Was Saturday's gut-wrenching loss by Tennessee to Missouri the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Coach Derek Dooley's job employment is concerned?
Very possible. As of late Sunday evening, Volquest.com and several other websites were reporting that the embattled Dooley will be fired at the end of the season.
Until Saturday's loss by Tennessee, I felt that Dooley would probably return for another season in Knoxville, even though I believed he would need to run the table over the final three games to do so.
After watching the Vols flounder on a sun-splashed day at Neyland Saturday, I really don't think there's much hope for him. With all the negativity that I heard exiting the stadium Saturday, it's obvious that a lot of folks hope he won't be back.
The Tigers made their first-ever appearance at Neyland Stadium a memorable one, coming from behind to deck the Vols in four overtimes by a 51-48 margin.
In the first half, the UT defense that is historically bad this year seemed to be energized and allowed the Tigers only 60-some yards of offense. Tyler Bray was throwing the ball all over the place, with two UT receivers -- Justin Hunter and tight end Michael Rivera -- both accumulating over 100 yds. in receptions over the opening two periods as the Vols led 21-7.
But two halves must be played. When the third quarter began, the defense of 2012 reappeared. And it was ugly.
Missouri scored on the first play from scrimmage, a 77-yd. run, and it was almost like somebody stuck a pin into a balloon. Although Bray and company did recover to regain a 14-point spread at 28-14, it was only a matter of time until the Tigers were going to exploit a defense that just can't get off the field.
The Vols can't win a close game. They've proven that time and again. Despite their best efforts, they can't seem to contain an opponent who is facing third down and long.
They were penalized 11 times in the contest, many for false starts.
All those mistakes can't be blamed on the coaching staff. But there is such a thing as adjusting at halftime, something which UT opponents seem to be able to do week in and week out. Missouri did it Saturday, and after looking awful in the opening half, they completely took it to the Vols in the second half and the overtime periods.
But the tell-tale blow as far as I was concerned came in regulation with under a minute left after Mizzou had tied the game at 28-28.
The Tigers kicked off and the ball was returned out to the 40 with still over 30 seconds to go.
After a pass netted only one yard, the Vols packed it in and decided to play for overtime. This decision was made despite the fact that Tyler Bray has one of the best passing arms in college football, the team has two of the best wide-outs in the country in Justin Hunter and Cordarrell Patterson, and to top it off, there were two time outs left to use.
It would seem that a couple of passes could have gotten the team into position for at least a field goal try to win in regulation. With the history of the kicking game this year, I know that's not a given, but at least they could have tried.
Instead, Dooley took the two time outs home with him, the teams went to overtime, Tennessee wasn't able to stop the Tigers from scoring in the extra periods, and the rest is history.
So, probably, is Dooley.
A win over Vandy next week in Nashville seems improbable for the 4-6 Vols, who are an unheard of 0-6 in the SEC. You can bet the Commodores will be remembering last year, when Dooley and his team celebrated like they had won the national title when they downed Vandy. The Youtube video will be played over and over this week in Nashville.
Kentucky closes out the schedule, and if there's one team in the league that's worse than UT on defense, it's probably the Wildcats.
I got to talk to several Missouri fans on my way into the stadium Saturday. Most of them were lost because they had never been to Knoxville before. Many were shooting photos on the outside of the stadium as they got their first look at the mammoth building.
"I remember watching Tennessee on TV 10 years ago and how excited everybody was," said one 30-something fellow from Columbia, who had made a 10-hour drive to Knoxville. "I had always wanted to see a game here. I just wish we had the excitement that the town seemed to have a few years ago."
Another fan had a ticket handed to him by an apparent UT fan, all decked out in his orange gear.
"Need a ticket? Here," he told a young man who appeared to be college-age. "Obviously you're not from around here or you'd know I can't sell them."
I talked to a couple from the Branson area who said they are enjoying visiting all the venues in the Southeastern Conference, which are new to the Missouri fans.
"We're not a very good team," the woman smiled. "But a bad day in the SEC is better than a good day in the Big 12. We don't have to put up with that haughty Texas anymore. I hate Texas."