Vandy vendetta?

Although they suffered a humiliating home-field loss to Vanderbilt last fall, the Tennessee Volunteers say resiliency – not revenge – is the overriding theme for this Saturday's rematch in Nashville.

Tennessee's players and coaches insist they view this game as a chance to rebound from last week's 31-14 loss to Arkansas, more so than an opportunity to avenge last year's 28-24 loss to the Commodores.

"We're not thinking about last year, revenge or anything like that," sophomore linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "We're just looking to get Tennessee better, lay a foundation for next year and finish this season strong."

Phillip Fulmer believes the 2005 loss to Vandy should be an incentive for his team to play well but it shouldn't be the main incentive.

"That was a big win for Vanderbilt, a disappointing loss for us last year," the Vols' head coach said. "Certainly, somewhere in the back of their minds, that should be there. But each year stands on its own. The main thing I want us to do is get our groove back, get back into the flow like we're capable of playing."

Based on this week's practice sessions, Fulmer said the Vols have shown "some resiliency. They look forward to playing again."

Counting a Game 9 loss to LSU, Tennessee has dropped its last two outings after an encouraging 7-1 start. The Vols hope to change their momentum this week. As Fulmer told his team on Monday: "If you want something changed, you've got to change it."

Tennessee went into a late-season swoon in 2005, losing four games in a row and five of the last six. Despite the '06 Vols' two-game losing streak, Mayo insists this team won't go in the tank the way last year's did.

"The leadership on the team this year is vastly improved over last year,"he said. "Those guys are making sure everybody keeps their heads up, so we can have a successful season."

The LSU loss – coming on a touchdown pass with just nine seconds left – seemed to take a lot out of the Vols. They looked listless against Arkansas.

"The LSU loss was a real close loss, and it's always hard getting over those real close losses like that," Mayo said. "I'm not going to say we weren't over it but we were still disappointed in letting down our fans and each other."

Although he admitted that the lopsided loss at Arkansas "hurt real bad," Mayo said the Vols are as determined as ever heading into the Vanderbilt game.

"We've got to get it done," he said. "Guys have to step up and make plays. Right now guys on the defensive side of the ball just aren't making plays. That's our focus these next three games."

After physically and emotionally taxing games with LSU and Arkansas, the Vols may be running on fumes.

"Sometimes it feels like that," Mayo conceded, "but Coach Fulmer and his staff do a great job of recharging us. We have to go out and play for each other, and that's what we're going to do."

Coming off two disappointing losses in a row, the Vols desperately need to stop the bleeding this weekend.

"We have to get this taste out of our mouth somehow," Mayo said, "and that's what we plan to do this week against Vanderbilt."


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