Replacing one of the finest players in Tennessee's recent history is a daunting task but Wilson seemed undaunted against UCLA. In fact, he recorded Mayo-like numbers – 12 tackles, a sack and another tackle for loss.
"I think he played great," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said after grading the game film. "He played as well as I could imagine."
Head coach Phillip Fulmer concurred, noting: "He played very well. He played EXCEPTIONALLY well."
Wilson, a 5-10, 225-pound senior from Memphis, was pleased with his first effort of 2008 but passed most of the credit for his success to others.
"Even though we didn't win the game, Coach (Chavis) told me I had a pretty good game," he said. "The D-line helped me out a whole lot. I have to give all of the credit to the D-line. They were keeping guys (blockers) off of me, so I give all of the credit to my D-line."
Wilson was an integral part of a Vol defense that limited UCLA to just 138 yards and three offensive points through the first three quarters. The Bruins strung together two late touchdown drives, however, then won the game in overtime. Asked what surprised him most about the game, Wilson flashed a pained grin.
"That we lost," he said. "It was crazy. It was a great atmosphere and a great place to be – Monday Night Football Game – but we just couldn't get it done at the end. But we're going to work now and we're looking forward to UAB."
The Blazers will visit Knoxville this Saturday for the Vols' home opener. Wilson is confident Tennessee will give a much better performance in Game 2 than it gave in Game 1.
"The team we are, I think we'll be OK," he said. "We'll bounce back and we'll bounce back hard. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win. You've just got to pick your head up and keep moving and keep going forward."