Tailback Arian Foster can’t help but wonder what might have happened if he’d opted to leave Tennessee for the NFL instead of returning for his senior season.
“It’s human to second-guess yourself, but it doesn’t get you anywhere,” Foster said. “I’ve done it. Of course I have. I probably would have done it if I’d left anyway. But you just got to stick by your decision. You’re a man, and you made a decision and you have to live with it.”
It hasn’t been easy for Foster, who began the season 684 yards shy of Travis Henry’s career rushing record of 3,078 yards.
Heading into Saturday’s season finale against Kentucky in Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN2, 6:30 p.m.), Foster needs 174 yards to pass Henry. Aside from a career-best 223-yard performance as a freshman against Vanderbilt in 2005, Foster has topped 140 yards in a game twice.
Foster, who received a second-round grade from the NFL’s draft advisory board last season, posted a season-high 100 yards rushing against UAB.
Since then he’s averaged just 39.4 yards per game and missed UT’s 13-7 homecoming loss to Wyoming with a deep thigh bruise before returning to rush for 53 yards against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
What’s more, Foster was part of two of the most damaging plays in UT’s 4-7 season.
Foster fumbled inside UCLA’s 10 with a chance to go up 21-7 in an eventual overtime loss to the Bruins in the season opener. He was also part of a botched exchange that Auburn recovered in the end zone for what proved to be the winning touchdown in a 14-12 loss Sept. 27.
“I guess it’s kind of disheartening when you look back on the season,” said Foster, who has a team-high 511 yards on 110 carries this year and one touchdown. “I came back to try to help this team win, and I just didn’t do that. I wanted to help this team win, and I really didn’t get the chance.”
However unlikely the odds might be for Foster to break Henry’s record, guard Anthony Parker said it’s still on the radar.
“It’s been a rough road for all of us, but he’s still standing tall and still fighting for the next day,” Parker said of Foster. “I appreciate that, and the rest of the guys do, too. We just want to go out Saturday and if at all possible get that record broken.”
Kelly Downplays Job Talk: Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly called talk of a possible move to Tennessee “a non-issue.” According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kelly told his lawyers to “keep this stuff off my desk. I don’t want to deal with it. I’m focused on Cincinnati.”
The Bearcats can clinch the Big East championship and the program’s first BCS bowl berth with a victory Saturday over Syracuse.
“We’ll deal with any of this stuff after the season, if in fact I decide that’s what I want to do and right now that’s not what I want to do,” Kelly said when asked if he would entertain offers after the season, according to the Enquirer.
Injury Update: Cornerback Dennis Rogan will have X-rays on an injured thumb, but “it’ll be fine, I think,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said.
Tailback Montario Hardesty, who did not practice Sunday because of lingering soreness, is expected to practice today.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.