It's safe to say the 2013 college football season didn't go exactly how the Volunteer faithful thought it would.

The season wasn't filled with national title aspirations or even thoughts of an SEC Championship, but a 6-6, 7-5 record didn't seem like to much to ask for.

Then came a loss against Vanderbilt, which added to Auburn and Missouri outplaying their preseason projections – by a lot – turned what seemed like a quality season in the making following games against Georgia and South Carolina into a disappointing 5-7 record for the Vols with no bowl game on the horizon.

First-year head coach Butch Jones said throughout the season that the team's goal was to make it to a bowl game, so from that perspective, the 2013 season was a failure.

With that said, it was not a step back, and Saturday's matchup against Kentucky proved that.

All week Tennessee players – especially the seniors – talked about finishing the season off 1-0 to start up a UT winning streak on the road and create some momentum heading into the off-season.

They backed that talk up inside Commonwealth Stadium, arguably playing the best game as a team they had all season.

Freshman Josh Dobbs didn't look like the 18-year-old quarterback that had the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of Vol fans on his shoulders. Instead, he looked like a signal caller with a promising future, all while playing with a banged up right leg and hand.

Rajion Neal and the offensive line ran all over the Wildcat defense.

The young wide receivers managed to play well, even without Marquez North, who has been one of few consistently contributing from the position.

Defensively, the line dominated, and the secondary that returns every starter next season shut down the Wildcat passing attack, especially Cam Sutton, who should be one of the premier shutdown corners in SEC for years to come.

And yes, all of this came against Kentucky, a team that has a total of two wins against Division I opponents in the past two seasons, but it isn't easy to get up for a game when it really doesn't matter.

The proof of that comes from one of Tennessee's biggest rivals, the Florida Gators, who had a very unlikely chance, but a chance nonetheless, at a bowl game berth and squandered it by losing to Georgia Southern.

Credit is due to Jones and his staff, as well as the seniors, for getting the team up to play for a game that meant a lot more for the future of the Volunteer football program than it did for Team 117.

This season may be marked as a failure on the field, but the program definitely took a few steps forward in terms of regaining some of its former glory by developing and recruiting.

Oh, and most importantly, by finding the right coach.

Troy Provost-Heron is a sophomore in journalism & electronic media. He can be reached at tprovost@utk.edu.