HAT-HANGER: Tennessee’s 23-21 win over USC in 2013 still brings warm memories to the Volunteers, and bitter ones to the Gamecocks. Were it not for that loss, delivered by a last-second field goal, USC would have won the SEC East and been in the national championship picture.
The Vols still remember the win, although they only won one more game the rest of the season. Marquez North made an astounding catch while being bear-hugged by Ahmad Christian around the waist to pick up a third-and-9 and keep the game-winning drive alive. The SEC’s media guide shows the catch in North’s bio.
“He makes catches like that a lot,” offensive lineman Mack Crowder said. “He’s constantly working on his hands. That was a ridiculous catch, though. Those don’t come around too often.”
While Tennessee didn’t win much after that, coach Butch Jones reflected on what it meant for his program going forward. If nothing else, it showed the Vols can win big games.
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“It was a critical win for us,” he said. “There were so many things that went into winning that game, so many great illustrations of how to play winning football. We fell behind and we found a way to win to win the game. It was third-and-9 ”
He didn’t need to finish.
HANDS: North is a stud, and freshman Josh Malone has given Tennessee another safety net.
Malone, an early enrollee from Gallatin, Tenn., is a five-star recruit who was rated the No. 2 player at his position and the No. 20 player overall. Malone has 20 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown this year.
“I’m excited about our wide receiver position,” Jones said. “It’s going to be one that’s going to be exceptionally strong.”
CRONIES: Jones and Derek Mason will meet on opposite sidelines for the Nov. 29 Tennessee-Vanderbilt game, but they're familiar with each other. They each have ties in the Mid-American Conference, with Mason serving at Ohio and Jones serving at Central Michigan.
“We were involved in some very good football games,” Jones said.
PALMETTO POWER: Tennessee long has recruited South Carolina. The Vols have three South Carolina natives on the roster this year – Rock Hill’s Justin Worley, Gaffney’s Jaylen Miller and Sumter’s Marques Pair.
THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE: The inside cover of Tennessee’s media guide promotes the Vols’ looming efforts to expand their brand. With the slogan “Making a STATEment” printed over an outline of Tennessee, the Vols mention their two “home” games over the next two seasons that are being played outside of Knoxville.
In 2015, the Vols will play at Nashville’s LP Field against UAB. In 2016, they play Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.
DID YOU KNOW? Four of Tennessee’s past five coaches (not counting Jones) have either been fired or resigned midseason. Bill Battle (1970-76) resigned with a game left to play, Johnny Majors (1977-92) was fired after a midseason loss to USC, Phillip Fulmer (1992-2008) was fired (also after a loss to USC) and Derek Dooley (2010-12) was fired with a game to go. The only coach to survive was Lane Kiffin, who finished 7-6 in 2009 and bolted for Southern Cal.