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Four Downs: Year One Of The Jones Era

Dec. 7, 2013

UTSports.com takes a look back at the first 365 days of the tenure of Butch Jones, who was hired one year ago on Dec. 7, 2012. The inaugural season was filled with some highlights as Jones has set the tone for a bright future.

Jones Year 1 Photo Gallery

First Down: The Win Over South Carolina

Without a doubt the most memorable moment of the 2013 season came when Michael Palardy spilt the up-rights with a 19-yard field goal as time expired as Tennessee upset No. 11/9 South Carolina on Oct. 19. The win exercised nearly four years of frustration for Vol fans and everyone associated with the program.

Tennessee broke a 19-game losing streak to ranked teams with the victory over the Gamecocks. It was Butch Jones' signature win of his first year on Rocky Top and one that will be talked about for years to come.

With Neyland Stadium in an absolute frenzy, the Vols rushed to the student section and joined the Pride of the Southland in signing Rocky Top with none other than Jones leading the jubilant crooning.

The future was on display during the game-winning drive as Marquez North made one of the catches of the year with a leaping one-handed grab on third-down to prolong the series. That led to Palardy's kick and an ensuing sprint down the field and massive dog pile on the senior specialist.

"Great day to be a Vol," said Butch Jones. "I thought our team showed some resiliency. We found a way to win and we talk about play winning football.

"Confidence is a powerful thing. Belief is a powerful thing. We had pointed to this game for a long period of time and our kids were ready to go."

The last win over a ranked team was a 31-13 victory over USC 2009. Only five members of the 2013 Volunteers were on the roster for that game. J.R. Carr, Daniel Hood and Joseph Ayers all redshirted in 2009. Marlon Walls played in the '09 win, but recorded no stats. Greg King saw the most extensive action of his career in 2009, appearing in nine games, the biggest against South Carolina, where he recorded his first and only interception as a Vol.

Since the 2009 game, USC had been ranked in each of the four meetings between the teams, accounting for three of the 19 losses. In two of those games, including this year's, the Gamecocks were ranked in the top-15 by the Associated Press. The win broke a 20-game losing skid against top-15 teams that dated back to a 2007 win over, you guessed it, South Carolina, who was ranked #15 when Tennessee claimed a 27-24 overtime victory in 2007.

Second Down: Jones' First UT Win; Tennessee's 800th Win

Jones opened his Tennessee coaching career with a historic win as the Vols' 45-0 whitewash of Austin Peay on Aug. 31, marked the 800th win in the storied history of UT football. It was special in so many ways for Jones, who connected and embraced former Vols from the day he was hired.

What did Jones do after his initial win in Orange & White: "The first thing I did after the game was I texted Peyton Manning and said "Congratulations on Win No. 800!"

That connection demonstrated Jones' passion for the history of Tennessee football and the understanding of its importance.

"The 800th program win," said Jones. "I don't think that should ever be undervalued. That's something that's very, very special in the world of college football as part of our tradition and now there's only eight total teams throughout college football that can speak in those terms relative to winning 800 plus games now in a program. And again, I want to thank all the former players, coaches and everyone that has really laid the foundation and the hard work for this football program."

Throughout the year, Jones made it known how important each and every Vol For Life was. More than 500 former players attended practices, events and met with Jones one-on-one. Everyone from Manning to Al Wilson to Arian Foster to Leonard Little of the modern era.

And from the older days, the likes of Herky Payne and Pat Shires from the 1951 team were among the more than 250 former Vols that went through the Vol Walk and Running Through the T prior to the monumental win over South Carolina.

Former head coach and Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer was welcomed back with open arms and attended his first practice since he left the program following the 2008 season on Sept. 24.

Third Down: Quick Hits

669,087: The total number of fans to come through the turnstile at Neyland Stadium during the 2013 regular-season for an average of 95,584 per game. That number was an increase of 6.2 percent from the 2012 average of 89,965.

"We have the best fans in nation," Jones said following the win over South Carolina. "I do want to thank our crowd. The atmosphere was electric. It provided us a spark. It was a great home field advantage."

104,203: Butch Jones' twitter account @UTCoachJones is the second-most followed among all college football coaches in the land. He made a meteoric rise from 11,500 followers from the day before he was hired at Tennessee to nearly 100,000 more in following year.

61,076: The attendance at Jones' first Orange & White game on April 20. That marked the second-highest crowd for the Tennessee Spring Game in history.

"I would like to thank all of our great fans. 61,000-plus (fans in attendance) is what makes this the best place in all of college football. Thank you to our fans."

39,000: Another sign of the passion of Vol Nation connecting with the past was on display for the Vols' open practice on Aug. 17 when 39,000 braved the rain to watch UT practice.What started out as Peyton Manning's idea, was a smashing success.

"We have the best fan base in the country. That was evident today. You have a practice, and the way the crowd comes out was a gameday-like atmosphere. Peyton Manning suggested this open practice. We spoke about it, and talked about some situations we would do and then we planned everything out as a staff of what this football team needed."

2,261: The Vols rushed for 2,261 yards on offense, the most by a Tennessee team since 2004 when Tennessee rumbled for 2,418. Five of the last six teams Jones has coached rushed for more than 2,000 yards.

1,124: Rajion Neal became the first Vol since Tauren Poole in 2010 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. It marked the fourth year in a row that Jones' coached team featured a 1,000-yard rusher.

86: Jones teams have forced 86 turnovers over his seven years as a head coach including 25 this season with the Vols. Only teams coached by Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State since 2007 among all FBS coaches.

44: Jones' coached teams are 44-2 when leading at halftime since he became a head coach in 2007, including a 5-0 mark in 2013. That 95.6 win percentage is the sixth-best among all head coaches over the last seven years.

44.5: Michael Palardy's punting average of 44.5 is the highest for any punter under Butch Jones in his seven years as a head coach.

24: Jones became the 24th head coach in Tennessee history one year ago on Dec. 7. When he won his opener on Aug. 31, 2013 vs. Austin Peay, he became the 20th coach to win his debut with the Orange & White and fifth consecutive.

20: Jones also has 20 wins in games that are decided by four points or less since he became a head coach in 2007. That 20 wins are tied for the second-most among all coaches over that seven-year span. Only Frank Beamer (21) has more.

12: Jones led the Vols to an end to their 12-game road losing streak with a 27-14 win at Kentucky in the season finale. Tennessee had not won a game on enemy turf since a 24-10 win at Vanderbilt on Nov. 20, 2010. That was also the Vols' last road SEC win prior to the Kentucky game. Tennessee ended an 11-game road losing streak in conference games with the win over the Cats.

3-0: Butch Jones became the fourth Tennessee head coach to start his career 3-0 at Neyland Stadium, joining Phillip Fulmer (9-0), Bill Battle (7-0 and General Neyland (12-0) when the Vols knocked off South Alabama, 31-24 on Sept. 28.

2: Jones became the first coach since Fulmer to win his first two games as head coach of the Vols. Jones also became the first coach since Neyland, in 1926, to win his first two games as the Vols' full-time head coach

Fourth Down: A Look Ahead

32: Days until the first day of the Spring 2014 semester when the Vols early enrollees begin class on Jan. 8, 2014.

60: Days until National Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2014 when the Class of 2014 will be announced by Jones.

126: Days until the 2014 Orange & White Game on April 12, 2014 when Jones leads the Vols onto Shields-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium.

266: Days until the 2014 regular-season opener when the Vols host Utah State on Aug. 30, 2014 at Neyland Stadium.

See you then!

Look back at Four Downs from last December when Jones was hired: Jones Hiring By The Numbers


 

 

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