Wakeup call

Vanderbilt unwittingly did Tennessee a great favor last Saturday night. By giving the Vols a scare before bowing 24-10, the Commodores ensured that the Big Orange will have a heightened focus this weekend vs. Kentucky.

After hammering Memphis (50-14) and Ole Miss (52-14) the previous two weekends, the Vols apparently went into the Vandy game thinking they were bulletproof.

"I was disappointed, especially on offense, with our week of preparation," head coach Derek Dooley recalled this week. "I knew we weren't going to play well. It's a sick feeling. I hope we learned a lesson from it. We need to. It's a hard game, and if you don't recommit yourself each week to focusing on the right things, then you're going to not play well."

Sure enough, Tennessee played poorly against the Commodores - losing three turnovers and incurring nine penalties. The Vols' air of invincibility was long gone by the final gun, however, which means the Big Blue should get their best shot Saturday at 12:21 in Neyland Stadium.

"We kind of took Vanderbilt lightly," sophomore linebacker Herman Lathers conceded. "We weren't as prepared as we should've been. We were a little too relaxed. We had some mental busts.

"It definitely will help us come out more focused this week. We've got to come out, like Coach Dooley says, and treat this like it's a playoff game."

Senior defensive end Gerald Williams echoed those sentiments.

"It definitely was a wakeup call," he said of the Vandy game. "We made enough mistakes to last for a year. You have to come out and play hard each and every game. You can't take a team for granted. You've got to give your all, and if you get a chance to put a team away, put ‘em away."

The Vols had better be pumped up this weekend because Kentucky - a loser in each of the past 25 meetings - is sure to be highly motivated.

"Our team definitely is in tune, knowing we have a great SEC team coming in looking to beat us because they're tired of losing," Williams said. "We want to get to a bowl game, so our team is definitely focused. I feel we're going to have a great week of practice, then transfer it over into the game."

Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz agrees that the Vols are determined to avoid a replay of their slipshod performance vs. Vanderbilt.

"We obviously didn't play well against Vanderbilt," he said. "We had some turnovers and we missed some tackles. We didn't always carry out our assignments and we had some busts. We made a whole lot of mistakes but we definitely should learn from those mistakes. We were very blessed and fortunate to get the win. This week we're really going to focus on those mistakes and getting better."

Senior receiver Gerald Jones said the Vandy scare underscored one of football's most basic lessons.

"That's the beauty of the game: On any given Saturday you can be beaten," he said. "You have to play hard every game. It's like us playing against LSU. We could've won but they pulled out the victory. Now look where their season is headed (10-1 and ranked No. 6 nationally). It might've been a totally different direction had they lost that game."

Although disappointed by Tennessee's performance at Vanderbilt, Jones wasn't discouraged by the modest victory margin.

"You're not going to throw up 40 points every game," he said. "You're not going to dominate every game. You're not going to have a quarterback put up stellar numbers every game. It's not going to happen....

"That's just the beauty of the game. You've got to love it, cherish it and keep fighting."


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