Bowl is Vol goal

With a 5-5 record and a 2-9 Vanderbilt team on the opposite sideline, Tennessee's football team won't have an awful lot of motivation in tonight's home finale.

Still, a smashing victory offers three potential benefits: One is the chance to post a winning record by sweeping Vandy and Kentucky. Another is the chance to earn a bowl bid. The third is the opportunity to build some momentum for the future. Head coach Lane Kiffin believes a strong finish in 2009 can help the Vols get off to a strong start in 2010.

"Definitely," he said. "It carries momentum in your recruiting. It carries momentum in your team's confidence, especially in your first year. This would be huge for us to get these two wins to spring-board us into the offseason. And, obviously, a bowl is very big for us because of the extra practice for so many young kids."

Wide receivers coach Frank Wilson adds a hearty amen to that. He says the two weeks of practice time a team gets by earning a bowl bid is a tremendous positive.

"It's invaluable. It's critical," he said. "The more we can practice with these guys, the more we can have legitimate time with them in meetings and practice sessions, the further along they'll go. We want to keep on pressing the button, and the bowl-week preparation allows us those two weeks to do that.

"That would be something phenomenal for those young kids. When I say young I don't necessarily mean in classification. We have some juniors- and seniors-to-be that haven't played a whole bunch in the past, so they're young, as far as game repetitions."

Vanderbilt limps into tonight's 7 o'clock kickoff with an 0-7 SEC mark. The Vols could be flat coming off a 42-17 loss at the hands of Ole Miss but Tennessee coaches believe there's still plenty to play for.

"The opportunity to go to a bowl game, continue our season," Wilson said. "Any time you have an opportunity to compete, that's a motivation in itself. And the guys are eager to get that bitter taste (from the loss at Ole Miss) out of their mouths.

"They're ready to get a W."

MILESTONE WATCH

Senior tailback Montario Hardesty needs just 44 yards tonight to become the 14th player in UT history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. The feat has been accomplished 14 times previously, with Johnnie Jones doing it twice (1983, 1984).

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton could set a UT record for passes without an interception tonight. He has thrown 119 in a row without a pick. With 25 throws tonight he could break Casey Clausen's school record of 143 set in 2003. With four tonight, Crompton could tie Clausen for third place on UT's single-season list for touchdown passes at 27. With 313 passing yards tonight Crompton would pass Alan Cockrell (3,823) for eighth place on UT's career passing yards list.

FRESHMAN PHENOM

A Tennessee kick-coverage unit that has been burned several times this year will be severely tested tonight. Vanderbilt freshman Warren Norman averages 26.7 yards per return. He leads the SEC with three returns for touchdown - a 76-yarder in Game 6 vs. Army, a 99-yarder in Game 8 vs. South Carolina and an 80-yarder in Game 9 vs. Georgia Tech.


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