KNOXVILLE -- There were two certainties following Tennessee's 26-22 loss to Auburn last Saturday.
The sun would rise Sunday morning, and by then, thousands of Big Orange fans would have started asking about the hurry-up offense the Volunteers used late in each half.
Never mind that a bulk of Tennessee's success came when Auburn backed off its pass rush and fell into softer zone coverages. Disregard that the Vols' last touchdown drive came against a Tigers' defense going through the motions.
UT's offense moved forward in the hurry-up -- every score came from such a scenario -- and any sliver of sunshine for that group was something worth duplicating in the future.
Fair point, Vols coach Lane Kiffin said. But it's not quite that simple, he added.
"There's a lot of things that go into that," Kiffin said. "There's a lot of stuff you have to consider."
And some of it has nothing to do with UT's offense.
Kiffin called two timeouts in the first half solely to rest a tired defense. He didn't see a bad matchup at the line of scrimmage. He didn't spot fewer than 11 defenders on the field. He simply noticed some of his best-conditioned athletes gasping for air, and he offered them a brief respite.
Auburn ran 49 plays against UT in the first half, and the Tigers nearly matched that total after the break. And that didn't include plays called back because of penalties.
"That's a good point," junior tight end Luke Stocker said Tuesday. "That's our responsibility as an offense. We can't go three-and-out, and then they have to go right back in there without getting any break. We're not changing the field position to help them out, either, so we have to get past that.
"They have to get better on third down, but the offense has got to get a lot better on third down. We can't be doing three-and-out all the time."
Auburn forced Kiffin's hurry-up hand early in the fourth quarter. Time demanded it. Kiffin decided to try the fast-paced attack again minutes before the Tigers' final score gave them a 23-6 lead with 13:41 left.
"It had gone well late in the first half, and we just needed some juice and some energy," Kiffin said. "But still, the thing weighing in my mind was, 'OK, our defense has been out there forever.'"
UT's starting safeties, junior Eric Berry and freshman Janzen Jackson, spent at least a combined 202 defensive or special-teams plays on the field.
"If you do go no-huddle, that sounds great, and everybody wants to go to it," Kiffin said. "But all of a sudden you're three-and-out, and it takes 11 seconds off the clock, and the whole thing only took two minutes (in real time), and your defense is right back out there.
"You've always got to gauge that, especially in games like that one, with the way it was going, because our defense was out there forever in that game."
There are other factors to weigh.
Would the no-huddle work against a fierce pass rush and tighter press coverage downfield? Would it work in the game's early stages, before the opponent's defense merely approached fatigue? Would it limit UT's biggest offensive threat, powerful senior tailback Montario Hardesty?
Kiffin said Hardesty would remain a factor, regardless, because of his newly discovered dynamics as receiver out of the backfield. He made no guarantees for the other questions, though.
Still, any plausible idea to get UT's offense out of the block faster is something the coaches will strongly consider.
"It's something that's real easy to have ready, because you always prepare for two-minute every week," Kiffin said. "It could be something that down the road we look into. It all depends on how the game's going.
"It's easy to sit here after that game and say, 'Well, you know, we should be in two-minute all the time and no huddle.' Well, it's easier to move the ball in no-huddle in that scenario. As you go back to that game, we're behind, they decided to not blitz very much in the two-minute, which makes some of it easier. And prior to the game before, we had not been good in the two-minute, so we'll see. It was positive, though."
Players may have preferences -- surely they do -- but those interviewed Tuesday didn't take much of a stance on the issue.
"We run the two-minute offense in practice a lot, and we were used to it, and we knew what we were doing, and it kind of caught Auburn off guard," senior center Cody Sullins said. "I think they had some trouble lining up, and I think it made them tired ... and they were getting confused."
Sullins quickly added that increasing the hurry-up's usage wasn't his call, though.
"I don't know if that would be smart," he said. "I'll leave that up to the coaches. But I think it just gives the coaches more confidence, knowing that we can do that, since we had some success with it Saturday. I think it kind of opens up the playbook a little more."
Stocker said the Vols would wait for Kiffin's plan and try to execute regardless.
"I don't feel like (more hurry-up) would be uncomfortable for anybody on offense," Stocker said. "If Coach decided to do that, and he felt like maybe we'd get a little bit more rhythm going that way, then I think everybody would be fine with it."