Sept. 19, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Immediately after Saturday's loss to Florida, the Vols spoke about the need to use the game as a learning tool and how they would go back, look at the game film and find ways to correct their mistakes.
By all accounts, the coaches and players have all done exactly that.
Instead of dwelling on the loss, the Vols have tried to find ways to use that experience to their advantage, which has led to two strong days of practice.
"They have been really good," UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "It was a tough one on us. We struggled a little bit just talking to them about it on Monday when we got back together but we overcame that and they bounced back. We have had two good days of practice. We are excited about where we are sitting at right now emotionally. I think the leaders are showing up a little more which is a good thing."
One example of a change Tennessee will make as a result of last Saturday's outcome is relying more on the run game late in games, something Chaney realized after watching the game film.
"I feel like we are trying to do things more physical up front and we did," Chaney said. "I think if anything I look back on the ball game, I think I might have abandoned the run game too quickly, as we got towards the end of the third and early in the fourth, so that would be the biggest change. If you had to say something about the run game, I would say it was more in my hands than anything our kids did."
Although Tennessee didn't handle the adversity it faced in the second half against the Gators as well as it would have liked to, the team has recognized the issue and hopes the experience it gained will help it the next time it faces that situation.
Junior quarterback Tyler Bray was particularly upset with his performance, but Chaney was quick to point out that it shouldn't fall squarely on his shoulders and his development as a quarterback is an ongoing process.
"I think Tyler got frustrated towards the end of the ball game, as we all did," Chaney said. "We continue development of our football players. Tyler has been playing really solid football and we got a little affected, our whole team did. Offensively we did [get affected] towards the end of the game. We talked about it, we addressed it, we watched it on film and we will go out and try to correct it. The smarter we are and the harder we work to correct things we will usually get it done."
In his media session on Tuesday, Bray noted that the offensive's performance late in the game against Florida was so out of character that he didn't even finish watching the game film. That might have been slightly more sarcasm than reality though.
"That is not really true, I don't know why he said that," UT head coach Derek Dooley said. "We correct all of the film and I think Tyler's point was, you have to have a short memory when you play quarterback. I wasn't disappointed in our second half at all. We came out in the third quarter, put on a great drive to go ahead, 20-14. With three minutes to go in the third quarter we had a good football game and we were in command and then we had a five-six minute stretch where we made a lot of mistakes, where we let the game get away from us and we have to learn from it.
"Tyler has grown a lot as a quarterback, he is not where he wants to be. I think he is as disappointed as anybody about how we finished the game as a team and how he finished as a quarterback. I know the next time we are in that situation we will learn from it and improve."
TIME TO STEP UPThe football team battled with Florida for three quarters on Saturday before a five-six minute stretch changed everything.
According to defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, it is because the team didn't go out and do what they needed to do.
No excuses will be made, no fingers will be pointed. The team just needs to move on and execute.
"There are no communication issues," said Sunseri, "The bottom line was we didn't execute what we needed to do. Everyone can have excuses, the bottom line is we didn't execute. We played darn good football for about three quarters and all of a sudden we had eight or nine plays where it wasn't good and that can't happen."
During that eight-play stretch, Florida stymied the defense with many different looks and formations that the team just didn't react to.
"You have to understand it is just not one person out there that has to identify a formation or person, you have 11 guys out there that have to be looking at people, calling things out and communicating stuff," Sunseri said. "That is what didn't happen on the field. We didn't execute that part of it. We didn't do what we had to do there."
The Vols' game against Akron will be a time to rebound from the loss, and step up.
"The bottom line is that these guys have gotten better and better," Sunseri said. "They had a little set back at the end of the game, they rebounded the next couple series to get the people off the field, but then we have to finish the way we started. And that is what this defense is going to do."
Derek Dooley still has not made a determination of who will be the Vols' starting placekicker on field goals and PATs for the Akron game. The team has used both juniors Michael Palardy and Derrick Brodus as the starters in each of the last two weeks, respectively. Despite not having the starter resolved, both players have confidence in their abilities and will be ready if their number is called upon.
"I'm the same as I have been since the season started," said Palardy, who is 2-of-3 on field goals and 8-of-10 on PATs. "Obviously there was a bit of adversity, but I'm still as confident as I was when I started the season off and where I was in fall camp."
Brodus, who drew his second-career start vs. Florida last Saturday, is similarly sure of himself and keeping his same routine.
"I have approached (practice) the exact same way I have the last couple of weeks, I haven't changed anything," said Brodus, who was 2-of-3 on PATs vs. the Gators. "I feel whenever you change things, everything goes wrong."
Special team coach Charlie Coiner says until the players execute in the actual games, they will be subject to criticism.
"I don't know that the confidence is ever going to be there until they get out there on Saturday night or Saturday afternoon and they do it," said Coiner, who also worked with the Buffalo Bills' special teams units from 2006-09. "It all goes back to the beginning. When you turn the lights on and you go out there and perform the way you're supposed to perform, whether you did it in practice or not, that's when the confidence will come."
The Vols have missed one extra point in each of the first three games, which Dooley called the "yips" in his Monday press conference. Palardy says it's "not a lack of focus" saying they "shouldn't have happened."
Palardy said he is "working a lot and determined to make sure I'm out there on that field ... whatever I can do to help the team."
Coiner gave the latest on Saturday's starter: "We don't know right now. What were doing right now is, they both kicked today and yesterday. We still have Thursday left to do it. I like the fact that they're disappointed and obviously they would be disappointed, the fact that they get it. They get that this is not good enough. When you have to make extra points and we expect you to make field goals, we wouldn't send you out there. So I like the fact that they've come in, they've taken the business approach, we've done some things that we're trying to help them this week."
APPROACHING AKRONAkron may not be in the SEC, but that doesn't mean the Vols are looking past them.
In fact, they are looking forward to the opportunity to show not only that last Saturday was out of character, but that they have learned from it and are ready to move forward.
"It is a chance to respond from a tough loss," Dooley said. "We really had a great game going there for three quarters against a real good football team. We made a lot of mistakes during a five-minute stretch that we have to learn to overcome and we will do a better job of it. We have a big test this weekend against a team that can really throw the ball as well as anybody."
If it knows nothing else about the Zips, Tennessee knows that any team coached by Tommy Bowden will be able to put points on the scoreboard.
"They are certainly lighting it up [offensively]," Dooley said. "It is like any first year, they have already gotten into a nice rhythm in a real quick time. He is obviously a great coach, knows how to score a lot of points and throw for a bunch of yards and that is what they are doing. They have a really good quarterback and a lot of receivers running around out there making plays. It is going to be a big test for us."