Nov. 26, 2013
By Brian Rice KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee started on-field preparation for Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon with a simple goal.
With a trip to a bowl game now off the table, the Volunteers will look to use Saturday's finale as a springboard into next season. In effect, to start the 2014 season 1-0 by leaving Lexington with a season-ending win.
Marlin Lane said starting a winning streak with Saturday's game would be a way to connect the senior class to the successes that the team strives for next season.
"We couldn't get this senior class to a bowl game so we're trying to start a winning streak," Lane said. "The seniors can be remembered as starting the wining streak that we're going to go on."
A win against Kentucky would also give the players and the program momentum as they head into the offseason strength and conditioning program. With the large senior class departing, it's the final chance for underclassmen to prove themselves in a game situation to earn reps in the future.
"If you are a competitor, it is another opportunity to compete," Head Coach Butch Jones said. "We always talk about competitive character in our football program. For the younger players it is another opportunity to put their football identity and their football resume on film as we continue to build this football program and move forward."
Josh Dobbs is one of those competitors looking to leave a lasting mark on film. But the freshman quarterback also wants to give the Tennessee seniors a parting gift with a win over the Wildcats. In fact, it's not a want for Dobbs, it's a need.
"It's mandatory for us to get this win for them," said Dobbs of the Volunteer seniors who will don a Tennessee jersey for the final time at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night. "It's huge for us to send them out on a winning note and for us to go 1-0 heading into the offseason."
Dobbs understands that both the praise and the blame for wins and losses fall on the quarterback. After posting his lowest offensive output of the season against Vanderbilt, he's ready to make a statement with a bounce-back game.
"I wouldn't say it's tough, its just required for a quarterback," Dobbs said. "They look to you when things are going or things are going good. You have to have that snap-and-clear mentality and just move forward."
In a bit of a role reversal from a season ago, the defense has carried the offense at times. Defensive back Brian Randolph, who had his team-leading fourth interception against Vanderbilt said the unit was up to the task again if that's what it takes to get a win against Kentucky.
"We just want to start a winning streak for next year, trying to be 1-0," Randolph said. "End on a good note, correct our mistakes and send our seniors out."