First, we want to point out that the Tennessee players showed a ton of class consoling injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and coming onto the field as a team to show support after he was injured.
But, we also have to discuss the game. Tennessee didn't play bad in a 38-35 loss to South Carolina, but the defense was mostly awful, and late in the game with the Volunteers in Gamecocks territory, Tyler Bray was hit by Jadeveon Clowney and lost a fumble. With less than a minute left Bray had to throw it deep and was intercepted. This wasn't the worst effort Tennessee had to offer, but it still featured the same kind of mistakes that have Volunteers fans frustrated.
There was also a weird play late in the game that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will get some heat for. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was running near the sideline and appeared to go out of bounds (why South Carolina had a play called that even made that possible is beyond us). That should have stopped the clock. But Dooley called a timeout - the last one Tennessee had. That came with less than a minute to go, and Shaw went out of bounds a couple feet from where Dooley was on the sideline. The officials seemed confused on whether or not Shaw was out of bounds, and Dooley probably felt he couldn't wait, but it's still not a good look for a struggling coach.
And at this point, Dooley probably has a magic number he needs to meet to save his job, if that's still possible. Tennessee wouldn't say it publicly but that number has to exist. Let's put it this way: Can you imagine Dooley surviving a 0-8 SEC season? We can't either.
Well, Dooley is 0-5 in the conference, so he's almost halfway there. This is also the third straight year Tennessee has lost its first five SEC games. Yikes.
The good news is there are chances for SEC wins down the stretch. Missouri comes to Tennessee. There's also a road game at Vanderbilt and a home finale against Kentucky. Missouri and Kentucky were a combined 0-9 in SEC play coming into this week. Vanderbilt won't be easy, but it's also not the kind of in-state rivalry loss that anyone at Tennessee would be patient about. There's also a non-conference game against Troy next week.
Does Dooley have to win all four to save his job? Will three suffice? We'll find out soon enough.
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