NASHVILLE -- With all major college football programs now playing 12-game regular seasons, bowl games counting toward statistics and some teams playing 14 games, rushing for 1,000 yards may not mean as much to some.
It still means a lot to University of Tennessee junior Tauren Poole, who is 6 yards away from becoming the 16th 1,000-yard rusher in Volunteers history.
"Man, I'd love to get to 1,000 yards," Poole said after Monday's Music City Bowl practice. "Hopefully I can get it. It's just 6 yards. Hopefully I don't get any first-quarter injuries or nothing.
"I'm going for it on the first carry I get."
Poole, who is tied with Auburn's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton atop the Southeastern Conference rankings with six 100-yards games this season -- and a 99-yard night at Vanderbilt -- joked that he'd be "terrible" if he played the full game and finished with 5 or fewer yards.
"So close, man. So close," he said. "Got to get it. Got to."
Not so special
Many teams are known for unveiling a few trick plays during bowls, because they've had so much time to prepare and know their opponent's vulnerabilities.
UT coach Derek Dooley said he and his team should be concerned about that heading into Thursday's game, but that North Carolina shouldn't.
"I think most teams do what they do, but what they do is they've got a little better feel for what you do than normal," he said. "And then there's always those special plays that people tend to get a little bit more aggressive (with) in a bowl game. If you can kind of survive the special plays and just stay in the fight -- because some times things happen early, where they come out and get you early, because they've had time, so you've just got to stay in the fight. You see a lot of blowouts in these bowl games. It happens a lot. The psyche of that team to keep fighting for four quarters and not get stunned when they come out and jump on you, because that can happen. That's kind of a long time off.
"We don't have any. I just know North Carolina probably does. It's special when we execute the play the right way, to me -- which isn't very often."
Senior wide receiver Denarius Moore was one of several Vols taken aback by the size of the team's hotel, the monstrous Gaylord Opryland Resort.
"Man, this place is nice," Moore said. "I've never seen anything like this place before."
It's not uncommon for newcomers -- and even some veterans -- to get lost in the resort.
North Carolina's players, coaches and support staff are also staying in the resort this week, but Moore said he hadn't seen any of them.
"This place is huge," Moore said as he scanned the surroundings.
Freshman wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, a former Calhoun (Ga.) High School All-American, called the hotel "exceptional."
"It's really nice, man," Rogers said. "Really, really nice."
The Vols and Tar Heels went to a team welcome party Monday night on the General Jackson Showboat, and they'll have two more events today -- a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast and free tickets to an NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.
Both teams and coaching staffs will have a Wednesday luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon, and that night will feature the Music Fest Battle of the Bands downtown on 2nd Avenue and Broadway.
A UT Alumni Big Orange Tailgate Tour is also scheduled for Thursday afternoon at Limelight on Woodland Street.
Dooley said he had no issue with the players having some fun in between practices and meetings.
"You have to have a good combination of relaxing and having fun but also keeping your focus on the game," he said. "I don't want them to walk around keeping their focus on the game, and that's all they think about, because that's not what they do during the season anyway. But it's important to learn how to manage all the events to where it's not so distracting and you lose sight of why you're here."
Dooley said he's been pleased with the team's performance through two days of practice at Vanderbilt.
"The team's been good," he said. "They've had good spirits. I hope it carries over to the game."
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-851-9739. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/wesruckerCTFP or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.
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