Things got off to a shaky start for Tennessee in this week's game against Troy, but they seemed to stabilize quickly. By the time four minutes had ticked off the clock in the second quarter, the Vols were leading 28-10, and any thoughts that we would see a third Sun Belt-SEC upset this season were quickly banished.
But the Trojans weren't done yet. They reeled off three consecutive touchdowns, and only a missed extra point by Troy and a Volunteer field goal as the first half expired gave Tennessee a lead going into the locker room. And with 3:14 left in the fourth quarter, Troy took a 48-41 lead that made it look like the game was all but over.
Tennessee, of course, scored two unanswered touchdowns to avoid what would have been the worst loss in Derek Dooley's three-year tenure in Knoxville. But even with a win, it's hard to escape just how ugly this game looks and how much it contributes to the rising pressure on Dooley and the Vols.
Troy still piled up somewhere around 720 yards of total offense, depending on which box score you want to read right now. The final number doesn't matter all that much; Troy will still be the first team in history to generate more than 700 yards of total offense against Tennessee, with the previous high being Kentucky's 695 yards in 1997. Three different Troy receivers had more than 70 yards in the game. Every team that Troy has faced this year, including each of their Sun Belt foes, has held Troy to 588 yards or less. (Sure, Tennessee had somewhere around 715 yards of total offense, but that's not exactly impressive or surprising for an SEC team playing a Sun Belt team at home.)
So even if the win means that Dooley will avoid getting fired immediately, it still feels like it's only a matter of time before there's a vacancy in Knoxville. Moral victories don't count at programs like Tennessee, but moral losses do, and Derek Dooley is rapidly accumulating too many of the latter.