Three-game skids can be costly

The last time Tennessee's football program lost three games in succession, it cost the Vols' head man his job. And the final nail in the coffin was hammered home by South Carolina, which has a chance to hand Phillip Fulmer his first three-game losing streak as a head coach this weekend.

The last time Tennessee's football program lost three games in succession, it cost the Vols' head man his job. And the final nail in the coffin was hammered home by South Carolina, which has a chance to hand Phillip Fulmer his first three-game losing streak as a head coach this weekend.

UT's most recent three-game skid occurred precisely 10 years ago ... 1992. With head man Johnny Majors recovering from open-heart surgery, Fulmer was elevated from offensive coordinator to interim coach. He promptly guided the Vols past Southwestern Louisiana (38-3), Georgia (34-31) and Florida (31-14) in Games 1, 2 and 3.

Majors returned -- prematurely, many observers felt -- in time to lead the Vols past Cincinnati (40-0) and LSU (20-0) in Games 4 and 5. With a 5-0 overall record and a 3-0 SEC mark, the Big Orange appeared a shoo-in for the league title. Instead, the Vols folded like bed linen.

Arkansas beat the Big Orange 25-24 on a late field goal, then Alabama trimmed Tennessee 17-10, handing UT a second consecutive homefield setback. When Carolina won 24-23 Oct. 31 in Columbia, the Vols' SEC title hopes were gone. So was Majors. Although he stayed on through the final three games of the regular season, it was as a lame-duck coach. Fulmer coached the Vols in preparation for their Hall of Fame Bowl matchup with Boston College.

No one expected a 2002 Tennessee team that was rated No. 4 nationally in preseason to lose three games in succession. No one expected a 1992 Tennessee team that was 5-0 to lose three games in succession, either.

The three-game skid unfolded 10 years ago, however. And, if South Carolina can prevail on its home field Saturday in Columbia, history will repeat ... except for the part about UT firing its head coach, of course.


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