Derek Dooley on Tyler Bray following the Akron game
Derek Dooley has introduced a new word to the Tennessee football lexicon the past couple of years:
It's a useful word. It comes into play when adversity or distractions rear up in your face.
Do you get affected? It's bad if you do. Your mind glazes. You're all thumbs.
Fragile teams are more likely to get affected, youth and inexperience being prime culprits.
Mature teams that have acquired battle scars are less likely to get affected. They keep grinding.
All of this is an issue this week. The Vols are headed to Georgia on Saturday afternoon, their first SEC road game of the season.
It will also be this team's first hostile environment. Beating N.C. State in the Georgia Dome was a good sign, but other than the burden of UT's history in the building, there wasn't any hostility.
"This is completely different from our first game,'' safety Byron Moore said Monday. "It's a real road game for us.
"We're gonna have to stick together out there, if things are good or bad.''
In other words, if things go bad, don't get affected.
This will be a measuring stick on the Vols' rebuilding progress. Two years ago, on Dooley's first visit to his hometown as UT's head coach, his team went deer in the headlights.
In no other game in Dooley's two-plus seasons at UT have the Vols been more affected by adversity right out of the gate. (First runner-up is last year at Arkansas.)
The 2010 Georgia Bulldogs weren't very good when Tennessee hit town. Mark Richt's team was on a four-game skid. A loss to Vince Dooley's kid might have been the straw that broke Richt's back.
So Georgia sprinted to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. It was 27-7 by the half and 41-14 at the end.
As if the Bulldogs weren't doing enough to win the game, the Vols squirted premium unleaded on the fire at every chance.
Eric Gordon fumbled both a kickoff and a punt return.
Matt Simms threw an interception and got sacked four times.
Center Darrin Gooch hiked a wild shotgun snap for a 23-yard loss.
Each of the above led to Georgia points. The only positive Tennessee took away was freshman quarterback Tyler Bray got his first SEC snaps in the final minutes and looked good.
Two years of scars and two recruiting classes later, the Vols are headed back to Athens. Waiting this time is a rock solid Georgia team.
"The good news,'' Dooley said Monday, "is a lot of our guys have been in these environments.
"So it shouldn't be as overwhelming as it has been in the past. Hopefully, you learn from it.
"You've got to learn to enjoy playing in that kind of environment.''
Most players say they do enjoy playing in hostile stadiums. It's an adrenalin rush — at least until adversity strikes.
"We know we're not going to be perfect down there,'' senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner said. "They're gonna make some plays on us.
"The main thing is we've got to make more plays than them and make plays when it counts.''
Sounds like a plan. But as Mike Tyson once said: Everybody's got a plan until they get hit.
Mike Strange may be reached at strangem//twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.