Before his team exited the locker room after an emotional overtime victory over Vanderbilt last year Derek Dooley left the players with a reminder.
In a postgame speech caught on video, the University of Tennessee coach proclaimed, "The one thing Tennessee always does is kick the [expletive] out of Vanderbilt.”
Apparently, Dooley has just one last chance to make good on his promise.
The embattled coach brings the hapless Volunteers into Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2). According to VolQuest.com and GoVols247.com, Dooley will be fired at the end of the season. Dooley said he talked to athletics director Dave Hart about his job status on Sunday.
“He told me he had not made a decision if we go 6-6 [and become bowl eligible], despite what all the reports are,” Dooley said. “Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn’t being forthright with me and I have no reason to think Dave is not being forthright with me.”
UT (4-6, 0-6 SEC) limps in as a four-point underdog to bowl-eligible Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3). UT last lost to Vanderbilt in Nashville in 1982.
Lately any SEC win has been hard to come by for the Vols, who are 1-13 in league play the last two years. Their only win came against Vanderbilt last year in Knoxville. Tennessee rallied to force overtime, where former Hillsboro standout Eric Gordon intercepted a Jordan Rodgers pass and returned it 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
UT’s sixth straight win over the Commodores led to Dooley’s raucous postgame speech, which hours later made its way to YouTube. Two days later, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said he would address Dooley’s comments the following season and let the team watch the clip “as many times as we’ve got to watch it next year.”
“That is a wound I am going to leave open. It is not going to heal,” Franklin said then.
On Monday, both coaches addressed the video.
“I don’t think Vanderbilt needs a lot of motivation to want to come whip us,” Dooley said. “I’m sure they have plenty of motivation. They don’t need that. I can’t take that back.”
Franklin said he won’t show the speech this week or include it in the team’s weekly highlight film shown on Fridays. He also reiterated several times his “tremendous respect” for Dooley.
“I’ve matured dramatically since that game,” Franklin said with a smile. “We have one of the best hospitals in the United States so that wound is healed. It is about Vanderbilt. It is about us getting better and us doing our job. ... We’ve been trying to get better every single day since we arrived on campus and that’s our focus. If we need any other types of motivation, then our focus isn’t where it needs to be.”
• Stacy to play: Running back Zac Stacy will be ready to play against Tennessee, Franklin said.
The senior left Saturday’s game against Ole Miss after injuring his right leg on the game’s second play. He had to be helped off the field and did not return. Stacy, the school’s all-time leading rusher, has carried the ball just 13 times in the last two games after injuring his ankle against Massachusetts on Oct. 27. Franklin would not say if Saturday’s injury was season ending.
“My policy is that we do not talk about injuries,” Franklin said. “We expect Zac to be full-go and ready to go like every other person on our roster for Saturday.”
• Weekly honors: For the second straight week, and fourth time this year, a Vanderbilt player earned weekly accolades from the SEC.
On Monday, junior Walker May was named the defensive lineman of the week. May, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end, made six tackles, with three going for a loss. He also sacked Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace for a loss of 14 yards in the second quarter.
Last week, kicker Carey Spear and offensive lineman Wesley Johnson were both honored. Center Joe Townsend and Richard Kent have also been named players of the week this year.