Vol fans, in checkered glory, flocked to Neyland Stadium on Saturday evening to watch what was supposed to Tennessee’s return to national prominence. And, as has frequently been the case over the last decade of decline, they were once again
disappointed subject to a thorough, soul-crushing defeat.
On this night, it didn’t matter that their team came into the game just 1-27 in their last 28 contests against ranked teams. It didn’t matter that their beloved Vols were just 65-61 over the last 10+ years. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t knocked off a power 5 team in the regular season outside of South Carolina, NC State, Kentucky or Vanderbilt since 2009. It didn’t matter that the Vols were thought by many to be a year away from competing for an SEC East championship – a title they hadn’t won since way back in 2007.
Nothing mattered for the Vol faithful, save the game on the field. For the second year in a row a sellout crowd of 102,455 “checkered” the stadium. And it was spectacular.
I was quick to criticize the crowd after last year’s disappointing Florida loss. Neyland, on that day, was beautiful but nervous. Fans never fully embraced that game – never fully let go and let it be known that, recent history be damned, they believed their team could win. And they were going to “give their all” for Tennessee.
No. Saturday was different. It wasn’t the return of the Vols, but it may have been the return of Neyland. All evening long, Vol fans made things tough on the Sooners. False starts were rampant and Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled to communicate with his offense. The crowd of raucous Vol fans even set a new decibel record for The General’s House – if you were in attendance, your ears are probably still ringing.
With Oklahoma battling and driving, situations in which the crowds of the last decade may have wavered, Vol fans kept rising to the occasion.
— Football Time in TN (@FootballTimeMag) September 13, 2015
The timidity and caution which rightly characterized Neyland Stadium in big games the last few years were nowhere to be found Saturday evening. Make no mistake – Vol fans more than did their part.
Neyland rocked until the clock struck zero. And it kept rocking into the second overtime until an ill-advised Dobbs pass fell into the arms of the wrong team and ended the game.
With that, once again, Vol nation had its collective soul crushed. Those in attendance had just witnessed the Vols lose a home game in which they held a 17-point lead for the first time in the 119 seasons of Tennessee football.
That’s the very definition of soul-crushing.
But, when SEC play rolls around, 102,455 Vol faithful are sure to flock back to Neyland and scream until they lose their voices. Even if their Vols struggle to win more games than they lose over the next decade, just as the last, they’ll still show up in droves.
No amount of heartache can keep them away. Their passion cannot be defeated, even though their team can.
That’s the curse of the Vol fan.