Tennessee coach Derek Dooley depicted himself as a candid critic in preseason. Or, as he put it, "I'm not going to say you did well when you stunk."
The heat of defeat hasn't altered his self-assessment. From his post-game address to Monday afternoon's press luncheon, Dooley has assailed his team's lack of competitiveness in a 48-13 loss to Oregon on Saturday night.
He didn't have to wait to see the video. He figured it out while watching the Ducks have their way with the Vols for the last 35 minutes.
Some fans seemed strangely encouraged by UT's performance, which included a 13-3 lead late in the second quarter. So what if UT played well for almost a half against a superior opponent? It collapsed in the second.
To his credit, Dooley has harped on that collapse. The coach, not the media or fans, has been the team's harshest critic.
Everyone is aware of UT's limitations. It lacks talent, depth and experience. But it's a slippery slope when you start grading on the curve.
I'm as guilty as anyone. My expectations were so low for the team, my head was spinning from its early success against the nation's seventh-ranked team. Even as the second half was reduced to a series of chase scenes, I balanced that with first-half memories of the Vols' offensive line pushing around the Ducks as though they were UT Martin leftovers.
You start out by reveling in first-half competency. Then, you burst into a chorus of "Rocky Top" after one respectable quarter. And finally, you're lauding the team's 70-yard touchdown drive against reserves in the dying moments of a 45-7 loss.
The next thing you know, you're Vanderbilt.
You have to be realistic about this team's capabilities. But no one should settle for what the Vols provided in the last 35 minutes.
A couple of e-mailers took fellow fans to task for leaving early. In fact, UT fans should have been applauded for staying as long as they did. They tailgated for half the afternoon, sat through an hour and ten-minute delay and watched their team unravel in the second half.
What's left? Screaming yourself hoarse while Oregon's second team breezes down the field?
Coaches sometimes treat such disasters as though they never occurred. "Forget it and move on," they say, as though the game was an aberration.
Dooley has taken the opposite course, proving there's no denial in his corner. He wants his team to remember what went wrong and why. He wants his team to learn from adversity.
"The good news is we've got plenty of adversity ahead of us," he said Monday.
He's right. Florida might not have Oregon's firepower or its go-for-the-jugular approach to attacking a weary defense. But it has more quality depth in both the offensive and defensive lines than UT, and that could make for another gruesome fourth quarter for the home folks.
Florida also has a long history of bringing out the worst in the Vols. For example, take the 59-20 mismatch in The Swamp three years ago. Afterwards, the Gators talked about how UT players quit in the second half.
That's the last thing the Vols need to hear Saturday night.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.