Devastating defeat

Football coaches like to say that one of the keys to being a good defensive back is having a short memory. Tennessee cornerback Jonathan Wade fits the bill ... but he still hasn't forgotten last year's game with Vanderbilt.

God knows he's tried.

Wade was on the field when the Commodores drove 63 yards in just three plays – Jay Cutler hitting Earl Bennett on the go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:11 remaining – to nail down a 28-24 win last November.

Cutler has moved on but Bennett hasn't. Nor has that haunting memory.

Asked what he remembered about that gut-wrenching defeat, Wade replied: "Walking off the field."

As the final gun sounded Tennessee's coaches were shocked. The Vols led 24-21 with less than 2:00 remaining. Tennessee's fans were crushed. Losing to Vandy was unthinkable. Tennessee's players were outraged. Several threw their helmets to the turf as they left the field.

Asked what he was feeling, Jonathan Wade answered: "I was disappointed more than anything."

Tennessee had beaten Vandy 22 times in a row prior to last year's game. That made losing to the Commodores at Neyland Stadium especially humiliating.

"Sometimes you take things for granted, and I think that was one of those situations," Wade said. "We learned a lot of valuable lessons all through last season. You live and learn. That's what life is all about."

So what did Wade learn from that game?

"Keep fighting. Keep fighting," he said. "Always know that you have to perform to the best of your ability every chance you get."

The Vols hope to perform to the best of their ability in Saturday's rematch at Vanderbilt Stadium. They may need to against a Commodore team that has rallied around new quarterback Chris Nickson.

"They lost Cutler but the quarterback they have now is good at what he does," Wade said. "He throws well and he runs well. Cutler could run, too, but he was a great, great passer and he didn't have to run a lot. This guy now has the option to run because he's such a great runner."

Even without Cutler's powerful right arm, Vanderbilt has managed to keep Bennett involved in the offense.

"Definitely," Wade said, grinning smugly as he added: "If we had Earl we'd be trying to keep him involved, too. He's a good player who makes a lot of plays."

Nickson and Bennett can make enough plays that Tennessee cannot take victory for granted Saturday afternoon. Wade insists the Vols won't do so.

"Not anymore," he said. "We don't take ANYTHING for granted now. That's one of the lessons we learned last year."

Although the Vols are a little down on the heels of a two-game losing streak, Wade thinks they are fired up about facing the Commodores again.

"Uh huh," he said. "We are. We'd better be."

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