KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee enters October with two losses in games it could have won.
That's created an atmosphere of negativity and criticism around Knoxville that the Volunteers have to manage with eight games still remaining on the schedule.
It's not been the best week for third-year coach Butch Jones in the wake of a second blown fourth-quarter in last week's loss to Florida, but the coach, his staff and his players have moved on with Arkansas coming to Knoxville on Saturday night.
A win could get Tennessee's hopes in the SEC East back on track for Georgia's visit.
"You stay the course," Jones said at his weekly press conference on Wednesday. "You be consistent in your approach. It's all about constant and never-ending improvement. You can't let any negativity, clutter or distraction creep in and permeate throughout your football program. You can't allow that to happen.
"That's a challenge in today's world of social media. Not for the coaches, but for our football players, and especially being a young football team, this is all new to them. You have to rely on your older players."
Jones said he's liked how his players have gone about preparations for the Razorbacks in practices and meetings this week, despite the bitterness that came with coughing up a 13-point lead in the final 10 minutes against a team and program the Vols hadn't beaten in a decade.
"The wins are never as high as the lows of the losses. They live with you," he said. "You forget about the wins. You never forget about the losses. They stay with you, and you learn from that, but I've been very proud of our players. I think they've handled everything very well. They've been very resilient.
"We're responsible for what we create."
And the Vols are likewise responsible for their response, and it needs to be a good one for Tennessee with the Bulldogs and trips to Alabama and Kentucky on the docket this month.
"You look at last year: We have great evidence, just like Arkansas, with the way they finished," Jones said. "We won four out of five, won a bowl championship. That's the first time that's been done here in a long time.
"The teams and the football programs that can manage the natural adversities that a long football season brings about are the ones that like their body of work when it's all said and done."
Analyzing the analytics
Charts and analytics have been topics of debates for Jones after Tennessee's two losses.
After the loss to Oklahoma, Jones cited hours of analytics went into the decision to kick a field goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter, and the decision to kick the extra point instead of going for two after the last touchdown against Florida has been discussed and rehashed all week.
On Wednesday, Jones was asked how he balances using such metrics and weighing the flow of a game in making decisions.
"We don't use analytics during the game. That's all leading up to the game," he explained. "All that is is that's a support system for us.
"Obviously you have to make great decisions, you have to make educated decisions, and I would say 99 percent of most decisions that are made on game day are done in a controlled environment, in a staff meeting room. We have a plan in place that we work each and every week in terms of our preparation.
"That starts on Sunday and goes all the way to Friday morning. Most situations are done that way, which most programs do that way. We don't just go out there and make a decision by chance. They've usually been rehearsed."
Jones said he does make decisions based on a "gut feel" in games and cited Tennessee's decision to try a jump pass with running back Alvin Kamara on fourth-and-2 against Florida as an example.
"It was a gut feel for what we needed at that particular moment at that particular stage of the game in terms of momentum," he said. "You do rely on gut instincts at times. But everything we do is also discussed and talked about very, very thoroughly."
Wide receiver Pig Howard's status for Saturday's game remains unclear. Howard did not travel to the Florida game. He also missed practice on Tuesday.
> Freshman linebacker/safety Quart'e Sapp, who had been playing on special teams this season, will be out for an extended period of time due to a stress fracture in his foot.
> Running back/kickoff returner Ralph David Abernathy IV (ankle) returned to practice on Tuesday and could be available on Saturday against Arkansas.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.