Doug Dickey: 8-1-2 (3-1-2)
W Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl; No. 7 AP and Coaches Polls
Heading into 1965, Tennessee football had been through a very dark time. The Vols had not made a bowl game since 1957 at this point, and we’ve documented many of those years. Meanwhile, they had suffered three straight non-winning seasons, four straight outside of the top 25 and two losing seasons in three years.
But even as he went 4-5-1 in 1964, Doug Dickey was generating hope. We mentioned the parallels between Dickey and Butch Jones. Those parallels ended during their second seasons. With his personnel now in there, Dickey was ready to take off with his system.
The Vols dominated the Army Black Knights and South Carolina Gamecocks while tying the Auburn Tigers to get to 2-0-1. But they made their statement by tying the Alabama Crimson Tide, getting to 2-0-2 and proving they were back. After a win over the Houston Cougars, they scored a dominating win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who were ranked No. 7 at the time.
All of a sudden, this team was 4-0-2 and ranked No. 8, their first national ranking in five years. A national championship was possible, and they still hadn’t lost an SEC game. That changed the next week with a 14-13 road loss to the Ole Miss Rebels.
There were reasons for concern since the team upset No. 7 ranked GT the previous year before losing their final three to finish with a losing record. This year’s UT team would not let that happen, though. They rebounded to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats to get to 6-1-2.
At that point, they were back in the top 10 at No. 7. And in an epic clash with the No. 5 ranked UCLA Bruins, the legend of Dewey Warren was born, as he came in and led the Vols to a 37-34 upset win against the AAWU (pre-Pac 10) champions. Even better, that win was in Memphis, where UCLA head coach Tommy Prothro was from.
Anyway, the Vols finished with a 7-1-2 record and then won the Bluebonnet Bowl to finish 8-1-2 and in the top 10. This proved they were back under Dickey, and the next few years would be some of the finest in school history, including 1967 and 1969 SEC titles and a co-national title in 1967. It all started with this season ending a long drought.