April 17, 2024

I’ll Write What You’re Thinking: Tennessee won’t beat Florida

Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida since 2004, a year when YouTube, Twitter and iPhones didn’t even exist. What makes you think the Vols end the streak now?

Tim Tebow and Eric Berry // Photo by Julian Wood

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Ok. Let’s start at the beginning (the last time Tennessee beat Florida).

It’s 2004 and I’m sitting in my dad’s house with him, my stepmom at the time, who has now been out of the picture since 2012, and my former stepbrother, who I am still very close to.

The Vols are playing the Florida Gators on the television set, which at this time, is a massive, electrical contraption capable of squashing a youngster like myself if it were to fall off the 26-foot-tall wooden bookcase/fireplace/teapot display/storage area it was perched upon.

This was a time before TV’s were mounted on the wall. If this TV, nearly the size of a Smart car, had been mounted on the wall, the Sheetrock would have caved in.

So anyway, on the screen I see that the Vols have just scored a touchdown and now trail Florida, 28-27, with under four minutes left and are just an extra point away from tying the game. This is huge. Tennessee has a chance to potentially take it to overtime or, better yet, get the ball back and win the game in regulation.

In my mind, I know that all they have to do is stop Florida’s offense, which has been putrid in the second half.

My dad, a lifelong Vol fan, tells me something along the lines of “this just feels like a Tennessee win.” He has experienced the high times of the 90’s when Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and Florida head coach Steve Spurrier battled for the SEC nearly every year, so he knows the importance of the game.

I, on the other hand, am fairly new to this borderline-insane family love affair with Tennessee football.

While I sit thinking about how Tennessee will stack up on the next drive, the Vols’ kicker, James Wilhoit, misses the extra point.

What.

How do you miss an extra point? Immediately, I begin crying. Not so much because of the missed extra point, but more because of all the expletives uttered and objects thrown around the room by my dad, which was somewhat terrifying to an 11-year-old.

Still yet, I knew I could have made that extra point easily.

I sat and watched the remaining minutes, knowing without a doubt the Vols were finished. When miraculously, Tennessee got a defensive stop with enough time left on the clock to run a few plays and get in field goal range. Freshman quarterback Erik Ainge completed a couple big passes and with six seconds left, remarkably, Tennessee had a chance to win it with a field goal.

Out comes Wilhoit, the same guy who just missed a straight-on extra point attempt from the three-yard line, to attempt a 50-yard field goal from the right hash. According to my dad, who is still livid, there isn’t a “snowball’s chance in hell” he makes it.

But he did make it, from 50 yards out, and I remember hugging my dad and singing happy songs, and running back-and-forth down the hallway wearing an orange hat, orange shirt and orange shorts. I was a fat kid (haven’t changed much since then), so basically, I looked like a giant peach. Without James.

I still get chills every time I watch the video of Wilhoit drilling the kick. What a great story of redemption. Never would I have thought, after doubling my age, that I would be sitting here writing about that being the last happy outcome in a Tennessee-Florida game.

Now, the Vols face another shot at redemption. Just like Wilhoit, they failed to meet expectations.

Tennessee was supposed to beat Oklahoma after racking up a 17-0 lead and dominating the majority of the game. It was an all-too-familiar scene watching the Vols give the game away on a silver platter at the end. Blame what you will – missed opportunities, conservative play calling, officiating. The fact of the matter is that Tennessee squandered their shot at returning to the big time.

But like Wilhoit, the 2015 team gets a second chance, this time against the Achilles heel. A win over Florida Saturday would undoubtedly mark the official, and long-anticipated, return of Tennessee football. Beating a 3-0 Gators team in ‘The Swamp’ would make the loss to Oklahoma seem like it was ten years ago.

Florida is the mental block that not only marked the beginning of a decline, but has stood in the way of Tennessee’s return for over a decade now. There was the 21-20 heartbreaker in 2006, the 59-20 beating a year later, and then who could forget 2012 when Tennessee broke down in the third quarter in front of a national audience to lose 37-20?

And last year, wow. Last year may have been the worst one yet. The Vols led 9-0 going into the fourth quarter and lost, naturally, 10-9.

This story is getting old. And it’s why folks were so upset after the loss to Oklahoma, because it felt like the loss to Florida last year.

As I sat in Neyland Stadium last October, wondering how long this torture could possibly continue, I said to myself: “I will NEVER pick Tennessee to beat Florida again.” And I won’t, at least not until the Vols prove they’re capable of getting the job done. I believe when Tennessee does finally break through, they will kick down the door, but I can’t believe it until I see it.

Because of the promise I made to myself, I’m taking the Gators Saturday in ‘The Swamp’ by a score of 8-2. Here’s how the game will play out:

Florida quarterback Will Grier will run backwards on the first play from scrimmage, trying to avoid Tennessee defenders, and will be tripped up in the end zone for a safety.

Tennessee will lead 2-0 throughout the game until, when quarterback Josh Dobbs is ready to take a knee to ice it, the center will snap the ball over his head and Dobbs will kick it out of the back of the end zone with no time remaining. The game will go to overtime tied at 2-2.

On the first play of overtime, Dobbs will throw a pick six to Florida star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III. There will be no need for an extra point, thus the Gators will win, 8-2. This seems to be the only scenario that makes sense at this point.

Of course, there is an alternative. Tennessee could redeem themselves with a ‘Wilhoit’ and thrash Florida by a couple touchdowns like they’re capable of doing. But for now, I’m sticking with the Gators.

I sure hope I’m wrong.

Featured image by Julian Wood

“I’ll Write What You’re Thinking” is a weekly sports column written by Tennessee Journalist sports editor Cody McClure. The Tennessee Journalist does not necessarily agree with the viewpoints of this column.

Edited by Jordan Dajani

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Sports Editor, Cody McClure, has been with TNJN since January 2014. He is passionate about SEC football and basketball. To him, there's nothing better in life than game day in Neyland Stadium. Cody covers the SEC for Athlon Sports. Additionally, he co-hosts Rock Solid Sports for WUTK 90.3 FM on Fridays from 7-8 p.m. ET. Cody is also interning at Sports Radio WNML working under Jimmy Hyams. In his spare time, he plays golf, travels the country, and plays guitar, badly. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

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