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Saturday Night in Neyland Stadium Was About So Much More Than One Missed Call

By now, everyone has seen what happened at Neyland Stadium late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. One of the most poorly officiated games I've seen in quite some time ended up boiling over after what appeared to be a Tennessee conversion on 4th and 24 with less than a minute left was ruled a turnover on downs. Fans flooded the field with empty beer cans, water bottles, a golf ball and one rogue bottle of mustard.

Tennessee ended up getting the ball back with a chance to win, but UT quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with an injury and backup Joe Milton had to come in for the final two plays. He ran out of bounds 10 yards shy of the end zone as time expired.

Nobody really cares about that, though. All they want to talk about is what happened in the lower seating bowl. Cheerleaders and band members ran for cover as debris rained down onto Shields-Watkins Field and delayed the game for 20 minutes.

It was a bad look for the University of Tennessee and something which shouldn't have happened.

But let me tell you something: I'm not going to sit here and let the usual suspects in the national media vilify Tennessee fans as they have for numerous years now and act like this was something which only could have happened in Knoxville. I'm also not going to let them act like it was an incident spurred by one bad call or one bad officiating crew.

What happened Saturday night at Neyland Stadium was the culmination of a 12-year descent into oblivion, started by the man who was back in the building for the first time as a head coach again, this time on the opposing sideline. Since the day Lane Kiffin packed his bags for Los Angeles, Tennessee has spiraled a little more into madness each day and many journalists who cover college football have been happily along for the ride every step of the way.

From the Derek Dooley era to every Butch Jones gaffe to Schiano Sunday — which is where a lot of this comes from — to Jeremy Pruitt. Every time you thought things couldn't get worse, they did. And Vols fans understandably grew shorter and shorter on patience as the media grew more giddy with each rung further the Vols fell down the ladder of national prominence.

So when things finally went wrong in the manner they did on Saturday, those who have taken every possible opportunity to vilify Tennessee fans finally had their shot. It's never going to get easier than it is today, regardless of any context that may exist. They don't care.

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I really wish nobody would click on it, but y'all need to read the lede of that article by Pete Thamel. Better yet, I'll just let you read it here.

Yahoo Sports — As the dozens and dozens of items flew down onto the field — everything from water bottles to a mustard bottle to a yellow golf ball — Tennessee’s reputation as having the worst fan base in college football grew incrementally. As each item crashed to the turf, another piece of empirical evidence was added to a rich history of collective classlessness.

Are we actually fucking serious right now? Did someone die that I wasn't made aware of?

There are so many things I want to say but I think most of them can be condensed down to this: you would be incredibly hard-pressed to find fans of any university or professional sports team in America who are as passionate as Tennessee fans. Up until the final minute, those same fans being called "petulant" and "classless" today had produced one of the best environments in college football in recent memory. They're the reason these same journalists are able to make a very nice living writing about sports.

I simply won't fucking sit here and have hundreds of thousands of people, myself included, whom I know to be good and decent shit on by those in their ivory towers. Much like many of those in Neyland Stadium last night, I've had enough.

This would have happened anywhere in the SEC. And it would have happened far sooner than it took for it to happen in Knoxville. I wonder if the same people describing those wearing orange and white as the worst people in our society feel the same way about Ole Miss fans, who pelted Tennessee's basketball team with trash less than three years ago because of a call by an official?

Hell, there were bottles being hurled in London this morning by Jaguars fans. Did you hear a peep about that?

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I'm over it. We're tired. Tired of losing, tired of being the butt of every joke and tired of being treated like shit. So while I certainly do not condone what happened at Neyland last night, I damn sure understand it.

And one last thing. Anyone who actually watched that football game in its entirety and is being honest with themselves knows what a lot of people aren't willing to admit: Tennessee looked pretty good. In a game in which every single break and call went the Rebels' way, the Vols were driving with a chance to win the game against the No. 13 team in the country and just didn't quite make that last play to pull it off. But they might have the guys to do it soon enough.

So while the Pat Fordes and Dan Wolkens of the world will keep kicking Tennessee fans while they're down, there will come a day — pretty soon, I believe — that the Vols will be back to winning these games with some degree of regularity. And when it happens, it's going to make the silence that much sweeter.