Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's Football Time in Tennessee (and Kentucky)!

It's about dang time. It's finally here--the first college football weekend of the year. I have waited eagerly for it! This weekend kicked off with work at UPS, precious little sleep, and then the Tennessee opener versus Alabama-Birmingham. And it was accompanied with my family's UT game tradition (started by me), a pizza. I've influenced Tricia's family a bit with this, as the only thing we eat when UT plays is pizza. But I must digress a bit--I'm becoming every bit as influenced by their Louisville-Kentucky game tradition of a party. We're having it here at Tricia's house this year, as Tricia's mom shocked all of us by getting cable this week. That is an unheard of development, but one welcomed by someone who's had cable all of his teenage and adult life. Tricia says that at least now she can catch up on Orange County Choppers like I have. Anyhow, with today's UT-UAB game, I am disgusted. Oh, it started well enough--stinging, swarming defense, high-octane offense, a kicking game that rocked, even if the kicker did miss his second field goal try. Erik Ainge led UT to its first two scores and looked good. And then the first quarter ended. For the next 3 quarters, it was as if they became the Bad News Vols--they were horrible. I don't know what the heck Randy Sanders was thinking--it was a totally different game plan. And then Rick Clausen came in and just made UAB's defense look like a pee wee team. Imagine my mortification--I am an anti-Clausenite. I firmly believe we are better off without a Clausen at the head of this team after what Casey Clausen put us through for 4 years. But for the first time ever I have to admit that Rick Clausen was the better quarterback. Ainge just didn't get it--he looked like the pee wee player the rest of the game, whereas Clausen was cool as a cucumber. His stats proved it too--he threw for over 200 yards. I firmly stand by my belief that a) we need to fire or demote Randy Sanders, b) we need to hire back David Cutcliffe, and c) we need a down home Southern boy leading this team at quarterback. Ainge is from Oregon and Clausen is from California. The last 6 pre-Casey Clausen starting Tennessee quarterbacks (going back to Andy Kelly--Kelly, Heath Shuler, Jerry Colquitt, Todd Helton, Peyton Manning, and Tee Martin) were all down home Southern boys who understood what football in the South and in the SEC are all about, and they played like it. Poor Jerry Colquitt--he lasted only 3 or so plays before UCLA broke his leg and ended his career. But he was one tough customer. Now, you ask, aren't I being discriminatory? You bet your bottom dollar. No other league (except maybe the Big Ten) plays football as rough as the SEC. No other league can match the intensity of SEC football. Yet the SEC gets routinely disrespected on the national level, for such novelty acts as Southern Cal or Oklahoma. If you don't believe SEC football is all that great, just look at what Steve Spurrier did at Florida, or Mark Richt's work at Georgia, what Gerry DiNardo and Nick Saban did at LSU, Houston Nutt at Arkansas, and Philip Fulmer's work at Tennessee. These are the premier programs in the conference today (Auburn isn't consistent enough, and Alabama has been off the map for a decade). All of these programs have consistently played tough, Southern quarterbacks (with the possible exception of the Spurrier years at Florida--Rex Grossman, anyone?) who didn't give a flying fiddle dee dee who you were on the other side of the ball. These Yankee (or Hollywood boys or whatever) quarterbacks don't know how to sneer and give an opposing linebacker an "in your face." Southern football players are the best in the country. With that, I must now go and prepare for my adopted team, Louisville. I've decided I can root for them comfortably, although not with as much excitement and enthusiasm. My blood runneth Tennessee Orange.

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