Vols' dominance over Wildcats ingrained

Sometimes, things are simply ingrained.

Sort of like the Kentucky-Tennessee football rivalry, if you really want to call it a rivalry.

It’s ingrained in the Vols that they’re supposed to win this game. It’s ingrained in the Wildcats that they’re supposed to lose it.

The players change. The coaches change. Even the way the game is played changes.

What doesn’t change is the result.

Tennessee defeated Kentucky 24-14 on Saturday, extending the Vols’ winning streak in this series to 26 straight games. It’s the longest active winning streak in the country among FBS teams that play every year.

And not to make the Wildcats feel any worse than they already do, but if they weren’t going to end the streak over this Tennessee team, you’ve got to ask yourself if they ever will.

The Wildcats fumbled at the goal line when it looked like they were about to go ahead 14-0 early in the game. They shanked a punt. They missed a field goal. They gave up 354 passing yards. Joker Phillips opted not to go for it in the fourth quarter when it was fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 37, and punter Ryan Tydlacka sailed one in the end zone for a touchback.

In short, they did all the things that it takes to lose a game like this.

It was a microcosm of this series for the last quarter century.

Tennessee, on the other hand, found a way to recover from a 2-6 hole after going 0-for-October. The Vols went with true freshman Tyler Bray as their starting quarterback and haven’t lost since. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes in his four career starts.

Sure, the competition in November was weak, but the Vols (6-6, 3-5) were playing a ton of first-year players and now get an extra few weeks of practice because they’re eligible to go to a bowl.

If two SEC teams make it into BCS bowls, look for Tennessee to wind up in the Music City Bowl in nearby Nashville.

When you consider where this team was in October (and where the program was when Derek Dooley took over in January), it's obvious he and his staff have done a terrific job of squeezing just about everything they could out of this season.

A win in the bowl game would give the Vols a 7-6 record, which is the identical record they finished with a year ago under Lane Kiffin.

Never has there been a more celebrated 7-6 season in Tennessee history than the one a year ago. A lot of that was Kiffin bemoaning his lack of talent all season, even though the Vols had six players drafted, including two in the first round.

Dooley has spent more time coaching than bemoaning, and when you look at all the young players contributing in this program, the future is indeed bright in Big Orange Country.