Sept. 16, 2013
By Alex Cate KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- Butch Jones could have referred to the rankings. He could have picked up a stats sheet and rattled off reasons why Oregon was supposed to win that game or how a plethora of injuries and a lack of depth caused a young Tennessee football team to be run over by a superb Oregon offense.
Instead he led off his weekly press conference with a clear message.
"Losing will never, ever be tolerated here or accepted at the University of Tennessee and it's unacceptable," Jones said. "You can search for all the excuses that you want, winning is a habit and losing is a habit and it's unacceptable."
The Volunteers showed up Saturday in hopes of knocking off the no. 2 Oregon Ducks and prove SEC defensive dominance by shutting down one of the country's best offenses.
Instead they found themselves holding a knife in a gunfight, outmatched and outgunned.
On Monday, Jones gave credit to the Oregon team but made no excuses other than to point the finger at his own team.
"Obviously against Oregon, we did not pay any attention to the small details that it takes, are necessary to winning football games," he said.
"We must overachieve in order to compete and win football games, we did not overachieve."
After a quick start for the Vols, taking an early 7-3 lead and having success defensively, visions of an upset started to circulate.
Those thoughts were quickly squashed as Oregon ran off 59 unanswered points with several Duck players recording career games.
"To go on the road and play in these types of environments against this quality of opponents, not only Oregon but as we continue to progress and move forward throughout the season, you know our mental toughness, our mental conditioning has to take monumental steps forward," Jones said.
That mental toughness will be tested this Saturday as the Volunteers open SEC play, heading south to Gainesville, Fla. and the No. 19 Florida Gators.
Led by third year head coach, Will Muschamp, the Gators boast one of the best defenses in the conference and Jones recognizes it.
"A little bit different [than Oregon] schematically but a lot of the same similarities as well in terms of different reads from the linebackers for their eye discipline, play action, off balance sets and getting the ball in the hands of their playmakers and then you're going into another hostile environment," Jones said.
"This week our whole mental focus, our whole mental conditioning - you know if you say what's the biggest area of improvement - it's becoming a much more mentally focused football team, proving we can go on the road and handle all the distractions that it takes in the preparation before the game and also on game day as well."
With such an inexperienced team, the Vols' first year coach will strive to use the Oregon loss as a teaching point and marking point in the future - a performance they never want to repeat.