There are countless reasons why Tennessee went from bullied to bullies.
An easier schedule. Coaching adjustments. Tyler Bray.
Here's another. After the Vols got walloped 41-14 by Georgia, UT's seniors decided they did have something to play for – even though it was painfully obvious that the Vols wouldn't be playing for any championships this season.
See, despite the numerous preseason predictions that the Vols would be no better than fourth (or worse) in the SEC East, UT's players didn't think like that, especially those with one year to play. Players look down their noses on naysayers. Like players across the NCAA, the Vols were intent on shocking the world.
Until the final horn sounded in that Georgia game.
"All those seniors, I think they hit a point early in the year, it's that human reaction to some losses," Dooley said. "Every senior wants to win every game and go out a champion. And then 90-percent of the seniors out there realize that's not going to happen and at some point in the season they have to recommit to really enjoying their senior year and competing."
"(Luke Stocker has) done it. Denarius Moore's done it. So has Gerald. But all three of them, at some point hit a little rut...(Now) they're all playing well for us, and we need them to."
It has certainly shown. UT's offense has morphed from a run-first offense to a run-and-gun passing attack thanks to the reemergence of Jones, Moore and Stocker.
That reemergence began in UT's locker room after the Bulldog beat down.
"When things don't go your way, your first natural instinct is to be rebellious or deviant," Jones said. "It doesn't happen the way you expected it or pictured it, and you have a defense mechanism and that causes you to be deviant.
"But you have to recommit yourself and sit yourself down and talk to yourself and ask yourself a question. 'What am I going to do? Am I going to be negative and make this season go all the way down the toilet? Or can I change it around by being positive and trying to do what I can do by trying to make this team win.'"
Unfortunately for UT's seniors, they know the drill. With three different head coaches during their tenure and 23 losses since most arrived on campus in 2007, heartbreak has almost become tradition. So has challenging oneself.
"The first thing that went through my head was it was another test from God," Jones said. "I think God doesn't care whether or not I play football in the NFL or not. He wants me to see bigger than that because at first I was thinking I had to make it to the NFL. No, I need to learn life lessons and I think this season was a life lesson. It taught me how to be patient.
"It made me mature a little bit more because you are never all the way fully mature. It taught me a lot of things. I had to deal with the young guys and help them out. I think it helped me more personally than physically, football wise. This year, I think, helped me outside of football. That was the first thing that came through my head - was that it was another test from God, another stage that he put me through and I told myself that I was going to pass it. And I think for the most part I'm doing pretty good."
There is still a goal to be had for these seniors. While bowl bids were once a yawner in Knoxville, garnering one this season would be deemed a sweet success.
"This is our last year playing with each other," Jones said. "We are either going to make it a good one or we are going to regret it. And if we can make it to a bowl game we will definitely remember this because it's not how you start it's how you finish."
Punt Problems: Putting Jones back at punt returner was a no-brainer. He's the safest option – even though he did muff on return earlier this season. That's actually not that bad. Janzen Jackson and Eric Gordon have both dropped two apiece.
Gerald, just catch the ball.
"I think that's why they really have got me back there," Jones said. "If nothing else happens, I'll catch it. I'm going to make sure I do that and not overdo anything else because we really need these two wins."
Jones said his one drop this season came when he failed to call a fair catch.
"This is a fast league and people get down the field fast," Jones said. "If you take one or two steps forward, nine times out of 10 they're going to be in your face. If you can stand still or move backwards, then you'll have to make a decision, but nine times out of 10 you can catch it and return it. All you need is two or three yards to make somebody miss. It just happens. It's reaction really. You don't really think about it."