This Saturday, Tennessee (1-2, 0-1 SEC) will look to defend Neyland Stadium when the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (1-2, 0-1 C-USA) come to town.
This week, Tennessee will hope to right the ship after suffering consecutive defeats against top-10 teams Oregon and Florida.
“We’re not going to relax,” senior linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said. “Coaches have engraved in our heads that no matter who the opponent is you definitely have to give 100 percent effort every week and start each week with a clean slate like its a top-10 team in the country.”
Last week, against a superior Florida Gators team, the Vols had a better showing than their performance against Oregon, coming within a touchdown of tying the Gators during the fourth quarter. Florida ultimately pulled away however.
Going into the final game of a four-game home set to open the season, the Vols will look to continue their unblemished record against the Blazers. The series, which started during UT's 1998 national title run, currently stands at 3-0 in the Vols’ favor.
Despite having history on his side, Dooley is certainly not chalking this game up to be an easy win.
“They got more experience, more depth, and they don't even have to bring their best to beat us,” Dooley said in his weekly press conference. “They can beat us even without their best, and we have to worry about us improving and minimizing the mistakes, or we're going to be real disappointed after the game.” The aspect of inexperience became a theme for the rest of Dooley's press conference.
The Vols and Blazers seem to be polar opposites, though, as UAB comes to town sporting a team featuring 17 returning starters, as well as a mobile quarterback and a backup who threw for 360 yards in last week's game.
Tennessee, on the other hand, is coming into the game with an inexperienced line that will have three true freshmen and two sophomores seeing major playing time. On top of that, at least seven Vols will be sitting this game, including Marlon Walls, Ben Martin and Gerald Jones. Additionally, leading offensive players Tauren Poole and Denarius Moore are banged up and listed as day-to-day.
But what the Vols lack in experience, they make up for in big-play ability.
Last week, wide receivers Moore and Justin Hunter had touchdown catches of 49 and 35 yards, respectively, and this is something that the Vols will hope to rely on.
“(Simms has) the ability to hit a home run, which is great, and we need it,” Dooley said. “But we also need him to be more of an every down (back).”
Despite the negative tone from Dooley early in the week, he said Wednesday, “We had a lot of new faces out there who got more reps than they're used to, so they had to push through it and learn to push through it. It was a good practice.”
Kickoff is Saturday at 12:21 p.m. on the SEC Network.