Tennessee Volunteers on Precipice of Return to Prominence

By Patrick Schmidt
Butch Jones-Tennessee
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t get points for being close like you do in horseshoes, and no such thing exists as a moral victory in sports no matter how much you’d like to think it does. But if such a thing existed, then Tennessee had just that in their game vs. Georgia.

The Volunteer’s did everything they could hope for in the heart-pounding, stomach-turning, fist-clenched final moments of the game against one of the best teams in the country. The team showed grit, heart, determination, resiliency, talent and hope that this team isn’t as far away from competing against the conference’s elite as many had thought.

The final score showed that Tennessee lost in overtime by three after literally leaving their blood, sweat and tears on the grass at a frenzied Neyland Stadium, but you’d be hard pressed not to say each and every one of the players decked out in the gray Tennessee uniforms were not exhibiting characteristics of winners.

Saturday’s defeat was a measuring stick performance where Butch Jones could see how far his team has come since he took over Derek Dooley’s mess and how far he still has to go to be a championship-caliber team in Knoxville. Of the 102,000-plus in attendance on Saturday, many were optimistic, but I don’t think many had anticipated this game being decided in overtime and their team leading with seven seconds to go.

Be proud of how far this team has come. Be optimistic about taking the next steps to finish these games against the likes of Georgia, because the players and coaches in the locker room are using this as motivation to work that much harder. Tennessee showed they on the path to being a SEC power again today. I haven’t seen the crowd at Neyland that loud and that emotionally invested in the game in a long time. That’s a powerful statement.

This team believes in what they can accomplish and the fans believe in man leading their revival, and that’s a scary proposition for the SEC east.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and add him to your Google network.

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