Saturday’s loss between the hedges stung. The Vols entered the game as 17-point underdogs but emerged with a lot of respect after a three-point loss in a game where they never really looked like underdogs.
They jumped out to a 10-0 lead before eventually settling into a heavyweight fight with a team that many predicted to run away with the SEC East after the first week of the season. They fought to the end and had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter – a late fumble in their own end zone proving to be the difference maker in the game. But the Vols, featuring a starting lineup peppered with first-year players, went to Athens and nearly sent the SEC into chaos, something that few people outside of Vol Nation predicted.
But even if experts and pundits across the country didn’t pick Tennessee to win the game, or, in some cases, even be in the game in the fourth quarter, they did pick up on the key takeaway from Saturday’s performance.
This 2014 team isn’t like any of Derek Dooley’s teams. It isn’t even like last year’s team; even while featuring many players who were on the 2013 squad…Anyone who watched the game could tell you that.
And many of them did.
People across the country – some Vols, some not – took to Twitter after the game to chime in on this young, tough team that gave Georgia all it wanted and more for four quarters in Athens. They see the improvement, not only from year-to-year under Butch Jones, but also from week-to-week. National experts, former players, opposing fans…etc. all saw something that Vol fans have longed for over the past five years.
Here are some of the tweets that I was able to find. It may not seem like much, but people are seeing the evolution of this football program. And not only are they seeing it, but it is so blatant that they can’t help but point it out. When’s the last time we’ve heard anything like that?
UGA survives. I know UT not content with moral W’s, but young Vols showed admirable fight again. Not surprised after what I saw at OU. — Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 27, 2014
Tennessee’s improved so much. It’s like they hired a head coach who had done the job before and done it well. — Spencer Hall (@edsbs) September 27, 2014
J. Hurd is getting better and better each game — Leonard Little (@DBL_L_01) September 27, 2014
Every team in the country better take notice of Tennessee — GHOST (@KM1_Era) September 27, 2014
Butch Jones spoke of his team’s progress during his press conference on Monday. He understands that winning is the expectation, but also sees that improvement is happening at all levels of his program.
“We’re going to be a good football program,” Jones said. “We’re going to win a lot of games around here. The only variable is time, but we’re gonna do it right and we’re making progress.”
Visible progress, at that.