Haunted Halloween

Halloween pranks don't scare Tennessee's senior tailback one bit but he readily admits being haunted by a memory — one he plans to share with his younger teammates this week.

Tauren Poole was a freshman on the Big Orange squad that suffered a humiliating 13-7 home-field loss to a 27-point underdog Wyoming team in 2008.

"Nobody was focused," he recalled. "Guys were joking around a lot ... 'It's Wyoming.' Next thing you know we're off the field after one of the most embarrassing losses in UT history."

With the 2011 Vols riding a four-game losing streak, Poole sees the potential for a similarly devastating defeat this weekend against 18-point underdog Middle Tennessee.

No wonder. There are eerie similarities:

— The '08 Vols were 3-6 and coming off a 27-6 loss to South Carolina. The 2011 Vols are 3-5 and coming off a 14-3 loss to South Carolina.

— The '08 Vols were reeling after the forced resignation of head coach Phillip Fulmer. The '11 Vols are reeling after being outscored 109-28 the past four weekends.

— The '08 Vols were struggling offensively. The '11 Vols are struggling offensively, scoring just 16 points in the past three games combined.

Although most fans blamed Tennessee's lackluster performance versus Wyoming on the aftershock of Fulmer's resignation, Poole says that wasn't the case.

"We just didn't take Wyoming seriously," he recalled. "We have to take every opponent seriously, especially having the season we're having. We can't take anyone lightly."

Since most of Tennessee players were still in high school when the 2008 Wyoming debacle occurred, Poole plans to share a little history lesson with his younger teammates this week.

"I'm definitely going to remind 'em of it," he said. "I still remember it. I remember how guys felt: They were mad. They were very, very angry. They didn't want to play anymore after that."

It's a safe bet that some Tennessee players already are chalking up this weekend's game as a win. Mindful of what happened in 2008, Poole makes no such assumption, especially given the Vols' current emotional state.

"We've got to be motivated," he said. "MTSU will beat us if we don't be focused. That's putting it bluntly but that's what it will be. We will be focused because we don't have a choice. We've got to get some wins for this program; we've got to get our morale back up because right now the team morale is down."

Team morale was down before the 2008 Wyoming game, too, but it was down even more after the game. Poole will never forget how traumatic that loss proved to be.

"It was one of those games where you didn't even want to walk around campus," he recalled. "I don't want to have that moment again. And, if it's up to me, we won't have that moment."


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