PORTLAND, Ore. — The process of picking up the pieces began on Sunday for Tennessee's football team.
The Volunteers' weaknesses were exposed on Saturday afternoon by second-ranked Oregon in the Ducks' 59-14 rout, but there's little time for Tennessee to focus on the warts.
A trip to Florida looms at the end of this week, and the Vols now know it's about how they progress from the early-season blowout loss.
"I'll know a lot more about our leadership and how much it cares," first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones said following Saturday's game. "I think in critical stages of the game, we lost our discipline, whether it was a missed tackle, whether it was a missed fit, whether it was eye discipline, dropping the football or not finishing blocks.
"You go back and you learn, and then you have to move on from it and you have to learn from it. It is what it is. You can't go back, and you can't push reset, and we have to continue to progress and move forward."
There's plenty of areas on which for the Vols to focus, too.
The offense was inefficient against one of the better defenses it'll face this season, though Florida's salty group will present an even more difficult challenge for Tennessee's transitioning offense.
Defensively, the Vols were no match for Oregon's machine of an offense, but the coaching staff will find plenty of flaws and mistakes to correct.
"With this team, I see a lot of guys who actually want to do better than we've done in the past, who want to get to the next level, I guess you could say," said senior defensive end Corey Miller. "This coaching staff has come in and brought in a lot of energy, and they've gotten these guys wanting to play for one another as brothers, as family. I feel like this team is going to do a great job of coming back.
"We understand that we have to keep pushing forward by any means necessary."
In his postgame comments, Jones challenged his team to prepare better during the week, both in practice and with extra work. He's called for more leadership throughout the preseason and the season's first month. But Tennessee hardly encountered any bad situations in its first two games.
A 45-point loss, and the SEC schedule that still looms, changes that, but left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, one of the team's most respected players, said the burden to bounce back falls on more than just Tennessee's leadership.
"At the end of the day, we've got to play the game," he said. "You can do all the hoo-rah that you want to, but at the end of the day we've got to capitalize on everything we do, on offense, defense and special teams. We've just got to go back and watch the film and get better."
As defensive end Jacques Smith pointed out, Florida -- and the rest of Tennessee's future opponents, for that matter -- now have film of where to attack Tennessee's defense and how to make its wobbly offense stumble.
The former Ooltewah High School standout believes the Vols will benefit from taking the approach of a new week and a new opponent.
"I think we'll handle ourselves the right way and prepare the right way," the senior said.
That's would Jones would like to see.
"I haven't lost any faith in our football team," he said. "I love our players. They're giving everything that they have, and we're going to demand and expect even that much more. It comes from me, it comes from our coaching.
"We're not going to blink. We knew it coming in: our margin of error is very, very small. We just have to keep getting better."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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