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This Week in UT Sports History – Nov. 9th-15th

(Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly series written by RTI columnist Lexie Little

Lady Vol Soccer walked off the field at Regal Soccer Stadium as SEC East division champions following a 1-0 win against No. 9 South Carolina on Friday. On Senior Night, Wrenne French secured the No. 2 seed and a double bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament with the sole goal on the pitch.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Volleyball picked up a win against No. 15 South Carolina before dropping a match in three sets (16-25, 23-25, 23-25) on Saturday in Knoxville. The Lady Vols dropped to 2-4 on the season. However, hometown junior Lily Felts gave her fellow citizens some reasons to cheer, registering 18 kills and 11 digs on the final box score. Felts, who head coach Eve Rackham Watt called “the most experienced player on the floor,” nearly matched her career high in kills (19) which came against Colorado State in November 2018.

In Arkansas, quarterback woes continued for the 2-4 Tennessee Volunteers football team. Up 13-0 heading into the half, the Vols allowed the Razorbacks to score 24 points in the third quarter alone, handing them a win for their now 3-3 season. Fans looking for an escape from dismal football play received good news last week when the Southeastern Conference announced basketball schedules. Rick Barnes and the Vols will take on Charlotte on Nov. 25 at Thompson-Boling Arena to kick off the 2020-21 season. The women’s schedule has yet to be announced.

Unlike the sports already underway, SEC basketball teams will face non-conference opponents in a historic year. Before they do, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at this week in UT sports history:

Nov. 15, 1969

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Riding a seven-game win streak including a 41-14 blowout against rival Alabama, the 1969 Tennessee Vols football team looked to stay undefeated in the Magnolia State against Ole Miss. Head coach Johnny Vaught and the Rebels already had three losses on their record. No. 3 Tennessee anticipated a win at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

They were wrong.

No. 18 Ole Miss scored 38 unanswered points, shutting out the eventual SEC Champion Tennessee team, all because of a kid named Archie. The Rebels rumbled to 21 points as they headed into the second quarter. An ugly 42-yard field goal from Cloyce Hinton made it 24-0. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Putnam recalled the scene as the low kick doinked off the crossbar and bounced through the uprights.

“Dang, I never saw such a gosh-awful lousy field goal in my life,” Tennessee sports information director Heywood Harris said. “But, dang, I guess it counts.”

Count it did, as would two subsequent touchdowns in the second half. Quarterback Archie Manning completed 9 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in addition to a rushing touchdown of his own. In his first eight games, he had completed 128 of 222 for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns. He had rushed for 11 touchdowns.

Karma came fast for the Vols.

Prior to the game, the cocky Tennessee constituency handed out buttons saying “ARCHIE WHO?” Tennessee All-American linebacker Steve Kiner gabbed well before kickoff, calling the Ole Miss team “mules” after they earned a reputation for trotting around the field—Manning running and scrambling—to outlast opponents on plays. The “mules” had the last laugh. (That is until Peyton Manning committed to Tennessee…)

The loss stood as the Vols’ only blemish on the regular season record, going 9-1 (5-1 SEC). The season met a dismal end against Florida in the Gator Bowl. Ray Graves’ final team beat the Vols 14-13 amid murmurings on Rocky Top about his replacement. Two days before the bowl game, word leaked that Dickey intended to leave Tennessee for his alma mater to take over for Graves as the Gator head coach. Dickey had earned SEC Coach of the Year for the regular season. Everything worked out for the Vols, however, as the 1970 team earned a record of 10-1 and became Sugar Bowl champions under Bill Battle. That season, Tennessee beat Florida 38-7.

The 2020 Vols take on Texas A&M in Neyland Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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Nov. 15, 1996

The reigning national champion Lady Vols and head coach Pat Summitt looked to repeat. Of course, history remembers they did, winning three consecutive national championships between 1996-1998 including a perfect 39-0 run in the last effort. But before they could barrel through the 1997-98 season, they had to make it through the 1996-97 slate beginning with home state opponent Austin Peay.

The Lady Vols established comfort on their home court early on. They won their opening game 80-59 in the first of 14 home wins. The challenge proved daunting for Mt. Juliet native Susie Gardner coaching her first Division I game against her idol, another Tennessee native who put women’s basketball on the map. A former player at Georgia and new head coach at Austin Peay, Gardner respected the formidable Summitt and her icy stare.

“You knew in preparation when you were preparing your team, you were preparing to play against an opponent that is going to be the best-prepared team that you would face that year,” Gardner told Autumn Allison of the Leaf Chronicle following Summitt’s death in 2016. “It was different. It’s hard to explain how it was different.”

Gardner said seeing Summitt felt like seeing royalty. She and her players who grew up in Tennessee just wanted a glimpse of her, particularly nearly five years later at the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, which Austin Peay would lose 80-38.

Summitt and the Lady Vols overpowered the young head coach and her team. They would only lose two in Knoxville that year including a heartbreaking 94-93 loss to Georgia in overtime. Road games told a different story as Tennessee battled for a 7-7 record away. The losses contributed to a 29-10 overall record at season’s end. Having gone 32-4 a season prior, Summitt would express some frustration as her gritty team found ways to win — and to lose. Yet, they still took the title. Mistakes made in 1996-97 became teachable moments, which of course paid off in the perfect season one year later.

National champion player and now head coach Kellie Harper and her team still await their 2020-21 schedule announcement.

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