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Vols Face Bulldogs Saturday At 7 p.m. ET On ESPN2.


KNOXVILLE - When two teams play annually, it’s easy to look at the series’ recent history in anticipation of the next meeting. Tennessee however, isn’t looking for retaliation for last year’s loss to Georgia.


But that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to prepare for a win Saturday against the Bulldogs.


“My experience has been that I have never been one of those kind of guys where you want revenge,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “You should never put yourself in a position to be wanting that. We didn’t play well last year and they played really well. My biggest thing is how are we going to play and we shouldn’t need last year as motivation to play well.


“We only get 12 days a year that we get measured on. I tell the team that all the time. And there is no excuse not to be ready as coaches, as players and so all I’m worried about is how much we have improved, especially going against a good football team.”


With a lot of those good football teams - boasting a combined 17-3 record - set to face the Vols over the next month, they’ll get a better idea of who they are. But their only focus is on the game ahead - Georgia.


“The first thing, and I’ve told the team this, we’re not playing October,” Dooley said. “I’ve heard more people say, ‘The next four games. October.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘We’re playing Georgia, and that’s it.’ It doesn’t matter who we played last week and who we play next week, you’ve just got to go week to week. Is this another measuring stick of where we want to be? Of course it is. But I think every game in some ways is by how you perform.”


“Ultimately, we’re going to get measured by how we play against these teams; I understand that. This is one game. And if we don’t play well and we get beat, then we’ve got to wake up and go try to correct it and play the next team. And if we do play well, we can’t get excited because they keep coming.”


They’ll come first in the form of the Georgia Bulldogs, whose defense has only given up one touchdown in the last three games.


“That is pretty impressive,” Dooley said. “I don’t care who you are playing. It is going to be a big challenge for our offense to see if we can move the ball. On offense, it looks like they found their missing piece and that was a good runner. Their runner is physical, he’s fast, he’s productive and that allows them to be efficient – very balanced. We will see about our team. I don’t know. I made the comment that I don’t know who we are really yet and only time will tell and this will be kind of the next step.”



17 Volunteers call the state of Georgia home, the second-most represented state on the Tennessee roster. Two of them, senior tailback Tauren Poole and sophomore Ja’Wuan James, will be critical to establishing the running game Saturday.


“The running game hasn’t been there all year in my opinion,” Poole said. “I have to get better at that. I haven’t really done anything this year that I’m supposed to be doing and the numbers aren’t really showing up. I have to continue to get better in the running game.


“We have to continue get better as an offense in the running game and continue to open up the pass for Tyler (Bray). We have to become a more balanced offense.”


Doing so will require ‘staying big’ as James defines it.


“If he sees (the opponent’s) color and not just our orange color on them he might be indecisive on which way to go,” he said. “If he just sees us, he can go inside or outside.”


The Vols will have to maintain that motivation to stay big throughout the entire game.


“We have to play fast and play harder with more effort throughout the entire football game,” Poole said. “This is going to be a four-quarter football game. We’re going to have to play every single quarter like it’s our last down. I’m excited about the opportunity we have in front of us.”

As it prepares for this weekend’s matchup against Georgia, the focus of the Tennessee defensive line is clear – contain quarterback Aaron Murray.


“I think he is extremely talented,” Dooley said. “He has a very strong and accurate arm so he can make every throw on the field, but what really scares you the most is if that’s all you worry about he can take off running because if you don’t keep him in the pocket, he can blister you with his feet. He did it last year against us. He has done it in every game. He is exactly what they were looking for – does the play action really well. And again, to me they have their missing piece. They struggled in the past to have that running back that they can feature and that opens up the play action game.”


Last season against the Vols in Athens, Murray ran seven times for two scores and 47 yards, including a 35-yard scamper. This year, excluding sacks, the sophomore quarterback has run for two more touchdowns and 56 yards through the Bulldogs’ first five games.


“He is a great player,” sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Hood said. “There were many plays last year where there weren’t any receivers open and he would take off on a run. I remember watching last year’s game, he had that one almost 40-yard run he almost ended up scoring on and he out-ran most of our defense. It’s going to be a tough quarterback. We can’t lose contain on the pocket like we did in the Buffalo game where that quarterback split us for 60-70 yards and then had another scramble for 30 yards. Murray is probably a little bit better as a passer than the Buffalo quarterback and is just as fast, so it is going to be a tough game for us.”


The Tennessee defense has had its struggles early this year against running quarterbacks with Buffalo’s Chazz Anderson breaking off a 68-yard touchdown run last Saturday. To Hood though, those plays have been more about a breakdown in technique on UT’s side of the ball than anything else.


“We have some plays where, depending on how the offensive line slides, our techniques are different,” Hood said. “There are other plays where we have to kind of watch the ends and give them the free rush and they can go inside, outside and we have to make them right. Say Jacques (Smith) comes inside, makes a good play and flushes Murray out of the pocket, if I am too slow or get held up and don’t get there, he can run for 25 yards. That’s actually what happened on that one quarterback run in the Buffalo game. Marlon (Walls) came inside and I got hung up and didn’t get outside and you saw what happened, it was a 25-yard run for them. Against someone like Georgia, that’s not a 25-yard run, that’s a touchdown. We have to prevent that this week.”


While the Vols are focused on containing Murray, they can’t forget about creating pressure in the pocket with their pass rush, an area where Tennessee showed marked improvement last week with three sacks against Buffalo.


“(Our pass rush) is going to be really important,” senior defensive lineman Malik Jackson said. “This week we finally stepped it up in the pass rush (against Buffalo). Coach Thompson was on us all week about getting off the ball and affecting the quarterback. Against Buffalo, we went out there and did it for the most part. We had a lot of mistakes and could have done more, but we went out there and took the first step in pass rush.


“This week against this quarterback, it is going to be really, really important. He is really good, can make plays with his feet, has great vision downfield and has a lot of good receivers that can help him out so I feel like it is going to take the whole defense – the secondary, the linebackers and d-lineman – playing together to give us time to pass rush and give them time to cover. We are just going to have to make plays and play football.”


Senior tailback Tauren Poole

(On last year’s loss to Georgia)

“I’ve only thought about it now that we face them. We did get embarrassed. We didn’t show up like we were supposed to and the result wasn’t what we wanted. This year has to be different. I don’t think there’s much pressure but we have to put pressure on ourselves. We have to come out and play our best football and get things right back on track.”


(On the difference in running philosophy in SEC play)

“It is. Now it’s to the point where everybody is going to be fast and everybody is going to be disciplined. It’s going to be more of a power running game and running right at them, trying to create creases the best that we can.”


Sophomore offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James

(On the running game against Buffalo)

“There’s still a lot of stuff we can clean up after watching the film we saw yesterday. We’re just going to go out there and try to have a good week of practice doing run technique and stuff like that his week.”


(On last year’s loss to Georgia)

“I remember a lot. I feel like it was just yesterday. It wasn’t a good feeling but I feel like we learned a lesson. It’s just time to go out, have a good week of practice and prepare for them. Last year, they came out playing harder than we did. There’s no excuse for that, but that was last year. Now, we have the opportunity to change that.”


Sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Hood

(On his memories of last year’s game against Georgia)

“I’m kind of twisted because I remember the Georgia game from my redshirt year and that was as lopsided as the Georgia game last year. To me it is just another game along the way. I know that if we play well, we can go out there and put on a good show, but if we play bad, it can get ugly fast with a good team like that. I think you see that everywhere in the SEC. They are going to have as good of players as we have. They are going to have as good of coaching. It is just going to come down to those intangible factors like your effort, your toughness and how much you want to win.”


(On Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell)

“We talk about building a wall on defense to stop guys like that. We have to build the wall and it is going to take some great D-line play and great help from our corners and safeties too. In that Boise (State) game, they ran a basic, little toss sweep play and he split it for 70 or 80 yards and just out-ran every single person on Boise’ s defense. With guys like that you can either stop them like Alabama did against Florida this week or you can let Demps and (Chris) Rainey run all over you like we did when we played Florida.”


(On how frustrating it is to give up big plays)

“It hurts because most of the time we are playing 70 snaps a game and we give up three plays where we’re not all focused in mentally, we’re not all there effort-wise and then you see what happens, it turns in to points for them. To me, we just have to keep that mental focus throughout the whole game. Coach Dooley talked about how we aren’t as good in the second half. That is mental focus again. I think if we can get that mental focus for 60 minutes, we are going to be a heck of a team.”


(On how to get that mental focus)

“It’s just getting in your playbook, knowing all the little details, watching film to see their tendencies and how to react to it and then sometimes it just comes down to working inside the defense but making a play even when you’re not supposed to. If you get all 11 guys doing that, it will be good.”


Senior defensive lineman Malik Jackson

(On last year’s game at Georgia)

“I felt that we were kind of dwelling on the LSU game a little bit and nobody was just totally focused on Georgia. That kind of hurt us. I think this year we are going to be ready and everybody is going to be focused, on the same page and ready to go out there and play full speed.  I’m not a revenge guy. I’m more about going out there and making Tennessee better and (making) us better as a team. It was a rough day but you have to move on and forget about it. It’s a new year, so I have to go out there and do good things this year.”


(On the tough October schedule)

“Coach Dooley told us last night, we have to play one game a week. We can’t worry about South Carolina, Alabama and LSU this week. We are just going to take it as a one-game season and worry about Georgia this week and then next week worry about what we have to do in the week after that.  We’re not really dwelling on October, we are just dwelling on Georgia right now.”


(On Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell)

“He’s a fast, shifty little guy that reads the hole really well. He reminds me a little of (Florida’s Jeff) Demps, but I don’t know if he is just as fast.  He’s a little shifty guy that looks really good. You have to keep him in the pocket and not let him get loose.”


(On how frustrating it is to give up big plays)

“It’s really frustrating because our goal is to be flawless. With mental errors, it frustrates everybody because that is stuff we go over all week and that is stuff we know we are supposed to do right. If we got beat by ability, that would be ok, but when we mess up with mental errors, it makes everybody mad because we work really hard for that. Coach Wilcox goes over all the details so it is really frustrating, but we have to fix them and just keep going.”


(On how to get that mental focus)

“I feel like it is just preparation during the whole week. You have to go out on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and make all the mental mistakes there. Then on Thursday clean it up so you can go out on Saturday and play fast within the defense and be a football player and make plays.”



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