Game recap: UT vs. Memphis
There's no flexibility in the 24-hour rule.
The time to celebrate isn't cut short based on the relative strength of the opponent, and Tennessee also didn't get an extension because it had gone four games without a win to savor.
Derek Dooley clearly wanted his team to enjoy the 50-14 beating it put on Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. But just in case any Vols were suddenly a threat to become too confident, the first-year coach is coming back to work this week armed with enough negatives to bring them back down a bit.
"I was real happy, I was," Dooley said. "But I guess it's my personality, because I don't get too down when we lose and I try not to get too excited when we win because there are lessons in wins and losses. We did a lot of great things, and you know what, the team did everything that I asked them to do as far as going out there and playing a complete game, making their mark, not making excuses.
"They did that, so I was pleased with that. But there's also a lot of concerns going into the next week."
UT plays host to Ole Miss (TV: WVLT, noon) on Saturday for homecoming.
The Vols (3-6, 0-5 SEC) addressed a lot of the season-long issues that put them on the brink of elimination from postseason consideration, jump-starting their push for a perfect November by throwing all over Memphis (1-8, 0-5 C-USA), forcing turnovers and converting third downs at their highest rate all year.
There also were standout individual performances all over the field, starting with Tyler Bray's debut as a starter at quarterback, another 100-yard outing for running back Tauren Poole and a dynamic night for defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who led the defense in every meaningful category.
But even in the passing game, Dooley expressed more concern about UT's ability to protect the quarterback - which figured to be more difficult against Ole Miss even before right guard Zach Fulton injured his ankle over the weekend. The Vols still weren't all that pleased with their ability to consistently pick up yards on the ground, and despite three interceptions, Dooley simply called UT's man-to-man coverage "terrible."
Not that he was in any hurry to point all that out to the Vols right after they unleashed a month's worth of frustration on the Tigers in a game that could have been a bigger blowout if Dooley wanted it to be.
"I thought we all should feel good for 24 hours, it's been awhile since we have," Dooley said. "I do hope it energized our team a little bit and got them ready to go this week.
"But it's also important to keep it in perspective - we were a much more talented football team and we did what we should do if you're ready to play. For that I was real proud of the team, but I also know we've got a lot of correcting to do if we're going to beat Ole Miss."
The Vols will be reminded of that often when they get back to work after spending a day celebrating instead of commiserating for the first time since their win over UAB on Sept. 25.
But considering the motivation getting back to a bowl game is providing them right now, they might not need any help refocusing after checking off the first game on their list.
"Of course we want to finish November undefeated," Poole said. "This was big-time for us to see the things we need to work on, and see the things we do best."
Of course, UT is still going to have to hear about the worst, as well.