In the aftermath of another conference loss, the Tennessee Volunteers are headed to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Head coach Derek Dooley has been the focus of many rumors, but coaches and players say Dooley isn't going anywhere. Starting quarterback Tyler Bray said Dooley is going to be at UT for the rest of the season.
"We know that he's here to stay," Bray said. "We're just going to try to get these last two wins for him."
Dooley said the experience has been a life lesson for him and for his players.
"I think every year you go through life there are a ton of lessons, whether you have success or you don't have success," Dooley said. "It is just a matter of being able to see what the lessons are. Sometimes we get blinded by success we have and we don't see lessons in that, and sometimes we get so consumed with failure that we don't see any lessons in that. Every day you live, there are lessons to be had on what shapes you as a man and what shapes you as a competitor."
Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri said the coaches' mentalities have not changed based on job security. For them, it's all about doing what they do, and doing it well.
"Nothing is going to change," Sunseri said. "We work right now for (UT) so we are going to work every single day. I've been here every morning at 5:30 a.m. and haven't left until 11p.m. ... at night. That's what we do."
Fortunately, the rumors haven't had a great effect on the players.
"I know this, kids have been in our meetings and have been bright-eyed, they've been going about their business and they are doing what they are supposed to do," Sunseri said. "That's what I have seen."
Bray said the team's consistent fourth-quarter losses are frustrating for the team. He said it's a matter of improving as a team.
"They're just scoring more points than we are. They're just executing better than we are," Bray said. "Defense is not getting stops and offense is just not getting points. It's always frustrating, we haven't won like Tennessee is supposed to."
Senior wide receiver Zach Rogers said when things aren't going their way, it's easy to get discouraged.
"When things are not going our way, it's very frustrating for us and very disappointing," Rogers said. "One of these days, things are going to turn around and we're going to get those fourth-quarter wins like we know how to. So we've just got to continue to fight."
Bray said he's focusing on a Vandy win, especially for seniors like Rogers.
"(A win) would mean everything to (the seniors). We sent out the seniors last year with a bad taste, and we don't want to do that again."
A win over the Commodores is something Rogers is hoping for — not just for himself, but for the team.
"I've got a lot of family and friends coming to this one," Rogers said. "I definitely want to do my best to make them proud of me. But at the same time, I'm still fighting for this team and we're fighting for each other to get these last two wins."
He said he'd love to see the team make it to a bowl game. Watching the games instead of being a part of them was a difficult experience for him last year.
"It was tough sitting at home, watching all of those bowl games, knowing that you should be in one of them," Rogers said. "We don't want that to happen this year. That was a bad feeling in our stomachs last year. So we've just got to come out fighting these next two games and make a bowl game. That's what's on our mind right now."