At a loss after loss

Contrary to pre-game speculation, losing to Alabama Saturday night did not prompt Tennessee's head football coach to resign. He merely LOOKED resigned.

As he met with the media moments after a lackluster 29-9 loss to the second-ranked Tide, Phillip Fulmer appeared weary and perplexed ... like a man who just got sucker-punched and still hadn't figured out what happened to him.

The head man's voice, like his manner, was subdued. Even as he looked ahead to Sunday's practice and vowed, "I'll be up. I'll be ready," he seemed to be speaking more from habit than conviction.

Being a native Tennessean, a UT alumus and a former Vol, Fulmer takes losing hard. Losing to Alabama and seeing his team fall to 3-5 overall, 1-4 in SEC play, clearly took much more than usual out of the man.

"It's disappointing because this is such a special rivalry, such a special game," he said, mustering a little determination as he declared, "I'll be back up tomorrow."

The question is: Will his team be back up when it returns to the practice field or has yet another disappointing loss drained the players?

"Our guys have held pretty tight so far," Fulmer said. "Right now we're in a battle top to bottom, whether it's recruiting or whatever. Right now I'm more worried about our team – winning more games, getting ourselves bowl-eligible and finishing up the season as good as we possibly can.

"That has a tendency to take care of a lot of things when you win."

Tennessee hasn't done enough winning thus far in 2008, however. That's why there were thousands of empty seats at Neyland Stadium Saturday night and thousands more filled by Tide supporters who bought their tickets from apathetic Vol fans.

Given the adversity this Tennessee team has encountered – on the field and off – you have to wonder if the coaches and players have what it takes to bounce back from their latest setback.

"We've had resiliency, as a team and as a staff," Fulmer said. "There's a lot of disappointed guys in that locker room. But they'll be at work tomorrow. We'll get 'em back up."

Before meeting the media, Fulmer briefly spoke with his players. Although they were disappointed by their performance, he is hopeful they'll be eager to hit the field when they convene for Sunday evening's practice.

"I just saw the team," he said. "They've got to have a good look on their face and they've got to be ready to go back to work."

After giving a reasonably mistake-free performance in a 34-3 Game 7 defeat of Mississippi State, Tennessee was guilty of several devastating blunders in the Game 8 loss to Bama. Fulmer seems befuddled as to why these costly mishaps continue to occur this deep into the season.

"All I know," he said, "is that we'll keep working and try to get it fixed."

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