Simon says Vols won't lose

Kevin Simon all but predicted a Tennessee victory over Alabama this Saturday.

``All the seniors got together (Monday) and pretty much said, `We refuse to lose,''' Tennessee's senior linebacker said.

``We're not going to lose this football game. We're not going to be 3-3. No one came from California or Hawaii or Florida or Texas, or up North, New Jersey, no one came here to be 3-3. We're not a .500 ballclub. So, pretty much from here on out, we're not losing any more football games. We've got our minds made up.''

That pretty much qualifies as predicting victory.

Simon doesn't care how Tennessee wins. He just wants a win.

``If it's 6-3 ballgame or a 54-52 shootout, it doesn't matter to me as long as we put a W on scoreboard,'' Simon said.

Simon has seen both. Last year, Tennessee prevailed 17-13 with Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle sidelined with a season-ending knee injury.

In 2003, the Vols won 51-49 in five overtimes. Simon said he played 102 of 108 defensive snaps.

``I've never been that tired, ever, in a football game,'' Simon said. ``It was a great game to be a part of, if you were Tennessee.''

Whether Tennessee can win a fourth straight game in Tuscaloosa - UT hasn't lose in there since 1930 - might depend on UT's ability to contain Kenneth Darby, the SEC's No. 2 rusher.

Darby is a prime target considering Alabama's top receiver, Tyrone Prothro, is out for the season because of an injury. Prothro led the team in receiving, punt returns and kick returns at the time of his broken leg. Alabama's offense and special teams missed him during a tight 13-10 victory over Ole Miss.

Without Prothro, Simon has an idea what Alabama will do offensively.

``We pretty much know they're going to try to run the football, especially since they don't have Prothro,'' Simon said. ``It's hard for me to believe that they're going to be able to run up and down the field on us. With our front seven, they're not going to be able to run it up and down on us.

``They do have probably the best running back we'll face all year, but I can't see them running the football up and down on us.''

This season, Alabama, with three new offensive line starters, is averaging 163.5 yards rushing per game. The Tide is passing for 231 yards and averaging 26.8 points to rank sixth in the SEC.

Last season, Alabama had 63 net rushing yards against Tennessee. Darby had 99 on 25 carries. Quarterback Spencer Pennington struggled through a 14-for-28 night for just 114 yards. Prothro led the Tide with five catches for 71 yards. With Croyle, Alabama could easily have won.

In six starts last year as a replacement for the injured Ray Hudson, Darby averaged 28 carries for 125 yards. He had 36 carries for 200 yards against Mississippi State. He said he loves to carry 30 times because he gets better as the game goes.

Alabama is 6-0 and No. 5 in the nation. With the Vols virtually out of the SEC chase, Simon was asked what the team's motivation is.

``You play for respect,'' he said. ``This is a man's game. And as a man, in the face of adversity, I'm not going to back down from anybody. My teammates on defense, offense, special teams, we're not going to back down from anything.''


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