Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Dooley, Vols keep it in-house
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley walks the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)
FAYETTEVILLE It doesn’t appear to be a question of when Derek Dooley will be fired as Tennessee’s coach, but when the official announcement will be made.
Multiple media outlets in Tennessee have reported Dooley won’t return for a fourth season with the Volunteers after their 51-48, four-overtime loss to Missouri at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., last Saturday.
Tennessee blew a 21-7 halftime lead and fell to 1-13 in SEC games since 2011, including an 0-6 mark this season with games remaining against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Dooley may know he’s done at Tennessee when the season ends, but publicly his stance is that Athletic Director Dave Hart hasn’t told him what the future holds.
“I’m worried about Vanderbilt, and I can’t make that decision,” Dooley said Monday at his weekly news conference when asked if he expects to coach Tennessee next season. “I can give you compelling arguments why I should, and there’s plenty of compelling arguments why I shouldn’t.
“It’s not going to be your decision, it’s not going to be a bunch of these sources’ decision — it’s Dave and the chancellor [Jimmy Cheek], and it’s their decision. I can’t control what they think. We’ve had a lot of good dialogue. I think he’s got a good handle of how I do things in our program, where we are and why we’re not getting the results we want. You move on and live with it.”
Dooley said he met with Hart on Sunday, but didn’t ask if he’s being retained.
“I didn’t ask him that, but I did ask him a lot of things,” Dooley said. “We talked very frankly about it. He told me he had not made a decision, whether we go 6-6, despite what all the reports are.
“Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn’t being forthright with me, and I have no reason to think Dave’s not being forthright. He’s an honest man, he’s always been honest with me and I’ve appreciated how he’s handled everything about this. I really have.”
Dooley has talked to his players about the reports that he’s going to be fired.
“It’s an inside thing,” senior linebacker Herman Lathers told the Chattanooga Times Free-Press. “It’s between us and the team, so I’m not going to really disclose that to the media. It’s a family, and things stay inside.
“It’s the same as all the past weeks. There’s a lot of outside distractions, but it doesn’t bother our team. We’re a close-knit bunch, and we’re staying together no matter what.”
Wait for NFL
South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said he isn’t surprised sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney has 19 tackles for losses this season totaling 78 yards.
“He was the No. 1-rated player coming out of high school, so we expect it from him,” Ward said.
Clowney drew a holding call from Arkansas offensive lineman Jason Peacock last week — when Peacock essentially tackled him — and had two tackles for lost yards.
“There was one time he came to the sideline and said, ‘Coach Ward, they’ve got five guys on me,’ ” Ward said. “I said, ‘Good, that means somebody else is free. Just keep fighting.’ ”
Ward said he moved Clowney around to try and free him up, but that Arkansas continually slid its line protections to double- or triple-team him.
“I told him if he wants to get some 1-on-1 blocking, he’s probably going to have to wait until he gets to the NFL two years from now,” Ward said.
Alabama’s players said they’ve had good practices this week after losing at home to Texas A&M 29-24 and falling from No. 1 to No. 4 in the BCS rankings.
“You can’t worry about things that happened in the past. You can’t control that. Got to move on,” Crimson Tide junior quarterback AJ McCarron told AL.com. “We’ve got to win out, take care of business and just control what we can control.”
McCarron, linebacker Nico Johnson and guard Chance Warmack spoke to the team in a postgame locker room meeting and reminded the Tide that Alabama came back to win the BCS title last year after losing at home to LSU.
“We haven’t played our best ball the last couple of weeks and it showed,” Johnson told AL.com. “I’m going to try my best insofar as a defensive leader to re-motivate everybody, understand our purpose and what we have to do to affect everybody else.
“We’ve got to play better on defense. I’m going to hold everybody to that standard from here on out. We’ve got to be better.”
Auburn Coach Gene Chizik has gotten plenty of criticism this season with the Tigers at 2-8, but he said he’s also received many emails from fans expressing support.
“Fans are exactly what they are — they are fanatical, and I think that’s a good thing,” Chizik told reporters this week. “I don’t think you can throw an umbrella over every fan — and not just at Auburn, but anywhere — and say, ‘This is the way they all are.’
“I’ve got hundreds of emails from a lot of great fans who are very supportive and understand that when you go through struggles, you continue on the path and you don’t deviate off the path in terms of being who you are and pressing through those things. Then you have the other fans that are caught up in the winning and losing so much it’s hard for them to see it that way.”
Chizik said both viewpoints are fair.
“When you get into this business as a player or a coach, if that hurts your feelings and you can’t handle that, then you shouldn’t be a player or a coach, because that’s what comes with the territory,” he said. “It’s very simple. … It’s all about winning and losing. There are a lot of other things out there that really, really matter. But at the end of the day, a lot of people see wins and losses.”
Drawing it up
Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham drew up a pass pattern on his hand before catching a touchdown pass from James Franklin that sent last week’s game at Tennessee into overtime. The Tigers pulled out a 51-48 victory after four overtimes.
With Tennessee leading 28-21 and Missouri facing fourth-and-12 from the Volunteers’ 25 with less than a minute to play, Green-Beckham was supposed to run a 5-yard route, pivot and look for the ball. But before the snap, Green-Beckham looked toward quarterback James Franklin and drew up a play on the palm of his hand.
“He told James, ‘In case you don’t throw it to me right away, I’m going to go down the sideline,’ ” Missouri receivers coach Andy Hill told the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Green-Beckham ran to the end zone, where Franklin hit him with the touchdown pass.
“For Dorial, I think that’s experience,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel told reporters. “He’s playing a little more. He’s got confidence.”
Give me five
If Vanderbilt beats Tennessee Saturday, the Commodores will improve to 5-3 in SEC play. The only time Vanderbilt has won five SEC games was in 1935, the conference’s third season of existence.
The 1935 Commodores went 5-1 in the SEC with victories over Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Sewanee, Tennessee and Alabama. Their lone SEC loss was to LSU.
Georgia Tech and Sewanee, you may have noticed, no longer are SEC members.
Sewanee failed to win an SEC game in eight seasons, going a combined 0-39 in conference play in 1933-1940.
Back in the Dome
Georgia will return to the Georgia Dome to play in the SEC Championship Game for a second consecutive season after clinching the SEC East title with a 38-0 victory at Auburn last Saturday.
The Bulldogs, who finish the regular season against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, will play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. They lost to LSU 42-10 in the title game last season.
“We’re not satisfied,” Georgia senior wide receiver Tavarres King told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the Auburn game. “We know we’ve got bigger things ahead of us. We’re not going to look past Georgia Southern or Georgia Tech, but we know what lies ahead. We want to win that thing.
“Last year I think getting there was kind of our destiny. This year it’s win it. We want to be SEC champions and hopefully that’s what will happen.”
Fair weather fan
Missouri quarterback James Franklin heard a fan yelling at him from the Neyland Stadium stands when the Tigers returned to the field after halftime of last Saturday’s game at Tennessee. The Volunteers led 21-7 at the time.
“Some Mizzou fan was like, ‘James, you’re horrible,’ ” Franklin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I kind of peeked just to see who it was.”
Then Franklin threw four touchdown passes in the second half as the Tigers rallied to win 51-48 in four overtimes.
“And then after the game, that same guy was saying I was great,” Franklin said.
Home not so sweet
SEC teams are 15-19 in conference home games the past six weeks. Road teams went 4-2 last week, including Texas A&M’s 29-24 victory at No. 1 Alabama and Georgia’s 39-0 victory at Auburn, making for a very tough weekend in the state of Alabama.
Injuries continued to mount for Kentucky last week even though the Wildcats had an open date. Sophomore defensive back Ashely Lowery broke a finger in practice and will miss the final two games against Samford and Tennessee.
“It’s been that kind of year,” said Joker Phillips, who has been fired as Kentucky’s coach but will continue to lead the team until the season ends. “But that’s football. You have to try to overcome the injuries.”
By the numbers
11-4: Missouri’s record in overtime games after beating Tennessee 51-48. It’s the most victories in the NCAA since overtime was adopted in 1995.
1978: Last time Georgia had shut out Auburn prior to the Bulldogs’ 38-0 victory last week. They beat the Tigers 28-0 in 1978.
2-10: Texas A&M’s record against No. 1 teams after beating Alabama last week. The Aggies beat No. 1 Oklahoma in 2002.
Game of the week
Mississippi at No. 7 LSU 2:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS
This may not look like a marquee game of the week, but with most of the SEC playing FCS teams Saturday, the Rebels taking on the Tigers is about as good as it gets. At least CBS believes it’s better than Tennessee-Vanderbilt and Arkansas-Mississippi State. Ole Miss will become bowl eligible with an upset, but the Rebels likely will have to beat Mississippi State the following week to get a sixth victory. LSU is still hoping to play in a BCS game, even if it’s not for the title. Schedules like this week’s likely are why the SEC eventually will go to nine conference games at the insistence of its television partners.
Sports, Pages 25 on 11/15/2012