The pressure may be higher, but Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray's pulse rate hasn't followed suit.
Though he's now solidified himself not only as UT's quarterback of the future, but the present, Bray hasn't changed - even after hitting the anticipated bumps in the road that he'd evaded in his first two starts.
"I just try to stay flat-lined," Bray said in normal deadpanned fashion after Tuesday's practice. "Never show emotion unless we're doing good."
Despite UT (5-6, 2-5 SEC) picking up its third straight win this season against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Bray wasn't tempted to show much emotion throughout the game, especially during the second half.
After completing nine of 10 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, Bray hit just seven of his final 17 for 117 yards. He recorded his first two interceptions since the interception for a touchdown he threw on his first pass attempt against South Carolina last month.
Both of Bray's interceptions came on plays where he tried to hit a receiver deep down the field but read the coverage wrong, allowing the Commodores to make two seemingly effortless picks.
When he watched the film Sunday, his emotions - in a negative sense - were tested.
"Actually," Bray said, "I wanted to throw up.
"I had a couple opportunities where just a little dump-down would have gotten 20 yards. They were playing so far back . . . I tried to force it and ended up with two interceptions."
Coach Derek Dooley laughed Tuesday when a reporter informed him that Bray said he had never seen a team play as deep in its Cover 3 and Cover 2 defense as Vanderbilt did Saturday.
"That's when you get good as a quarterback," Dooley said. "You're not really recognizing the coverages as much as how they're playing the coverages.
"It was different than what he had seen in the previous two games. Like any quarterback, there's going to be a game, 'This is different, this is different.' And when it's different, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
Bray, though, has been no different in his demeanor, both during the action Saturday and at subsequent practices Monday and Tuesday as he prepares for the game Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) against Kentucky (6-5, 2-5).
"He kept his head up even when he threw a bad pass," wide receiver Justin Hunter said. "That proved a lot to me that he's mature as a rookie, too. I have confidence in him a lot. I give him respect for that."
Too Early To Tell: Dooley said he's yet to see any overconfidence or bowl prognosticating from his players after two days of practice this week.
"The most important thing they do right now is what they do when they leave this building," Dooley said after Tuesday's practice, which was held indoors because early-afternoon rains caused sloppy conditions at Haslam Field.
"When they get up, the most important thing is putting together another good day's work. I hope they're keeping their focus on that."
After the Vanderbilt win, Dooley said he had a "sick feeling" in his stomach throughout the week leading up to the game because of poor practices, particularly by the offense.
Dooley said his stomach is currently settled, but he assured it's too early to tell.
"Those sick feelings can come at any minute prior to kickoff and during kickoff and even after kickoff," Dooley said. "You're never out of the blue from the sick feelings."
What Hurts?: Cornerback Prentiss Waggner has been in a red, non-contact jersey more often than not the past two months.
Banging his neck after an awkward tackle attempt against Vanderbilt is the latest incident to land him in red, but there's also been a cumulative effect.
"It's been everything: my neck, my back, my hip," Waggner said. "My mom tells me all the time that I'm beginning to become an old man."
The lingering bumps and bruises certainly haven't slowed him down. Waggner, who started the season at safety before switching to cornerback, leads the nation with three interception returns for touchdowns and also is tied for the most fumble recoveries in the FBS.
Playing in every game this season has taken a toll on him, though. Sometimes, Waggner said, he'll get out of his bed and do push-ups just to "get his muscles going."
"At the beginning of the season, I thought I was ready for it," he said. "But it's been a grind."
Not A Sellout Yet: Tickets are still available in the G, I, J and K sections, which stretch behind the South end zone in the lower level of Neyland Stadium, for Saturday's game, UT officials said.
Individual tickets cost $50 and can be purchased online at utsports.com or at the Thompson-Boling Arena ticket office.