Vols try avenging streak-snapping loss to Kentucky

Tennessee interim head coach Jim Chaney speaks during a news conference after NCAA college football practice, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Chaney, who worked Tennessee's first 11 games from the press box as offensive coordinator, was named interim coach after Derek Dooley was fired Sunday. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, J. Miles Cary)

Tennessee interim head coach Jim Chaney speaks during a news conference after NCAA college football practice, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Chaney, who worked Tennessee's first 11 games from the press box as offensive coordinator, was named interim coach after Derek Dooley was fired Sunday. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, J. Miles Cary)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee already has fallen short of nearly all its preseason goals.

The Volunteers won't reach a bowl game. They didn't avoid a third consecutive losing season. They weren't even able to save the job of coach Derek Dooley, who was fired Sunday.

But one goal remains within reach as Tennessee heads into its season finale. The Vols still have a chance to avenge last year's 10-7 loss to Kentucky that ended Tennessee's 26-game winning streak in this annual series.

"It was tough last year," Tennessee wide receiver Zach Rogers said. "We didn't come out with the right foot forward and didn't come out with the right mindset. We definitely don't want to do that this year."

Kentucky found a way to beat Tennessee last season while using reserve receiver Matt Roark as its starting quarterback. Tennessee's 26 straight victories over Kentucky had represented the second-longest active winning streak by any team over one opponent, trailing only Penn State's 29 consecutive wins over Temple. Penn State has since extended that streak to 30 games.

Now that Kentucky finally has ended its history of frustration against Tennessee, the Wildcats want to start a streak of their own.

"It's a game that has been brought back to life, going back and forth now, so we're just trying to keep it in our side," Kentucky defensive tackle Tristian Johnson said.

The upset didn't provide much momentum for Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC), which has lost its seven conference games this season by an average margin of 26 points. The Wildcats' struggles resulted in the firing of Joker Phillips, who will close his Kentucky career Saturday by working his second game as a lame-duck coach.

But that result did turn up the heat on Dooley, who left Tennessee with a 15-21 record in three seasons. Dooley declined an opportunity to coach Saturday's game out of concern that his presence would cause a distraction and affect his players' focus. Jim Chaney, who had worked from the press box as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in the first 11 games of the season, will head to the sidelines Saturday as the Vols' interim head coach.

Tennessee (4-7. 0-7) is trying to avoid going winless in SEC competition for the first time in school history. Tennessee already is guaranteed its third consecutive losing season, marking the first time since 1909-11 the Vols will have finished below .500 three straight years. The Vols aren't going to a bowl in back-to-back seasons for the first time since being left out four consecutive years from 1975-78.

The Vols have a difference of opinion on how much of a role the revenge factor plays this week. Some players said they're eager to get back at Kentucky.

"That's one motivation that we've had since the beginning of the year," Tennessee linebacker Jacques Smith said. "We're definitely going to take it to them this weekend and we're definitely going to hit them in the mouth."

Other Vols downplayed the revenge aspect and instead said they wanted to win this game for a senior class that has endured plenty of adversity.

The fifth-year seniors on Tennessee's roster arrived on campus for Phillip Fulmer's final season as coach, experienced Lane Kiffin's one-year tenure and now are ending their careers with an interim coach following Dooley's exit.

"Oh, man, it's been a rocky road," Tennessee fifth-year senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner said. "I remember coming in here under coach Fulmer, when I thought of Tennessee, I thought of a place that's (an example) of consistency. When I came here in 2008, I think Tennessee had just come off an SEC championship (game) against LSU. I was stoked about coming here, but I don't regret anything. I made brothers here. I made a lot of friends I'm going to have for a lifetime."

While the Vols want to make sure their seniors end their careers with victories, Kentucky is eager to send its coach out as a winner.

The Wildcats say they appreciated the fact that Phillips remained with the team even after being fired. Kentucky responded last week with a 34-3 rout of Football Championship Subdivision program Samford in the Wildcats' first game since Phillips' dismissal. They want him to cap his Kentucky career with a second straight victory.

"It means a lot for Coach Joker to come back and show us how much he cares about us," Kentucky tailback Raymond Sanders said. "He always preaches don't quit and don't give up. He showed that, he gave us an example by not quitting on us and continuing to come out there and to coach us and push us to become better players and people. It means a lot, and that's why we want to go out there and try to give him our all."

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Comments » 11

Vol_in_Mich writes:

"Coach Joker" LMAO

spvol writes:

Vols by 30.

underthehill writes:

UT should dominate..but the players and coaches on this team are not known to do what they should do..I think Ky will play hard but UT will win easily..my past predictions..UT over Mizzu..Vandy a toss-up..give little reason for me to place any credibility in my pick...therefore UT beware...

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

"Winless in SEC first time in history"??? This team has broken enough negative records..That one would be inexcusable!!

tensie2004 writes:

I was in Lesington last year and when we lost the Kentucky fans gave all the Vols fans ever living hell. You would have had to be there to understand how bad it actually was. Hope we beat them as bad as we can.

JDX47 writes:

Well, for the sake of the players who have lived this nightmare in ways us fans can't even imagine, I wish the team the very best as they try to close out the misery of this latest regime.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to tensie2004:

I was in Lesington last year and when we lost the Kentucky fans gave all the Vols fans ever living hell. You would have had to be there to understand how bad it actually was. Hope we beat them as bad as we can.

I was too, and totally agree. I used to think they were only a--holes where basketball is concerned.

reachkim00 writes:

What a lineup.. the worst two teams in the SEC are playing each other to see which of the two is the better of the worse. Great stand up comedy!

RealisticVol (Inactive) writes:

OK Vols, it is this simple. Do you want to be known as members of the worst Vol team in history and to never be able to escape that record? Even if another team goes winless [which has never happened before and probably never will again], you will still be in a tie for the worst team in Vol history. WIN!

Shake_Bake writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

IF Bray comes out and doesn't have his head in this game, and displays a bad attitude,I just hope and pray that Channey puts him on the bench! IF Bray wants to play in the NFL, he better start playing with some leadership!

volfan1202 writes:

It's obvious that Dooley was a horrible coach, but it's also now obvious that he is a nutless coward. He "coached" this team to the bottom of the SEC and doesn't have the testicular fortitude to see them through the last game.

Dooley... thank God you're gone and please never step foot in Tennessee again!

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