Tennessee coach Derek Dooley walked (limped) off the field Saturday a winner, but he probably didn't feel that way.
The Vols needed two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes to squeak out a 55-48 win against Troy at home. Troy, the fifth-best team in the Sun Belt Conference. Yes, fifth.
Dooley, who has been on the hot seat almost all season, could not have endeared himself to fans and boosters, and more importantly, the administration. Yes, the Vols staved off a wildly embarrassing defeat to a Sun Belt team, but the fact that the game was so close has to have the Tennessee athletic department looking for the funds to move on and prepare for the future.
Tennessee allowed 48 points, second only to Georgia's 51 on the Vols earlier this year. It was outgained 721-718 and the 1,439 yards of combined total offense was a record in an SEC game.
"I feel pretty good," Dooley said in his postgame press conference. "Better than you guys think. Think of the alternative [a loss]."
The win was Tennessee's first in its past five games and the Vols' season is starting to look like it could be one of the worst — if not the worst — in school history.
Dooley might have bought himself another week with the win, but it's clear to everyone in Knoxville that his future is all about when, not if. It's possible — possible — the Vols could still become bowl eligible. Its three final games are against a lowly Missouri team, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, which might be working with an interim coach by then.
But is barely getting into a mediocre bowl game what many expected from this team when it trounced N.C. State to begin the season? Or even when it gave Georgia all it could handle during a 51-44 loss on Sept. 29? And the way Missouri and Vanderbilt played this past weekend, wins in those games are far from given, and the Vols lost to Kentucky a year ago.
Tennessee has to start thinking about its future and the future doesn't look so bright with Dooley leading the charge.
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