‘Playoff’ keeps Vols focused
Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011 7:01 pm
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee might be winding down its final week of regular-season practice, but the mentality has remained on winning Saturday to keep the season alive.
“We better be,” head coach Derek Dooley said of whether or not his Vols are ready for Saturday’s game at Kentucky. “We certainly have a lot at stake. We’re kind of in the playoffs. We play and if we win, we keep going. If we lose, we pack it up and go home. A lot to play for and I hope we can come out and play our best.”
Although the Vols hold the momentum in the series, winning 26 consecutive games, the only numbers that matter are the ones that fall under the scope of the 2011 season.
“They’re not much different from our team,” Dooley said after Wednes-day’s practice at Neyland Stadium. “They really aren’t. Our records are similar. It’s a one game difference, but it’s the same in the SEC. They’ve had their struggles. They’ve had some injuries. We’re in a very similar situation. We couldn’t be complacent on anybody because we’ve shown no ability to go out there and dominate.”
The Vols are facing a similar situation as they did heading into last week’s game against Vanderbilt, having to win to keep their chances of playing in a bowl alive.
After conquering that test, 27-21, in overtime, Tennessee is preparing the same way.
“They’ve been the same,” Dooley said. “I don’t think it’s been a bad week. I don’t think it’s been much different on their approach and I think in some ways, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to have too much anxiety over one game. We had a lot at stake last week, too, and we had a good workmanlike approach.”
TWO-QB CHALL-ENGE: Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is focused on defending the Kentucky offense this week and that begins with the Wildcats’ double-barrel action at signal caller in recent starter Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton, who started the first eight games of season before suffering an injury against Mississippi State on Oct. 29. Smith was banged up in the Cats’ loss to Georgia on Saturday, but is expected to play.
“We have to have a plan for both,” Wilcox said. “That is how we have approached it. To this point we have played both types of quarterbacks so it is not anything new, it is taking some of the things we have done in each of those games and kind of piece together what we would do for each guy.”
Since entering the line-up as the Wildcats primary quarterback early in the Mississippi State game, Smith has performed well, completing 57 percent of his passes along with four touchdowns. The true freshman’s 283 passing yards vs. Ole Miss in his career-start on Nov. 5 earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors as he broke UK’s single-game freshman passing mark.
Newton had been sidelined with ankle and should injuries, but returned to play against Georgia last week after missing the previous two games. A junior, Newton is a dual threat as he has 272 rushing yards in his nine games this season along with 1,764 passing yards.
“They are very good schematically. They give you a lot of different issues,” said Wilcox. “They have a couple of quarterbacks they play, one is more of a thrower and then other guy is more of a run pass threat.”
Published in The Messenger 11.25.11