Keys to the game

Tennessee linebackers coach Lance Thompson prizes consistency ... on the gridiron and the griddle. That's why he wants the Big Orange to resemble the Big Mac in this evening's opener vs. UT Martin.

Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz essentially made this point when asked earlier this week if the Vols are approaching their Football Championship Subdivision foe the same way they would approach a more formidable opponent.

"You can't treat an opponent differently," Reveiz said. "Then you set yourself up for a let-down. What champions do is strive for consistency at a high level.

"Coach Thompson always talks about (how) if you're going to get a cheeseburger at McDonald's - out in Los Angeles or here in Knoxville - it's got to be the same. It's got to be high quality and the same consistency. That's what we want to be: We want to be the McDonald's."

Citing McDonald's as an example of culinary excellence may seem a bit unusual, but Thompson's point is valid: If you don't play just as hard vs. Martin as you do vs. Alabama, bad things can happen. The Vols learned that painful lesson in November of 2008. Distracted by the forced resignation of head coach Phillip Fulmer, they muddled through a 13-7 home-field loss to a Wyoming team so bad that the Cowboys also fired their coach that season.

Senior defensive end Chris Walker hasn't forgotten that awful day.

"Everybody saw the game against Wyoming," he said. "We came out and didn't show very well. That's a prime example: If you're not ready to play anybody in the country can beat you."

Reveiz hasn't forgotten that Wyoming loss, either.

"It helped me realize that nothing is given," he said. "Everything is earned. Everything is how you practice, how you respect your opponent, how you go out every Saturday. They're not going to give you the win because you're Tennessee, it's Homecoming or you're on your home turf. You're not going to get the win just because of that. You've got to work."

Apparently, that 2008 Vol squad didn't work as consistently as it should've. As a result, a team projected as top-20 material in preseason limped home 5-7. Consistency of preparation and effort was missing.

"I think some of that got lost at the last of the Fulmer era," Walker said. "I think we've learned from that. I think, as seniors, we've learned about not taking a game lightly."

That's why he and Reveiz are convinced the Vols will give their best effort tonight against the unheralded Skyhawks of UT Martin.

"I think this is going to come down to us playing ball," Walker said. "That's all we're worried about - coming out there and executing. We're really focused on UT Martin."

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