We’re almost there, friends. Our trip down memory lane, reliving all the heartbreak of our recent past, is gradually coming to a close. For some, reliving these struggles has been a bonding experience. Getting closer to fellow fans that have experienced the same distress, forging bonds that can never be tested. For others, like myself, this has been cathartic. Reliving suffering toughens the hide and dulls negative emotions like nothing else can. Gradually becoming more and more numb to loss will be a useful tool as our fan hood matures.
Then there’s the people that refuse to relive it. To those people, I hope they remember the immortal words of philosopher George Santayana:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Let’s get back to it!
Michigan, Basketball, 2014
This one was frustrating for a lot of reasons. Tennessee was fantastic as a team, but Florida had dominated the SEC most of the season, going a perfect 18-0 in conference and winning the SEC Tournament. Meaning, the only chance that Tennessee had at picking up any sort of lasting honors would be to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
They did just that. After needing overtime to beat Iowa in a First Four game, they cruised to victory over 6-seed UMass and a Mercer team that had just upset 3-seed Duke. All of this set up a match up with 2-seed Michigan in the Sweet 16.
The game went in Michigan’s favor early, with the Wolverines leading by as much as 15 at one point. Then, Tennessee turned up the heat on defense, forcing 12 turnovers on the night. With six seconds remaining in the game and the score standing at 72-71 in favor of Michigan, Tennessee found themselves under Michigan’s basket, only needing an inbound and score to take the lead.
Have you ever noticed that whenever Tennessee is in a close game, the referees always give them the favorable whistle? Me neither.
Tennessee inbounded the ball to Jarnell Stokes a few feet from the lane. Stokes went to drive to the rim, and Michigan’s Jordan Morgan flopped to the ground as soon as Stokes got near him. Whistle. Charge call. Michigan ball. Game over.
Final Score: Michigan 73, Tennessee 71
Oklahoma, Football, 2015
In the first game between two ranked teams in Neyland Stadium since 2012, Tennessee needed double overtime to let the fans down. Most people that were there maintain that it was the loudest that the stadium had ever been. Even to the point of some of the Oklahoma players acknowledging the noise during and after the game. Oklahoma needed some heroics from their future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield just to win it.
But they won it nonetheless.
Tennessee led for the entirety of the game going into the 4th quarter. But 14 points in the 4th from Oklahoma tied the game up at the end of regulation, 17-17. In the first overtime, Baker Mayfield and Jalen Hurd exchanged rushing touchdowns. In the second overtime, despite the deafening crowd noise, Mayfield connected with wide receiver Sterling Shepard for an 18-yard touchdown. Tennessee’s answer? A Josh Dobbs interception.
Final Score: Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 24 (2OT)
Florida, Football, 2015
Two weeks following their collapse against Oklahoma, Tennessee had to travel down to The Swamp to take on Florida. Coincidentally, many people point to this game as the start of the downfall of Butch Jones.
Leading 20-14 in the 4th quarter, Tennessee would again collapse late in the game. Following a Hurd touchdown to take the lead 26-14. For some reason, Jones decided to kick the PAT instead of going for two. Why?
The “chart” said so, that’s why!
Of course, we know how this ends. Florida came storming back to win the game 28-27. The final touchdown was a 63-yard pass on 4th and 14 with 1:26 left. The 2015 Tennessee team was rapidly earning the reputation of being a good team that always managed to find a way to lose.
Final Score: Florida 28, Tennessee 27
Alabama, Football, 2015
Remember that 2015 football team I mentioned earlier that had the reputation of being a good team that always managed to find a way to lose? Yeah, here they are again.
This time around, though, they would bow out in a tough one against No. 8 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In this game, unlike the others that season, Tennessee never had a massive lead to blow. Instead, the game was either tied or a one score game, throughout.
Following a late Hurd touchdown, Tennessee took the lead 14-13. Alabama, in turn would march back down the field behind the giant legs of Derrick Henry, who would go on to win the 2015 Heisman to take a 19-14 lead. Dobbs, looking to drive down the field for a last second score and instill himself as a Tennessee football legend, would get sacked on his final drive and fumble. Alabama recovered, and Tennessee went home empty-handed. Again.
Bonus heartbreak: Butch Jones gave the media this gem after the game:
I thought our team showed some grit, some determination and some resiliency on the road against a quality opponent, a top 10 opponent, in a hostile environment to go down and drive the ball and put us in a position to win. At the University of Tennessee, there are no moral victories.
We should’ve known a lot sooner than we did…