If Saturday's game against South Alabama is any indication, the
Tennessee Volunteers have a long way to go before they're ready to compete in the Southeastern
The Vols hung on to a 31-25 lead after taking a 31-7 advantage early in the third
quarter against the Jaguars.
"I think we stopped making plays and we stopped paying
attention to the small details," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Small details lead to the big
details. That's the thing, that mental conditioning, that mental effort that we talk
"It's a 60-minute game. It's not a 20-minute game, not a 15-minute game," he
said. "That's something that we talk about and it's hard for young individuals to understand. You
look at all the great team, they don't look at the scoreboard, they just keep fighting and
Justin Worley played the entire game despite a week-long storyline revolving
around which freshman quarterback Tennessee might use in relief. While Worley put in one of his
worst performances of the season, 20 of 36 passing for 204 yards with two touchdowns and three
interceptions, Jones said he never considered making a change.
"When they're ready to play,
they'll be ready to play," Jones said. "When the quarterbacks are ready, when we think they're
ready — and we've been doing this a long time — we'll let them.
"First and foremost, we
live in a week-to-week society in college football. It's all about winning this game," he said.
"If I had put one of the freshmen in and we lost the game you all would be sitting here saying to
me, 'Why did you put the freshmen in.' That's the beauty of your pen, the power of
second-guessing. I've learned to go with my gut instinct."
Jones said he felt the reps in
Saturday's game were just as important for Worley as they would be for one of the freshmen
quarterbacks, and if the coach plans to ride with the junior through the heart of the SEC
schedule, it's a fair statement to make.
While turnovers and penalties were a problem
throughout the game against a South Alabama team that the Volunteers physically outmatched in the
first half, Jones was ever the optimist.
"I don't ever want to diminish a win," he said.
"Let's get that straight right now. Tennessee won the football game. We said we needed to have
three wins at this point. we have three wins at this point. This team didn't quit, we found a way
to win. To me, that's one of the first steps of learning how to win is managing your adversities,
being resilient, persevering and finding a way to win."
Late in the game South Alabama had
a chance to score before a sack Corey Miller and interception from Brian Randolph sealed the game
"Those were as big as you could imagine," Jones said. "You find out about
your team in critical stretches. That was a pressure situation. We needed a game like this. We
needed to find out moving forward, as we move forward into the SEC schedule. We've had some
adversity. We were in a tight game and you really find out what guys step up."
real standout offensively for Tennessee was running back Rajion Neal, who finished with 174 yards
on 25 carries and scored once. Jones said he felt it was the back's best game of the
Next up for Tennessee is a home game against Georgia.
"Our players are
intelligent, they understand whats at stake," Jones said. "They understand the football program
that we're facing in Georgia, and they're a great football team. We have to concern ourselves with
ourselves. If we turn the football over we'll have zero chance. We have to take care of the
football, we have to be disciplined and we can't make penalties and we have to tackle and we have
to play great complimentary football."