September 10, 2012
Vols seek new memories vs. Gators
Dan Hood is about as versed in Tennessee history and tradition as any player on the Volunteers' roster.
So when Hood freely admits he barely remembers anything about Tennessee's last win against Florida --- a 30-28 home victory in 2004 --- it provides telling perspective on the Gators' recent dominance in this annual September SEC rivalry.
"This is a big week. It's a win that we want to get under our belt." - Devrin Young
Tennessee, back in the AP Poll at No. 23 for the first time since 2008, hosts the 18th-ranked Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) Saturday at 6 p.m.
"To be honest, I don't remember much. I've seen more highlights about it than anything," said Hood, a Kingsport native who starred locally at Knoxville Catholic. "I remember growing up, can't remember exactly when it was, but Florida beat Tennessee with a field goal at the last second back in the '90s.
"It just seems like everything sucks after you lose to Florida. So it's just more motivation to work harder and prepare better to go out and prove ourselves against a good team."
Added redshirt freshman offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson, "I remember the game a little bit. It was a long time ago. I just remember how pepped up it was and how amazing it was to win. But then like the next eight years of losing, it's like what's going on and how can we get out of this drought. I feel like we have the team and we the capability of doing that now."
Reiterating their goal of restoring an elevated standard of play, the Vols are trying to focus on this opportunity against the Gators without overemphasizing the national attention, including ESPN's GameDay, shining on the UT program for the first time in several seasons.
"I think it's just a testament to what we've done so far, but in the big scheme of things it's just two games out of 12," Hood said. "We could go two and 10 and be the worst team in Tennessee history. We've got to go out and prove that it's not just what we've done this far; it's who we're going to be the rest of this season."
Dooley, who spoke openly a year ago about the need to restore baseline standards for UT's program and has seen new athletics head Dave Hart acknowledge the need to get "football healthy," admitted the Florida test is a step in the process.
"We have some basic program standards that we kind of established that I think all the Tennessee fans expect. Certainly, at Tennessee we want to be in the top 25 like a hundred other teams. You can't be if you don't keep winning," Dooley said. "If you're focused on being in the top 25 and not what you need to do to be in the top 25, then you're not going to be in the top 25."
That was the message echoed by defensive lineman Marlon Walls, a Memphis native who like Hood and Kerbyson said he recalled vague memories of the Vols' '04 win against the Gators.
"I remember that game. I'm a Tennessee guy. We're excited. It's a challenge," Walls said. "We're just looking forward to bringing that tradition back and letting guys know we're not pushovers this year. We're going to go out there and compete."
Knoxville native Devrin Young said the opportunity against the Gators is something that lasts a lifetime.
"This is a big week. It's a win that we want to get under our belt," said the sophomore tailback Young, "and personally it's a win that I want to say that I was blessed to do here during my career at the University of Tennessee."
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