Maybe one reason for the bitterness between Tennessee and Florida came from the Gators stealing the Volunteers coach from the 1960’s. Doug Dickey was the head coach at Tennessee starting in the 1964 season. He started out slowly with a 4-5-1 his first season, but his teams quickly got better from there. In 1965, Dickey led the Volunteers to an 8-1-2 record which culminated in a win in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
1966 was an 8-3 record and another win and this time in the Gator Bowl.
Going into the 1967 season, the Vols were ranked 8th and thinking about an SEC Championship. Besides head coach Doug Dickey, the Vols were led by consensus All American center, Bob Johnson. Huge for his time at 6-5, 265, Johnson was a dominating figure up front.
On defense, they featured linebackers Steve Kiner and Jack ‘Hacksaw’ Reynolds.
For speed, they had world class hurdler Richmond Flowers at wide receiver. Fastest White Boy Alive
Schools actually played tougher competition back in 1967, and the Volunteers opened with the 9th ranked UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles. The Bruins didn’t play in the Rose Bowl back then, they shared
the Coliseum with the USC Trojans.
UCLA, led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gary Beban, beat the Vols 20-16.
The Vols recovered in time to start SEC play by beating Auburn, 27-13. Shug Jordan was the Tiger coach and they finished the 1967 season with a 6-4 record, with tough losses to Alabama and Miami.
Traditional rival Alabama was coming up, but they could not overlook Georgia Tech. The Vols handled themselves well and beat previously unbeaten Georgia Tech, 24-13 on national television.
The Volunteers were now ranked 7th and Alabama was just ahead at 6th. The Crimson Tide, then coached by the legendary Bear Bryant, came in with a 3-0-1 record.
Tennessee played well and beat Alabama, 24-13. The Vols had 4 conference games remaining, but they now had the upper hand after beating the Tide.
Tennessee was now ranked 4th and their next challenge was 4-1 LSU. The Vols prevailed in a tight one, 17-14, and the voters were impressed enough to put them at #3 now.
With weak Tampa and Tulsa next, the Vols rolled over them 38-0 and 35-14 respectively.
Suddenly, the Tennessee Volunteers were the 2nd ranked team in the country and in charge of their
own destiny. The USC Trojans were number 1 and UCLA was number 4 and they were heading for their destinies and the 1967 version of the Game of the Century.
Ole Miss had a freshman by the name of Archie Manning, but he wasn’t eligible in 1967 and the Vols beat the Rebels 20-7 and they followed up by beating a horrible Kentucky team by only 17-7.
Tennessee crushed in-state rival Vanderbilt, 41-14, to finish their SEC schedule unbeaten.
The SEC champion Tennessee Vols finished their season 9-1 and ranked 2nd. The Volunteers received a berth in the Orange Bowl to play 3rd ranked and Big 8 champion Oklahoma.
The Sooners were 9-1 with their only loss coming to their most bitter rival, the Texas Longhorns.
Chuck Fairbanks was the Sooners coach and their quarterback Bobby Warmack and running back Steve Owens who won the Heisman Trophy in 1969, made the Big 8 champion Sooners a very formidable foe for the Vols.
Also offensive lineman Bob Kalsu, who was later killed in Vietnam, super tight end Steve Zabel and All American defensive lineman Granville Liggins were pretty scary. Bob Kalsu Vietnam
The 2nd ranked Volunteers versus the 3rd ranked Oklahoma Sooners promised to be a great game and
it more than lived up to the hype.
Oklahoma outlasted Tennessee and won the game 26-24.
Center Bob Johnson was maybe Tennessee’s best player in 1967 and he was the 2nd overall pick in the 1968 NFL Draft and he played a long time in the NFL.
Steve Kiner, and Hacksaw Reynolds were also NFL players with Reynolds and the Los Angeles Rams being one of the NFL’s most famous players.
The Tennessee Vols were the SEC champs in 1967 and again in 1969, but coach Doug Dickey left them after the 1969 season for the Florida Gators. Dickey was a flop at Florida Gator Flop 1971
After Dickey, the Vols didn’t win another SEC championship until 1985.