Coming off of the 1939 season where Tennessee had gone unscored on, expectations were high in Knoxville. Although Tennessee had lost its Rose Bowl game to USC, the Volunteers returned many of their best players for the 1940 campaign. The Vols would finish the regular season undefeated, again. They would lose the Sugar Bowl to Boston College by a score of 19-13. This Tennessee team would capture the school’s second national championship in three years and cap a remarkable three year run by General Neyland and his squad.
The Vols first game would come against lowly Mercer. Mercer would take the heat for the Vols loss in the bowl game as General Neyland and his team destoryed Mercer 49-0 at Shields-Watkins Field. Below is a picture of the 1940 Mercer Purple Hurricanes.
Although the first game would be a warm up for the Vols, a far more imposing team was next. It may be laughable to fans today, but in this era Duke football was intimidating. Like Tennessee, Duke had a team go unscored on during a regular season. Legendary coach Wallace Wade was a coach at Duke, and they enjoyed success in the early years. On October 5, 1940 the Vols faced off against the Blue Devils. The Vols emerged victorious, winning by a score of 13-0. Interestingly, George McAfee who played for Duke, was drafted number two overall behind Tennessee’s George Cafego in the 1940 draft. McAfee would be inducted into the 1966 NFL Hall of Fame.
In state rival Chattanooga was next for the 2-0 Volunteers. Chattanooga would offer token resistance as the Vols would stomp the Mocs 55-0 at Shields-Watkins Field. Alabama would be next for the team, and everyone new that the Tide would be a huge challenge at their home field.