Defensive ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius "Tank" Wright knew they had to win it for Steve Caldwell, too.
So when Arkansas hung a 49-7 thumping on the Vols, it was time to celebrate. They gave their mentor of the last two seasons an ice water bath to put the clincher on the last game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"I think Coach Caldwell was pretty happy," said Bequette, the fifth-year senior who came up with the idea of the on-field bath.
"I got the idea of doing that during the week. I was going to get Tank if the situation was right. It was cold water on a pretty cold night, but Coach Caldwell took it like a man."
The Hogs emptied the bench in the fourth quarter with their easiest SEC victory of the season. But after cruising to a 21-0 lead, the home fans were squirming when the Vols kept it for 15 plays and had it first and goal in the final minute of the first half down just 21-7.
That's when Bequette chased UT quarterback Justin Worley on a third-and-goal pass play from the UA 5-yard line and Tramain Thomas stepped in front of a receiver at the goal line for the key play of the game. His interception sent the Hogs to their usual second half swoon.
"We were in bracket coverage on Da'Rick Rogers and he ran an out, so I just flipped inside and played the eyes of the quarterback," Thomas said. "His eyes took me to the ball and I just came up and got it.
"It was a nice feeling to make a play like that as a senior in my last game here. That's what we talked about, stepping up in our last game and then putting it in the younger guys heads that this was big for us."
And for Caldwell.
"Coach Caldwell never came right out and talked about the meaning of this week to us in the last few days, but we all knew it," Bequette said. "It was in his tone. You know, it's Tennessee and you'd hear it in his voice. Subtle stuff."
A soaked Caldwell gathered up his family in the north end zone for a group picture with the score in the background.
"Yeah, I saw that," Bequette said. "Just think about his family growing up in Knoxville and then it all ended kind of raw. We know the story. He's got a son still there. So this was a huge game for him and we knew it.
"I thought Coach Caldwell handled it in a great way this week, very mature. We all understood, though."
It was appropriate that Caldwell had his veteran ends for the first time since the season's second game. Bequette missed a stretch with a hamstring injury. Wright was playing for the first time since breaking an arm against Alabama.
"It's huge to get Tank back," said Bequette. "Trey Flowers and Chris Smith have done great while he was out, but you can't put into words what Tank means to our defense. He's a big-time playmaker.
"You have to go back and think about all of the plays he's made in this league in clutch situations. As he plays more, you will see him get better and better. We know what he means."
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson understands.
"I went to Tank after the game and told him that he doesn't understand how much confidence he gives me being back," Robinson said. "We are still getting better. The kids just keep playing, working, going to the film and correcting mistakes. We see improvement every day. I tell them just fix one thing a day and we'll get better."
Wright didn't think he did a whole lot. He was busy crediting all of the big plays produced by the seniors.
"Look at the clutch plays," he said. "A lot of seniors were clutch. That's what Coach (Bobby) Petrino preaches, being clutch. Tramain Thomas was Mr. Clutch with the interception. We needed it at just that time to get off the field and to halftime. We had a lot of clutch tonight."
Quarterback Tyler Wilson didn't think he was very clutch in the first half. In fact, he wasn't doing much thinking at one point in the first half. He said he was "fuzzy" after taking one hit.
"I wasn't myself in the first half, but I felt better in the second half," Wilson said. "I felt better in the second half."
Wilson was just 7 of 14 in the first half for 101 yards. He jumped that to 9 of 12 for 113 in the second half when the Hogs also found their running game.
"I was tough on Tyler at halftime," said Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator. "He was just 50 percent and I didn't like how he was converting third downs. But Tyler is a fighter. He understands himself and how to get under control.
"I told him to think like he was starting the game over at halftime. I told him to get back out there and warm himself up all over. He did that and was much better."
Wilson was upset for missing Joe Adams on a sideline route when the UT safety blew a coverage on a play-action set. His coaches weren't happy, either.
"When you miss a guy like that it doesn't help your case," Wilson said. "They want to know what's wrong.
"I thought to myself at halftime, we are up but, gosh, I haven't played very well. That's why when we win by this margin, I just know we haven't played at our peak yet. We haven't hit our stride yet."
There was little talk of what the Hogs can achieve by winning out, but the BCS picture did come up when a reporter told Bequette of Boise State's loss.
"Good, because I'm not a Boise fan," Bequette said. "That's all I can say about that. Read between the lines. I'm glad they lost.
"I don't know what that means in the BCS. It's all just a mess. But I would think that helps us."
The Hogs know they have work to do this week in Little Rock against Mississippi State.
"We are 9-1 and that's awesome," Wilson said. "There are a lot of scenarios out there but the only thing that matters is that we have to go down there and get another victory.
"Our goal is to finish strong. It's always fun in Little Rock. It's definitely a different type of crowd and it's always electric. I expect us to get a win.
"We know that the sky is the limit for us. I've always said that."
The Hogs will be going for their second straight 10-win season.
"When Coach Petrino came here, that was the mindset he brought," Wilson said. "We knew that was his goal."
Bequette said, "We had high expectations from the start. Really high. There were some on the outside who were looking down on us about the middle of the season, but within our team we all knew where we stood.
"We've got two games against quality opponents left. We are all excited to go to Little Rock. It's always fun there and we like that crowd."
Not that there was anything wrong with the Fayetteville atmosphere.
"I thought it was really loud," Wilson said. "I thought the noise was way up there. I thought Tennessee's quarterback was getting frazzled because of the noise. Our fans were making it tough on him.
"It as a great atmosphere. It has been really good the last three games here and it definitely has helped us."