Dooley pushes Vols forward

Dooley pushes Vols forward

November 15th, 2010 by Wes Rucker in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- By the time Derek Dooley picked up his phone Sunday at 5:30 p.m., the 24-hour window to enjoy his University of Tennessee's blowout win over Ole Miss had expired.

The Volunteers, one day after a 52-14 rout over the Rebels, fixated their focus on Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game at in-state rival Vanderbilt.

Dooley told his players not to focus on the results when they lost six of their first eight games -- including a brutal, winless October. He doesn't want them too full of themselves after big wins against Memphis and Ole Miss the past two weeks, either.

The Vols (4-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) should only be concerned with "the process," Dooley preached against Sunday. And the next two steps in that process are a solid week of practice and hopefully a solid performance at Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-7).

"Early on, I think it was hard for them, just because it's always hard when you have high expectations," Dooley said. "And then, once they learned from a coaching standpoint what our expectation was, they kind of settled in. And then, now of course, the challenge is that you want to feel good because you win, but what you hope the win does is inspire you to work even harder and come in each week and want to work harder, and build on it. It can do it that way, or it can cause you to get complacent.

"We have to work very hard to make sure that we don't take victory and turn it into complacency."

That shouldn't be a problem, according to several players.

Beyond the obvious goal -- securing bowl eligibility -- the Vols can't imagine the fallout from losing to Vanderbilt or the next week's opponent, Kentucky.

The Commodores come first, though.

"Football is fun again, and everybody's smiling, but we've got to continue to go forward," said junior tailback Tauren Poole, who had 107 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries against the Rebels. "We can't get lax now. This was a great win for this university, but we've got to move on to Vandy.

"This won't mean much if we go out there and lose to Vandy. This can't be it. We've got to keep going."

Senior wide receiver Gerald Jones agreed with Dooley's opinion that UT's best practice week of the season led to its best performance of the season.

The goal now is to better both areas this week.

"If you would have been at practice last week, you would have thought we were an undefeated team," Jones said. "We were just out there having fun and competing. I would have to agree with [Dooley]. I'd say this probably was the best practice week we've had.

"Hopefully next week will be the same. Hopefully it will be better, actually."

Dooley's "ignore the scoreboard" mantra seems to have set it for at least a good percentage of the players. They say it has, anyway.

"We're not even looking at the record," senior defensive end Chris Walker said. "We had a tough month of October. We knew it was going to be a tough month, but it's not how we start, it's how we finish. Like it always is around Tennessee, they're always going to remember what you do in November.

"We're looking forward to going undefeated in this month, like Tennessee teams do."

Dooley's attitude hasn't seemed much different in victory than defeat. He said there are reasons for that.

"Better times weren't going to come in November if you didn't have the right approach in October," the coach said. "As long as the team was focused on improvement and focused on playing with the kind of intangibles that can't ever be compromised, then we were going to be satisfied.

"Then it was a matter of learning how to get to the result. I think the biggest thing is just focusing on the process, not defining your entire existence by the results. I'll give our team credit.

"We're staying focused on enjoying the competition and trying to improve."


Dooley said sophomore safety Janzen Jackson (ankle), redshirt freshman cornerback Eric Gordon (concussion) and sophomore corner Marsalis Teague (turf toe) are all considered "day-to-day" heading into practice this week.

Teague returned Saturday from his injury, but turf toe often requires weeks of meticulous monitoring. Jackson and Gordon left Saturday's game and didn't return.

"Janzen, we'll find out more tomorrow," Dooley said Sunday night. "We don't expect it to be too bad, so it's day-to-day. Same with Eric Gordon, and same with Teague. They're really in a day-to-day mode.

"Nothing seems to be too serious, but you've got to wait and see each day."