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Friday, December 14, 2012
Best/worst in 2012: Tennessee

By Chris Low

The bad far outweighed the good for Tennessee in 2012, which has become a pattern for the Vols. They've suffered through four losing seasons in the past five years:

BEST

The season opener provided a healthy dose of hope for Tennessee, which looked impressive in pinning a 35-21 defeat on North Carolina State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Junior college newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson was everything he was supposed to be with a pair of long touchdowns -- the first coming on a 41-yard catch and the second on an electrifying 67-yard run -- and the Vols held the Wolfpack to a single touchdown in the second half. It was the kind of splash Tennessee needed to open what was a pivotal third season for Derek Dooley. But unfortunately for the Vols, it was about the only bright moment all season. They wound up being a train wreck on defense and finished 1-7 in the SEC for the second straight year, spelling the end for Dooley as coach.

WORST

Lots of choices here, especially on defense. The Vols were torched for 37 or more points in seven of their eight SEC contests and yielded a school-worst 721 yards of total offense in a 55-48 win over Troy. Until the Kentucky win to end the regular season, Tennessee had lost 14 of its past 15 SEC games. The low point came in a 41-18 blowout loss to Vanderbilt in the next-to-last week of the season. The Vols barely even put up a fight, and the Commodores took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half or it would have been worse. Vanderbilt ended the game by taking a knee inside the Tennessee 20-yard line. It was Tennessee's first loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville in 30 years and the Vols' most lopsided loss in the series in 58 years. Dooley was fired the next day and didn't coach in the finale against Kentucky.