Game-day recap: Tennessee-Ole Miss
Tennessee came into the weekend scrambling to fill out its secondary, and then it was hit yet again by injuries.
Somehow the Vols found a way to turn in easily their best performance against the pass though, so Derek Dooley wasn't really all that concerned about the details.
Whether it was inaccuracy from Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, better coverage from the Vols, more productive schemes or some combination of all of them, whatever it was that led to such defensive dominance in a 52-14 thrashing of the Rebels on Saturday at Neyland Stadium is just fine with Dooley.
"I thought they certainly played their best game, especially from a competitive standpoint," Dooley said during his Sunday teleconference. "I felt like we were playing a lot more aggressive, we were playing a little more confident and I'm not sure why. It just appears that way, and they made more plays, there were a lot of pass breakups.
"Then, certainly, I'm sure the (Rebels) are looking at the film and saying, 'We didn't play our best.' That always has something to do with it."
Masoli looked out of rhythm from the onset after returning from a concussion to start for Ole Miss (4-6, 1-5 SEC), and the Vols (4-6, 1-5 SEC) never really let him get comfortable as it harassed him into a 7-for-18 passing performance for just 80 yards.
UT also made him pay for every mistake, picking off Masoli three times, adding another from backup Nathan Stanley and taking two of them back for touchdowns - an effort that hardly could have been expected given the shuffling Dooley has to do in the secondary lately.
Even that's not over yet, with safety Janzen Jackson and cornerbacks Marsalis Teague and Eric Gordon all day-to-day with various injuries as the Vols prepare for another must-win game for their postseason hopes on Saturday at Vanderbilt (CSS, 7:30 p.m.). UT could also be missing cornerback Art Evans for a third consecutive game if he's not able to return from his indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules.
"I go in every week a little concerned, and a lot of it is relative to who you're playing," Dooley said. "Ole Miss didn't make a living throwing the ball. They made a living running the football, so you're generally less concerned about defending the pass when you're playing a running team than you are when you're playing a real effective throwing team.
"A lot of it has to do with who you play and what the matchups are on the perimeter and how you feel about the matchups, and we felt a little bit better about the matchups going into this past one."
That's been a rare feeling for the UT secondary this season, but it will surely live with the results.
Going 'Loco': Dooley didn't meet with the team on Sunday, so he didn't get the answer he was looking for about UT's newest dance craze.
But it would appear to be borrowed from rapper Yo Gotti and his video for 'Loco,' which has inspired a lot of head-swirling fingers from the Vols as their offense has exploded over the last couple weeks.
"I guess that's the big talk now," Dooley said. "Who knows? I mean, these guys always come up with something. I'll find out tomorrow.
"I guess I'll have to make something up for you if I don't like what their answer is."
Bumps and Bruises: The Vols continue to have enough uncertainty in the secondary to fill out the starting lineup.
Jackson (ankle), Gordon (concussion) and Teague (turf toe) were all listed as day-to-day by Dooley, and there's also been no change yet to the status of Evans after missing the last two games due to suspension.
"Janzen, we'll find out more (today)," Dooley said. "We don't expect it to be too bad, so it's day-to-day. Same with Eric Gordon. They're really in a day-to-day mode. Nothing seems to be too serious, but you know, you have to wait and see each day."
Teague made his return against the Rebels and chipped in a pair of tackles and broke up a pass, though injuries like his can linger and could possibly keep him at less than 100 percent for the rest of the season.
Right guard Zach Fulton also is still less than full strength, though the Vols might be able to get him back against Vanderbilt as well.