Tennessee using LSU as a motivator

Discussion in 'The Tiger's Den' started by Ellis Hugh, Aug 2, 2002.

  1. Ellis Hugh

    Ellis Hugh Space Wrangler

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    article

    Vols find muse in last year's LSU loss
    By Ron Higgins
    [email protected]
    August 2, 2002

    BIRMINGHAM - It's rare that a Tennessee football team needs any form of self-motivation.

    After all, this is a program in which 10-win and 11-win seasons are expected, in which New Year's Day plans are set before season and in which most of the 104,000 fans that pile in Neyland Stadium expect the Vols to win every game and win impressively.

    That's a heapin' helpin' of motivation.

    But as revealed by Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen on Thursday here at the final day of the SEC preseason media days, the Vols have created something that has driven them through spring practice and summer workouts.

    "This year, our theme is 'Unfinished Business,' " Clausen said.

    The unfinished business is losing in last year's Southeastern Conference championship game to LSU, a stunning 30-21 decision that came on the heels of Tennessee's monumental 34-32 victory at Florida. A win over LSU would have meant a date in the Rose Bowl to play Miami for the national championship.

    But . . .

    "All that week (before the SEC title game), we tried hard to focus," Vols senior linebacker Eddie Moore said. "But you keep have people coming up to you saying, 'I've already got my airplane tickets to Pasadena.' "

    Vols seniors emphasized the team would be ready to play the Tigers, that the high of beating Florida in what turned out to be Steve Spurrier's last home game as Gators coach would wear off.

    "We were emotionally and physically drained, and we didn't get the job done," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Give LSU credit. But it was tough walking down the ramp into the stadium before the game and hearing people scream 'Rose Bowl' at you."

    Clausen (6-4, 215, Jr.) said after the loss to LSU, he had to call a team meeting the next week to get the Vols' chins off the floor after accepting a Citrus Bowl bid to play Michigan. The meeting was a doozy, as evidenced by Tennessee's 45-17 destruction of the Wolverines that ended a 11-2 season.

    "We had a lot of guys laying low feeling sorry for themselves," Clausen said. "I told everyone that if there was anybody who didn't feel like playing the ball, anyone still let down (from losing to LSU), then don't even go on the bowl trip. Just stay here and go on vacation. We played the Citrus Bowl like we meant it was unfinished business and we had lot of juniors on that team that are now seniors who still feel that way."

    Moore said while he felt good to pound the Wolverines - "I was surprised how slow they were," he said - even that victory couldn't wash away the hurt of losing a chance to play in the national championship game.

    "I watched maybe two plays (of the Rose Bowl, won 37-14 by Miami over Nebraska) and I had to turn off the TV," Moore said. "It ran through my mind that we should have been here."

    What Moore has watched, as painful as it is, is the loss to LSU. He's watched it to see what wrong and how it can be fixed.

    He remembered how confident he felt when Tiger starting quarterback Rohan Davey and tailback LaBrandon Toefield both exited with game-ending injuries. He recalled how puzzled he and his defensive teammates felt trying to stop LSU quarterback Matt Mauck.

    "Since we played Rohan twice before, we knew how he played," Moore said. "When the other guy (Mauck) came in, we thought he was more of a passing quarterback. He came in running like a tailback. His style shocked us. I still think about it.

    "In the summer workouts when we're tired and out-of-breath, you'll hear one of us say, 'What about that LSU game?' That keeps us working hard. And there were other games the past few years that we've won where we played three good quarters but didn't finish the game like we should. That's why it's unfinished business."

    Even with the unfinished business theme, there were times this past summer that some of the Vols seniors had to have heart-to-heart talks with underclassmen about the importance of attending voluntary workouts.

    "We had some young receivers who didn't show up for some voluntary workouts, and some other players had some problems with class attendance," Fulmer said. "The seniors came to me about it, and I told them it was something they had to straighten out."

    Clausen and Moore both said the problem has been resolved. Fulmer added that he anticipates a big season with one of the strengths being senior leadership.

    "I wasn't happy in the spring with our senior leadership in the spring, but it changed over the summer," Fulmer said. "They stepped up and handled some issues. I like the attitude of this whole team."

    - Ron Higgins: 529-2525
     
  2. MikebTiger

    MikebTiger Guest

    That was a great article

    I was there for the SECCG. I will remember that as one of the greatest Tiger victories I've ever attended. I hope we play them again in the SECCG. Matter of fact, I'll be buying my tiks soon.
     
  3. bpell

    bpell Guest

    I hope lulu and junior show up for the game!!!
     
  4. Tubesox

    Tubesox Freshman

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    As well they should.
     

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