Vols look to make 'statement'

Georgia is unbeaten (5-0) and ranked No. 6 nationally. That's why some observers think the Bulldogs are the new bully of SEC football as they prepare to face once-beaten, 10th-ranked Tennessee Saturday in Athens. And that's why the Vols are four-point underdogs.

Are Tennessee's players concerned? Nope.

''I knew we were going to be an underdog,'' said Vol tailback Derrick Tinsley, a native of Marietta, Ga. ''With the loss to Florida, that's why we're the underdog. But Florida came in here (Knoxville) as an underdog with a loss and got a win.

''We've just got to put a complete game together. We've got that mindset of going down to get that victory because we want the SEC Championship really bad, and Georgia is standing in our way.''

In addition to creating a three-way tie (with UGA and Florida) for the SEC East title, Vol players figure a win will deliver a message to their league brethren.

''If we win this game it will definitely send a statement out to the SEC that Tennessee is back ... we're on our way,'' Tinsley said. ''With the one loss to Florida, people are probably saying that the other SEC teams are gaining on us but I don't believe that at all.''

The Vols (4-1) have been unimpressive to date but neither the players or coaches seem discouraged by that.

''Coach Fulmer says we're playing good; we're just doing it in spurts,'' Tinsley said. ''We're not doing it completely. Sooner or later, we're going to have to do that. We need to do it this Saturday -- get the offense and defense on the same page for the first half and second half. That's what we're going to need to do to win.''

Five games into the season, though, you'd think the Vols would've had time to put together two good halves of football. Tinsley concedes the point.

''It's about time,'' he said. ''We've been playing around a little bit, messing up here and there. Right now it's about time for us to get on our A-game. We've got a long stretch of good teams. To win these games we've got to play complete games. We can't win these games playing in spurts.''

Tinsley hopes the game isn't as nerve-wracking as last weekend's six-overtime thriller with Arkansas. He nearly proved to be the goat in that game, losing a fumble in the third overtime that gave the Razorbacks a golden opportunity to win. Fortunately for the Vols, Brennan O'Donohoe missed a potential game-winning 37-yard field goal, and Tennessee prevailed three OTs later.

''After the fumble, I went to the sideline and I was real frustrated,'' Tinsley said. ''Guys came over and told me to keep my head up, that things would work out. Fortunately, he missed the field goal, so I guess somebody was watching out for me.''

Tinsley was so relieved when the field goal try hooked wide left that he crumpled to his knees and pressed his face to the ground.

''I couldn't believe it,'' he recalled. ''I wanted to pinch myself to see if it was real. I was thanking God. I didn't want to bring nothing bad on him for missing the field goal but, fortunately, he did.''

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