Tennessee Vols must move on again, but now after a win

Tennessee Vols must move on again, but now after a win

November 22nd, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

UT coach Derek Dooley yells from the sidelines.

UT coach Derek Dooley yells from the sidelines.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

VIDEO: Dooley, Vols talk about turning their focus toward Saturday's game at Kentucky.

KNOXVILLE -- Two weeks and two extremes for the Tennessee football team.

From an embarrassing blowout loss to a dramatic, season-salvaging overtime win, the Volunteers have been at both ends of the emotional spectrum, including how to handle and move forward from both.

"I think both are very difficult," coach Derek Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday. "A bludgeoning loss and an emotional win, they're both hard. It probably took us more than 24 hours to get over last week, and we better be over this past win this week. If you don't, you're going to go out there and get beat."

The Vols, who need a win at Kentucky on Saturday to reach bowl eligibility, made it a point to move on from a 42-point loss at third-ranked Arkansas last week by not watching the video. The challenge early this week is moving on from a come-from-behind, overtime win against Vanderbilt on Eric Gordon's game-ending interception return for a touchdown. A loss to the 4-7 Wildcats would undo any good done from beating the Commodores.

Austin Johnson actually thinks it's harder to bounce back from a loss than a win.

"It just sits on you," the senior linebacker said. "When you win, you're excited about coming back. You're ready to come back to practice and get on the next opponent. When you lose, it lingers on you, it's all you think about and you don't really want to watch the film of the game."

The Vols were extra celebratory and extra dramatic after Saturday's win. Some of UT's players went up to the stands to celebrate with family, fans and students, and a video of the postgame scene in the locker room has surfaced on YouTube, though it since has been removed. Players lifted Dooley on their shoulders, and the coach hit the large power "T" on the ceiling in the center of Neyland Stadium's locker room.

Near the end of the two-minute video, which was shot and posted anonymously, Dooley told his players that UT always "kicks the [stuff] out of Vanderbilt." The coach said he was disappointed that the video momentarily had reached the public's eyes.

"That's kind of the world we live in," he said. "It's like there's no sacred place, and I think probably all 120 [Football Bowl Subdivision] coaches out there have a side to them where they loosen up with the team that they don't do in public.

"You take those things for what they are. It's a postgame, emotional [time] -- have a little fun."

First-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said at his weekly meeting with the Nashville media that he knew of the video.

"That's a wound that I'm going to leave open, that's not going to heal," he said. "I'm going to leave it open for a year, and we'll discuss it next year. I look at it as respect. Some people act like they won the Super Bowl when they beat a team that the two previous years won four games total."

Monday, Dooley defended and explained his reasons for his level of excitement.

"Given what this team had been through and given what happened the week before this game and given the fact that probably most people had written this team off," he said, "to go through what we went through in the third quarter and be able to find a way to win the game, it was a good feeling. I was really proud of them.

"Usually when I'm that excited I'm just proud of the guys for doing something they hadn't done all season, so that was probably a part of it."

What's at stake for the Vols in Lexington on Saturday afternoon is cut-and-dry. Win and they're bowl eligible. Lose and there's no bowl and the 26-game winning streak -- the longest for one team over an every-year opponent in the nation -- is history.

"You've got to understand," said senior defensive lineman Malik Jackson, "even though you won, that doesn't mean anything. That's last week. We won against Vandy, not Kentucky. It's over, we've had our 24 hours of fun and now it's time to get to work and try to beat Kentucky."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.