JOE BIDDLE: Vols hit bottom


Vanderbilt took the fight to the downtrodden Tennessee Vols in of all places, Neyland Stadium.

It was a 42-24 TKO over the Vols, who finished the season with an interim head coach and they had to see Vanderbilt get its first SEC win of the season.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Tennessee’s AD John Currie better study his history books on Tennessee football. The late Gen. Robert Neyland was hired as Tennessee’s head football coach with only one goal explicitly explained to him. Beat Vanderbilt.

Neyland coached from 1925-1952. He won four national championships, along with seven conference titles.

As Currie scours the coaching landscape, he knows it will not be the easy sale to sign on with the Vols. At one point this was a top 10-top-20 job.

If he wants to stay for any length of time, Currie best open the vault on Rocky Top.

The lopsided loss to Vanderbilt was the second for the Vols in as many years.

That won’t make it.

This and similar seasons will not be tolerated in Big Orange Country. Saturday’s attendance was 83,117, a season low.

Butch Jones found that out when this season fell apart on him. Butch’s bricks came tumbling down.

The next Vols coach has his work cut out for him. They will have almost everything you need to be successful in the SEC. They are in the weaker of the two divisions, the SEC East. They have plenty of financial backing from the university and boosters.

For that, they not only want results. They demand it.

So where does Vanderbilt go from here. They have had some success under now Penn State coach James Franklin. Successor Derek Mason has not been able to achieve the success Franklin had. Granted Franklin enjoyed the Perfect Storm.

Mason now has a 17-31 record in four years. He will not take this team bowling this season and he will lose the school’s all-time rushing leader in Ralph Webb. Going into this season Webb ranked among the top 20 on the SEC’s all-time career list.

Webb was not offered a scholarship in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla., home of the Florida Gators. But I haven’t seen as tough a competitor, as selfless a player and teammate as Webb.

His career rushing numbers are among the best backs that have ever played in the SEC. He’s not as big. He is not a runner that will run over you or out-run you. But he Webb is difficult to bring down and he will never quit trying to be at his best.

The Commodores got out of the gates fast. They scored on their first three possessions and for that matter the Vols were right on their tails.

The second half was pretty much the Commodores. Vandy scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who complemented Webb by completing four touchdown passes.

It was two teams just trying to survive. The Commodores did. The Vols, not so much.Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at  

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