Vols losing games and support

The natives are restless. <p> Tennessee football fans were not happy campers as they streamed out of Neyland Stadium during the fourth quarter of Saturday night's 34-14 loss to Alabama. The pitiful display dropped the Vol record to 4-3 (1-3 in SEC play) and brought the critics out in force.

Enraged backers are venting their frustration on our message board and -- no doubt -- countless others across the Southeast. At last glance, fans asked to grade UT's performance by The Knoxville News-Sentinel sports website (govols.com) were split between F (67 percent) and D (28 percent). There's no doubt that callers to radio sports-talk shows will be downright brutal this evening.

The fact is, the Vols probably deserve the abuse. They're playing terrible football. There's no teamwork, no cohesion. A team that was picked to contend for the national title already has lost back-to-back games and is likely to see the losing streak reach four, since UT must visit South Carolina this Saturday and host No. 1 Miami the following Saturday.

Tennessee's coaches know the support is eroding and know the venom is coming. They were already bracing for it Saturday night.

''It's easy for everybody to love you when you're winning, to feel good about you when you're winning,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said. ''You don't have a whole lot of friends -- except each other -- when you're not. This is the time we all bond together ... when things are toughest.''

The times are tough, all right. How tough the Vols are remains to be seen.

''This is the time you're your toughest,'' Fulmer said. ''This is the time you bow your neck.''

That raises the question: Does it require teamwork to bow your neck?


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