Proving itself, not revenge, UT motivation

Proving itself, not revenge, UT motivation

October 4th, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee doesn't need to look back for motivation.

The Volunteers can't afford to look too far ahead, either.

The feeling of revenge would be an easy one for them to take this week in preparing for Georgia, which hammered the no-show Vols by 27 in Athens last season.

"It's not really my style, but I didn't forget," said Ja'Wuan James, UT's sophomore right tackle and a Georgia native. "It wasn't a good feeling going out there and just getting beat the whole game. We just want to get a good week of practice this week so we can change that."

The Bulldogs, who have won three straight games since losing their first two to nationally ranked Boise State and South Carolina, led 17-0 after one quarter and 27-7 at halftime against the 2010 Vols.

"They whipped us good last year, about as good as you can get whipped," UT coach Derek Dooley said.

The Vols were still in a haze from letting a signature win at LSU slip away on the game's final play, but their focus is much different this year after an open week and then an easy win against Buffalo. Revenge, however, won't be on their minds.

"It's overplayed," senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "I think the revenge factor, if it's anybody, is for LSU. That was the big game we felt like kind of got away from us. But as far as Georgia goes, that was our fault. We let them get their big plays, and everything they got was on us. They did nothing special.

"We're going to go out there and show them what Tennessee football play is like for four quarters when we go out there and know what we're doing."

Dooley has much more to emphasize this week than revenge.

"You shouldn't ever put yourself in a position where you want that," he said. "My biggest thing is how are we going to play, and we shouldn't have to have last year's motivation to play well. We only get 12 days a year that we're measured on -- I tell our team that all the time. There's no excuse not to be ready.

"As coaches, as players, all I'm worried about is how much we've improved, especially going against a good football team. What are we going to look like compared to what we looked like two weeks ago?"

It might be even easier for the Vols to take a peek at what lies beyond Saturday night's date with the Bulldogs. Top-ranked LSU visits Knoxville the following week, and then comes a trip to second-ranked Alabama. UT closes out October with a visit from South Carolina.

"I told the team this: We're not playing October," Dooley said. "I've heard more people say, 'The next four games,' and I'm thinking to myself, 'We're playing Georgia, and that's it.' It doesn't matter who we played last week or who we play next week. You've just got to go week to week.

"Is this another measuring stick of where we want to be? Of course it is. But I think every game is, in some ways, by how you perform."

The Vols have performed well in dispatching nonconference foes Montana, Cincinnati and Buffalo by a combined 128-49, but Dooley acknowledged the true measurements come within the Southeastern Conference.

With every team in the SEC's East Division already with at least one league loss, Saturday's game is important in terms of staying in the race. For the Vols, it's a chance to keep some momentum into games against the two best teams in the nation.

"We've got to focus on one game at a time," James said, "but it is good to have momentum and just know you're doing things pretty good [because] now you've just got to try to do it better and better instead of stressing about what you're not doing right."

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