Oct. 12, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Forgive Chris Walker for bending the rules.
Visiting patients at UT Medical Center with 65 or so of his teammates Monday afternoon, the junior defensive end had trouble suppressing a grin when asked about the Vols' 45-19 victory over Georgia two days earlier. It's safe to say the other 46 players who visited patients East Tennessee Children's Hospital wore similar smiles, too.
That rule about taking 24 hours to enjoy a win or stew over a loss? Not this week.
Even two days later, the Vols had plenty of joy to spread during their hospital visits.
"I may enjoy it for a little bit longer than 24 hours," Walker said, smiling. "I'm taking 48 hours. It was a huge win for our team."
It's certainly a forgivable offense. The Vols (3-3, 1-2 SEC) will get a chance to rest sore knees and shoulders this weekend in advance of Tennessee's trip to face No. 2 Alabama. But that victory over Georgia provided some sorely needed momentum.
"We could be easily sitting here a 2-4 heading into the bye week and not having a good feeling like we do," Walker said. "I think the win was really good for us, for a momentum thing, getting ready to go into a really big game against No. 2 Alabama. A really good feeling for us."
All those good feelings started last week in practice.
Quarterback Jonathan Crompton planted the seeds for his career day against the Bulldogs with a solid week of practice, multiple players said.
"I don't want to get too religious on you all, but I swear, all week we prepared well," he said. "(Last) week I felt something different. It's no repeat Wednesdays. We didn't have any repeats. It was crazy."
So was an emotional team meeting in the team hotel Friday night. Graduate assistant Inky Johnson's talk was particularly moving, as was one from injured linebacker Nick Reveiz.
And where some speeches ring hollow, Jones and his teammates were moved.
"Coach usually comes to us and talks about what we need to do with (the gameplan). He didn't do that. He talked about playing hard, like it's your last play, for each of the players," Jones said. "Everybody bought in. I think it touched everybody. You could see it out on the field.
"I could see the faces after everybody spoke that they were so motivated, so focused and so ready to play. I didn't say anything to anybody, but I felt good things were going to happen."
And the Vols want to keep feeling that way.
"I think the players have bought in. They love this feeling that we have right now," says Jones, who set a career high with 105 receiving yards against Georgia on Saturday. "To be a team like Georgia, not only did we win, we won by a large margin. I think everybody's bought in and really loves this feeling and is not going to let it slip away."
The Vols return to practice Tuesday, with another workout on Wednesday before taking the weekend off for the university's fall break.
Quarterback Jonathan Crompton, despite being named SEC offensive player of the week for his 310-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Bulldogs, has already turned the page.
"It's been good, but I'm really concentrating now on the next opponent," he said. "That's a thing that a lot of good teams have been doing."
While Walker and the Vols took a little extra time to enjoy Saturday's performance, there's little danger of getting into 72-hour territory.
"Our coaches are going to bring us back down to earth really fast," Walker said. "When we get back on the practice field, they're going to have our focus strictly toward Alabama. That's going to get our focus off what we did and what we have to do."