VolsPicture from Andy Staples, SI

Picture from Andy Staples, SI

This is it. This is the last stop on our trip down memory lane. Again, I sincerely hope that you haven’t faltered under the weight of reliving this suffering, but rather grown and become stronger as a Tennessee fan. You’ve read the first three parts of this series and you’re still here, which is a feat in itself. But more importantly…

You’ve lived the past 10 years as a Vol fan. And you’re still here.

Texas A&M, Football, 2016

This game was a weird way to come screaming back down to Earth after wild, amazing wins over Florida and Georgia the two weeks prior. It was also another resounding disappointment on a long list of them for Butch Jones. Including the next two games this season against Alabama and South Carolina.

No. 8 Texas A&M held a lead for the majority of the game. Going into the fourth quarter, TAMU was up 28-14. But, like all of the memorable heart breaks on this list, Tennessee made a sterling comeback, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter to help force overtime.

Of course, Tennessee wouldn’t close the deal there. Despite producing over 700 yards of total offense, Tennessee could not overcome seven turnovers, including an interception to end the game in the second overtime.

Final Score: Texas A&M 45, Tennessee 38

Vanderbilt, Football, 2016

Of all the losses in Tennessee’s 2016 football season, this one might have been the most improbable. Up there with losing to Jake Bentley, an 18-year-old quarterback, against South Carolina a few weeks earlier.

Going into the game, Tennessee, despite several frustrating losses during the season, only needed one more regular season win to have a good chance to go to the Sugar Bowl when bowl season rolled around. All they had to do was roll over a lowly Vanderbilt team that was 5-6 on the season.

They could not.

Despite a heroic effort from quarterback Josh Dobbs, who threw for 340 yards and completed 31 of his 34 pass attempts on the night, Vanderbilt would win in the end. Tennessee was outscored 21-3 in the second half to bow out of the Sugar Bowl race.

Final Score: Vanderbilt 45, Tennessee 34

Florida, Football, 2017

I went back and forth on including this one on the list. For many fans that hadn’t gotten there already, this game was the final nail in Jones’ coffin. So it could actually be misconstrued as a necessary evil instead of a heart-wrenching defeat.

Still, though, any time the Vols lose to the Gators, it’s frustrating.

Going into this game, both Tennessee and Florida were barely holding on to top-25 status with head coaches on the hot seat. And once the game got going, it looked like neither team knew what they were doing. It was hard to watch.

Going into the fourth quarter, Florida was winning a snoozer 6-3. Of course, things picked up when both teams started exchanging touchdowns. Tennessee concluded the scoring with a field goal with under a minute left on the clock to send the game to overtime.

Or so everyone thought.

Florida got the ball back with nine seconds left on the clock in their own territory…and somehow converted that into a 63-yard Hail Mary to win the game as time expired.

The good news? It all but sealed Jones’ fate in the court of public opinion, and he would be gone two months later. The bad news? It took losing to Florida to get there.

Final Score: Florida 26, Tennessee 20

Loyola-Chicago, Basketball, 2018

Tennessee had already locked up a share of the SEC Regular Season Title in the 2017-2018 season, and were one win away from an SEC Tournament Title. Needless to say, expectations were through the roof when the time came for the NCAA Tournament.

Their draw was all set up for a tournament run as well. The No. 1 overall seed Virginia fell to UMBC in the first round, and all the other teams in Tennessee’s region looked beatable.

Following a thorough shellacking of Wright State in the first round, Tennessee would play Loyola-Chicago in the second. A team that most people around here hadn’t even heard of. The Ramblers of tiny little Loyola-Chicago and their team chaplain Sister Jean almost seemed like a joke in the world of big-time college basketball.

So, of course, they made a Final Four run.

Along the way, they upset our beloved Vols. A team that had been dominant in most games that season. The game, which wound up being closer than it maybe should have been, came down to the last shot.

Tennessee took a late lead off of a Grant Williams 3-point play with 20 seconds left. Then, Clayton Custer of the Ramblers worked his way down the court and put up a circus shot with four seconds left that took about 92 bounces off of the rim and backboard before it went in. The Ramblers took a one-point lead to the final buzzer, and Tennessee was sent home from the tournament way earlier than they should have been

Final Score: Loyola Chicago 63, Tennessee 62

Purdue, Basketball, 2019

This is the one. This is the game that started this little journey down memory lane a few weeks ago.

For many, this year’s Tennessee basketball team was one of, if not the single best in program history. A massive win streak and a run at the top of the polls confirmed that there’s certainly a claim for it. But, they couldn’t manage to win any SEC hardware before the tournament. Auburn made sure of that.

Twice.

So, come tournament time, Tennessee needed to, at the very least, make it to the Elite Eight for the season to not be considered a failure by most. In the first round, Colgate kept it about as close as could be expected. In the second round, Tennessee needed a borderline miracle to pull out the win against Iowa. Tennessee’s Sweet 16 game was always going to be tough, but, of all teams, it seemed like Purdue was a match up that Tennessee could win.

For the majority of the game, Purdue looked comfortable in the lead. Then Tennessee went on a 10-0 scoring run to close the gap with about seven minutes left. It was a ball game.

Tennessee took the lead on what looked like a go-ahead basket with a couple of seconds left. But, as we’ve seen multiple times in this series, the referee’s intervened at a very inopportune time. And, of course, it wasn’t in Tennessee’s favor.

If you’re reading this, you probably know how the rest played out. The game went to overtime, Purdue pulled away, and Tennessee’s best team maybe ever had nothing to show for their season.

Final Score: Purdue 99, Tennessee 94 (OT)

And just like that, dear reader, our journey down memory lane has come to an end. Hope you’ve enjoyed the trip, and, moving forward, you can appreciate the small victories more. If you’ve lived through all of these games, you’ve experienced more heartbreak in a decade than most other fans experience in a life time.

That’s part of what makes Tennessee fans elite.

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