It's halftime. Things are fine, or at least there is reason to be encouraged.
Then the second half starts ...
Tennessee has fallen into a self-destructive rut: Play well for a half, make a game of it; but the bottom falls out in the third quarter.
"I really don't know what the deal is,'' senior linebacker Austin Johnson said. "Nothing we can put our fingers on.''
The past two weeks, LSU and Alabama outscored the Vols a combined 52-0 in the second half.
"I'm like you,'' said another senior, Malik Jackson. "I don't know what the hell is going on.
"We've got to go out there and fix it, but I don't know what to fix.''
The third quarter has been especially disastrous. Georgia, LSU and Alabama outscored the Vols 42-0.
Tennessee was tied with both Georgia and No. 2 Alabama 6-6 at the half. The Vols trailed No. 1 LSU only 17-7 at the break.
"I don't really know what's going on at halftime,'' said tight end Mychal Rivera.
"We get in there and focus on what we have to do. We just don't go out there and do it.''
So what exactly goes on in that locker room while the marching band is playing? What makes Tennessee transform from Superman to mild-mannered Clark Kent?
"We go in there and have crumpets with just a little bit of tea and sit back and relax,'' said Jackson.
He was joking.
I've asked, and none of the following downer-inducing activities takes
Derek Dooley does not read from "The Grapes of Wrath" or "Charlotte's Web." To date, there have been no viewings of "Leaving Las Vegas" or "Old Yeller." No one listens to "Tears in Heaven" on their iPod.
There's no buffet of bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad.
"They feed us Gatorade,'' Johnson said. "There's a ton of food, light stuff, snacks. I grab a honey or something to give me a little energy.''
Speaking of energy, the players with whom I spoke said the level to start the third quarter seems on par with the start of the game.
"The second half shows our immaturity,'' said sophomore Jacques Smith.
"We've got to figure out how to set the bar and keep focused and not worry about the scoreboard or any negative plays.''
Dooley calls it "being affected.'' It definitely happens.
"I feel like when they score we get down too much,'' Rivera said. "We've got to expect that. It's a game. They're supposed to score. As an offense, we need to pick ourselves back up quicker.
"It's nobody but ourselves to blame.''
Lack of depth obviously comes into play as a game wears on. So does another of Dooley's concerns for a youthful team, lack of physical stamina.
"You say, 'Just play the same way you did on play five,' '' Dooley said. "Well, on play five you haven't been hit 58 times.''
The Vols aren't oblivious. They talk about it. They'll talk about it Saturday night when South Carolina visits.
"It's going to happen again,'' Johnson said. "Next game. It's probably going to be close at halftime and everyone will be like, 'Let's not let this happen again.' And hopefully, it won't.''
"It sounds simple,'' Jackson said. "But you've got to go out there and do it.''