"They've grown during the course of the year," head coach Phillip Fulmer says. "They have a mindset that they're going to find a way or make a way to get the job done. We haven't played perfect all the time but we've played hard."
Tennessee was far from perfect last weekend against South Carolina. The Vols entered play as the SEC's least penalized team, averaging just 4.5 infractions and 33.6 yards per game. Saturday night, however, they were flagged eight times, costing themselves 70 yards and several scoring opportunities. A roughing-the-passer infraction against UT fueled the Gamecocks' final touchdown drive.
"We had too many penalties in the ball game," Fulmer notes. "We're the least penalized team in the conference, and that was not good. It hurt us from an execution standpoint."
After reviewing the game film, the head man says he "saw some really good things in the tape but I also saw some things from an execution standpoint we absolutely have to improve on."
Defensively, Tennessee intercepted three passes but couldn't contain Gamecock quarterback Syvelle Newton, who scrambled for a team-high 85 yards and passed for another 230.
"We had some takeaways, which was good," Fulmer says, "but we didn't do as good a job on the quarterback as we would've liked to."
Because Tennessee scored once on defense (Marvin Mitchell's interception return) and once on a one-play, five-yard drive (following Jonathan Hefney's 65-yard punt return), the Vol offense didn't have the ball a whole lot during Saturday night's game. It proved resourceful enough to win, however.
"We only had nine possessions in the game – one of which was a one-play series after the punt return and one was in a stall situation," Fulmer recalls. "Really, we only had seven series."
The offense scored on four of these possessions, however, registering three touchdowns and a field goal. The Vol offense was productive largely because it passed the ball well and played 60 minutes without losing a fumble or an interception.
"We had no turnovers," Fulmer notes, "which was very, very good."
Again, the Vols are not a great team but they are proving to be a resourceful team. Fulmer uses words such as "poise" and "toughness" and "fighting attitude" when discussing them, adding that these attributes are "reflected in the improvement they've made during course of the year."