- For the second consecutive season, Tennessee will head into its final
game of the season needing a sixth win to secure bowl eligibility.
And for the second straight year, all the Vols will be worried about is the opponent at hand, Kentucky.
know a lot of people are going to want to change the focus away from
Kentucky to other things like streaks and bowls and all that, but it is
so important that our team takes the same approach as they did last
week and they take the same approach during the game as they did
Vanderbilt,” head coach Derek Dooley said during his week Monday media
luncheon. :Like every SEC game, it’s going to be hard. It’s on the road
and they played Georgia to the wire. It’s their last home game, so I
know how emotional it is for any team on their last home game.
have a big challenge and we will see if can live up to it. If we
can people will be feeling pretty good and if we can’t it will be kind
of a disappointing year. That is where we are.”
season, Tennessee defeated Kentucky for the 26th consecutive time to
earn what ultimately became a berth in the 2010 Music City Bowl. The
Vols can punch a ticket to their 50th bowl appearance with a win - the
second-most for any school.
While the added motivation to continue its season is there, Tennessee is playing with the goal of beating its SEC rival.
mention that fact that if we win we are bowl eligible,” Dooley said.
“We mentioned that last week, but you don’t really play to go to a
bowl. You play to beat the team you are playing. It’s important to
understand what is out there to motivate you a little bit. When it gets
tough it’s important to show a little more grit and the ability to
persevere when it gets tough, but your focus has to be on the guy you
are going against and what you plays are, what your execution is,
what’s your technique and that is what we are trying to emphasize.”
RUN AND GUN
Vols had their best individual rushing effort of the season in
Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt as Tauren Poole gained a season-best 107
yards. Sophomore Rajion Neal also added a nice change of pace adding 29
yards for a total of 136. Part of the success could be attributed to
Tennessee’s use of the pistol formation for snaps to quarterback Tyler
Bray, who was returning from a broken thumb.
formation) allows me to be more patient,” said Poole, who had his third
100-yard rushing game of the season. “It allows me to see the holes a
lot faster and that’s exactly what happened. The O-Line did a great job
of getting on their blocks and running their feet the whole entire
game. I was just hitting the holes. It’s just exciting to have the run
game back. It’s towards the end of the year, but we’re winning games
and that’s all that matters.
“I think I get the
ball deeper into the backfield. It’s kind of like I can see the
line-of-scrimmage and see what hole I want to hit as fast as I can. In
the SEC, holes open and close as fast as that. When you see a hole now,
you have to hit it as fast as possible.”
But the linemen say they didn’t notice a major difference.
was normal, during practice, we didn’t even notice we were in pistol,”
right tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “It was just the regular scheme that
James said the line gave a harder more determined effort against the Commodores.
could definitely tell a difference will all five of us,” James said.
“We are out there fighting and getting after it all game. I feel like
we went in there more focused and tried to to the right thing on every
play and battle them every play for four quarters. We haven’t done that
a lot of four quarters this season, but we did that (Saturday) and we
Left tackle Dallas Thomas talked about the Vols getting back to basics to help with the protection and ground game.
us getting back to the scheme of things, just thinking about what we
have to do on our targets and our first step coming off the ball,”
Thomas said. “Coach was really focusing on that for us this week, hard.”
For Poole, the big game was meaningful, coming in his final game at Neyland Stadium.
been kind of unproductive all year,” Poole said. “I haven’t been
able to get a 100-yard game to save my life, but I got one and it ended
off well on senior night. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m glad it
ended well in my last game at Neyland.
great because the offensive line did well. I just say that they had the
100-yard game and not me because it’s obvious on the film that they
blocked well the entire game. They knew that. They had the fire in
their eyes that they wanted to win and wanted to play the entire game,
even when we were down. It’s just exciting to see.”
DEFENSE GARNERING RECOGNITION
posting one if its best performances of the season against Vanderbilt
last week, the Tennessee defense has received some well-deserved
recognition both at the conference level and nationally.
addition to having two players earn honors from the SEC, the Vols also
had another named one of four finalists for the Capital One Cup Impact
Performance of the Week as well as the College Football Performance
Awards Defensive Back of the Week.
For the first
time since 2007 and just 11th time in school history, UT had multiple
players on the weekly SEC Players of the Week list with senior Malik
Jackson taking home co-defensive lineman of the week honors and
linebacker Curt Maggitt being named to league’s top freshman performer.
in his final game at Neyland Stadium, Jackson was a force all over the
field, amassing six tackles, including 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage
for a loss of 16. He also had the fourth forced fumble of his
collegiate career and a pair of quarterback hurries.
feel like we just played our game,” Jackson said. “Coach Thompson
taught us to go out there and play each series and then come back to
the sideline for adjustments and then go back out to play again. We
just tried to play our game the best we could and be physical up front
and at the end of the day that’s what we did.”
a few feet behind Jackson at one of the outside linebacker positions,
Maggitt recorded the most complete game of his young career. The West
Palm Beach, Fla., native tallied a personal-best seven stops, including
2.5 tackles for loss which marks the most by a Tennessee player this
“Curt is one of those guys that is going
to work as hard as possible,” fellow linebacker Austin Johnson said.
“We always watch extra film, especially on Thursdays with Coach Wilcox.
He’s one of those guys that’s going to come ask questions and that’s
what he needs to do. He does really well. He works really hard in
practice and he’s just going to keep developing. He has a long way to
go, but he’s going to be a great player.”
be outdone, however, sophomore nickel back Eric Gordon picked up a pair
of national honors after his game-winning 90-yard interception return
for a touchdown in overtime.
The Nashville native
and Hillsboro High School product’s thrilling play against his hometown
team netted him national defensive back player of the week accolades
from CFPA, as well as a spot among the top four performances on the
Capital One Cup Impact Performance of the Week poll on ESPN.com.
found a home in the nickel spot and I think we have gotten a good
comfort level with Eric in the nickel spot,” Dooley said. “It has
allowed him to use his strengths and be aggressive and make some plays.
When you make a bad mistake and you are in the deep part of the field
or you are playing a guy at man to man in the corner it’s a devastating
effect. Eric has a playmaking mentality, which I wish more of our guys
had on the back end, I do, and it’s a great quality to have in them.
That is why we want him out on the field and if he can just keep that
within the framework of the system and know when to be aggressive and
know when to not, he is going to make more and more plays.”
pair of seniors who played their final game at Neyland Stadium on
Saturday couldn’t help but thinking back to the way a couple of UT’s
games ended in 2010 after Eric Gordon returned an overtime interception
90 yards to the end zone.
Much like last year’s games against LSU and UNC, the Vols initially thought it was over, until the final play went under review.
definitely had that ‘Oh no, not again,’ (feeling) when I looked back,
saw the penalty flag and saw the refs talking,” senior linebacker
Austin Johnson said. “At the end of the day, the right call ended up
being the outcome of the game.”
“I ran on the
field,” Poole said of his reaction. “I was excited and thought the game
was over. It was the same thing I did at LSU. I ran on the field and
ran right past the flag. I looked down and saw the flag and I
(thought), ‘Come on.’ Like (Austin Johnson) said, it ended up like it
should have. His knee obviously wasn’t down. I’m just glad we got the
win. That’s all I was looking forward to, getting the ‘W.’”
For 14 seniors that have given their all for Tennessee, it was a hard ending to beat at Neyland Stadium.
feeling was overwhelming,” Johnson said. “It was such a joyous and
awesome feeling. I looked over when they threw the ball and I saw E.G.
(Eric Gordon) make a great play on it. I knew his knee didn’t go down.
Just seeing him run down the field and everybody just kind of following
him was an awesome feeling. When everybody charged the field, it was
just a good way to top (things) off at Neyland.”
Senior tailback Tauren Poole
(On playing his final game at Tennessee on Saturday)
was just talking to somebody a couple minutes ago. It hasn’t sunk in
yet. They told me it was probably going to sink in when it’s for me
that I probably wouldn’t be in another Vol uniform ever. I’m not
looking forward to it right now. I want to cherish every moment I have
with my teammates and in the Vol uniform.”
(On whether he felt quicker)
did and I saw it on film. I don’t know what it was. We were just
clicking in the run game. Coach said I was just running with confidence
and I obviously was. I’m just glad we got a chance to run the football
and open up the pass a little bit. Having Bray back was just great for
the team, for the fans and for everybody.”
(On ending his career on a positive note)
hope I can (repeat it). I’m going to try to. I’m going to attack this
week of practice just like I did last week. I took last week of
practice like I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want Kentucky to be my
last game as a Volunteer. I’m just going to continue to work hard on
the football field in practice.”
Senior linebacker Austin Johnson
(On the improved play of the defense)
don’t think there’s really anything you can just put your finger on. I
think it’s just all the guys kind of starting to work together better
and having good weeks of practice. We have a lot of depth this year on
defense. We can do a lot of different things. We can run the nickel
packages, base and we have some big linebackers that can get in there
and step up in our freshmen. I think that helps out a lot. When we have
that depth and Coach Wilcox can open up the playbook more, it
definitely helps the defense play better.”
Junior left tackle Dallas Thomas
(On playing with Tyler Bray at quarterback)
keeps us calm, with his personality, he keeps us laughing in the huddle
at TV timeouts. He will say ‘don’t worry about something’ he will crack
a joke and keep a us smiling.”
(On what Bray said after throwing the 100-Yard interception return)
“He was like, ‘It’s OK, we are going to come back and get them. We are going to move the ball again.”
(On offensive line coach Harry Hiestand)
a very positive guy. He will also let you know when you are not doing
something right. He was letting us know we were doing something right
and not messing up with bad technique.”
Sophomore right tackle Ja’Wuan James
(On staying positive)
a lot of guys start to get pressured and start to get negative, that’s
when teams start to go down, late in the third quarter, late in the
fourth quarter. (Saturday) everybody kept a positive attitude.
Everybody stayed together as an offense and we went out there and
compete and got it done.”
(On facing adversity and overcoming it)
feel like we grew as a team. We have been in situations like that ever
since I’ve been here, last year and it seems like we never got to pull
out of it to victory. It was a good feeling. Seeing in the third
quarter, it was tied up, (then) they went up, it was still a good
feeling. Looking around, everyone was still focused and still wanting
to win the game. We got to pull it out at the end, that was a great
Freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt
(On being named the SEC Freshman of the Week)
“It’s definitely an honor. I feel grateful to have a great opportunity to play here and be honored with that award.
(On the Kentucky game)
know it’s going to be a big game just like last week. As a freshman you
don’t really know what to expect until you get there. The atmosphere
last week was crazy. I know this game has a lot on the line, so I’m
ready to put it all on the line for the players next to me and the
Junior fullback Ben Bartholomew
(On the improved running game against Vanderbilt)
think the offensive line did a really good job of coming off the ball
and driving their blocks. Just hitting a few runs early really gave us
confidence in our blocks and gave Tauren and some of the other runners
confidence as well. (The key) was just having success with it early and
keep pressing it.”
(On the pistol formation)
not very different to me. I think the running backs are starting to get
into a groove with it and I think they are liking it. It kind of gives
the running back a little more time to read the blocks.”