"I just wanted to go in and maximize every time I got the ball," he said.
He did that, all right.
After starting tailback Arian Foster played Tennessee's first two offensive series, Hardesty got the call for series No. 3. He rushed for a four-yard gain on first down but two incompletions led to a punt, which was blocked, helping UCLA grab a 7-0 lead.
Hardesty turned workhorse on series No. 4. After gaining 5, 10, 5 and 3 yards, he "maximized" with an 11-yard sprint to the end zone that tied the score at 7-all.
"The O-line got a good push upfront, and I was able to get to the second level (linebackers) pretty much untouched," Hardesty said, typically modest. "Gerald Jones had a good block on the corner outside, and it was just me running by the safety for the score."
Oddly enough, Hardesty did not touch the ball again on Tennessee's final 14 plays of the half.
He carried three times in the third quarter with mixed results – losing 3 yards, gaining 4, then gaining 6.
Hardesty didn't touch the ball in the fourth quarter until the Vols faced a third-and-1 at the Bruin 22-yard line with a little over two minutes remaining. He picked up two yards with a nice inside move, then "maximized" again on the very next play, barreling 20 yards to paydirt to give Tennessee a 21-17 lead with 1:54 left.
"I really can't do nothing without the O-line," he said, again showing his modest nature. "The O-line opened up a hole and I just took the seam and took it in for a score."
Although the Game 1 loss was discouraging, Hardesty's performance was quite encouraging. He finished with 66 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
"Montario played really well," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He had a great fall camp and looks like he's going to be a real impact player for us this fall."
Especially if he continues to maximize.