Anger management

Anger is a great motivator. Mad at the media for giving them no chance to beat Arkansas last weekend, the Tennessee Vols vented their frustration by hammering the Hogs 34-13.

As head coach Phillip Fulmer prepared to begin his weekly news conference earlier today, I jokingly suggested the media should've gotten game balls for their contribution to last weekend's win.

Scanning the room, Fulmer quipped: "I don't know about game balls for any of the people in this room, but there were a couple that might've deserved them."

With the media singing their praises as they prepare to host Vanderbilt, the Vols were forced to find a new target for their wrath this week. They had to go back two years but finally succeeded: The new fall guys are the Vandy officials who commissioned a video of the Commodores' 2005 upset win in Knoxville.

"Two years ago they came in here and beat us on our home field, then made a highlight film off of that game alone," Vol receiver Josh Briscoe said. "We don't want that to happen again."

Asked what he remembered most about the '05 game, Vol receivers coach Trooper Taylor replied: "I remember how horrible that felt, and I remember 'em making the highlight tapes and sending 'em all out as Christmas gifts to everybody. I remember how the (UT) fans felt and how we felt as a team and as coaches. Nobody wants to go back down Memory Lane with that."

The Vol aide paused briefly, then quickly added: "But they (Commodores) deserved to win that game. I will tell you that because they played better than we did that day."

The '05 Vandy game doomed the Vols to their first losing record and their first bowl-less season since 1988. When Fulmer noted that his program had hit "rock bottom," no one argued. The Vols have won 16 of 23 games since then, including a 7-3 mark in 2007.

"That WAS rock bottom for us," Taylor said. "Obviously, being an in-state rivalry made it even worse."

Whereas no one expected Tennessee to win last week, everyone expects the Vols to win this week. Asked if that presents a different challenge in terms of getting up for a game, Briscoe shrugged.

"We're preparing for this game like we would any other game, whether we're the underdogs or favored to win," he said, later adding that "In the SEC anything can happen any week. That's been proven this year."

The 7-3 Vols will be SEC East champs if they beat Vanderbilt this week and Kentucky next week, so the fact they are heavily favored should not affect their preparation.

"I don't think we're looking at that too much," guard Anthony Parker said. "We're treating this game like the last couple of ones. Our backs are to the wall and we've got to get the job done. We can't lose any more games and make it to the Championship Game, so here we are in a two-game playoff."

The 5-5 Commodores have something to play for this Saturday, as well.

"They're still looking to be bowl eligible," Briscoe noted. "To beat Tennessee and become bowl eligible in the same game is something they'll be highly motivated to do. We've got to keep that from happening."


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