlantic brought success to the university and renewed interest in schools needing a coach. Mississippi hired him, and he was back in the SEC. His brilliant football mind set a fire under the Ole Miss program, and the offense soon became one that caused plenty of fear at other schools.
At UT, however, things were looking up. Coach Josh Heupel and his staff brought excitement and high expectations. Even with a couple of losses, Vol faithful saw a difference in the program. They believed the Big Orange could compete and even beat Kiffin and would soon return to its rightful place as one of the league’s elite teams.
The ball game couldn’t have been more exciting. It began slowly, but soon, UT had found a rhythm. Combined, the teams ran nearly 200 offensive plays. However, just two plays enraged UT fans. One occurred when the Mississippi quarterback looked to have fumbled the ball, which UT recovered and ran for a touchdown. The other was a spotting call after a 4th down run that fell just inches short to the chagrin of folks in the stands.
All of the positive things from the weekend were destroyed when moronic fans began throwing things from the stands. Water bottles, beer cups, and even a golf ball rained down on the Mississippi sideline. It was an embarrassment to the university and other fans. The game didn’t make much news, but the actions of a few jerks went national.
I love UT football and have lived through the highs and lows over the years. During that time, I’ve spewed too many expletives, but not once have a chucked a bottle or can or any other object. After the display on Saturday, I don’t want anyone to make comments on the antics of other school fans after a few dressed in UT orange sullied UT’s reputation. Now, all our time must be spent trying to look like something other than hillbilly rednecks who attack other teams. Shame on us!