KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (school release) -- Despite being without two of its top offensive players in quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter, Tennessee will have to run out of the "T" with confidence Saturday when the Vols attempt to become the first team to defeat No. 1-ranked LSU this season.
"I hope they believe they can do it," head coach Derek Dooley said. "Our guys have to go believe they can go fight anybody. This is Tennessee. I don't care how many guys we lose. We are still Tennessee. We fought them good last year. I know this - if we don't come believing we can win and playing to our capacity, then it's going to look like what happened last week. They're going to embarrass you."
With a "next man up" philosophy, the Vols can't waste any time sulking over who won't put on pads Saturday.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for Tennessee and they're not going to feel sorry for me," Dooley said. "That's OK. I'm not going to in the tank because we have had some things happen to us that make it a lot more challenging. Anybody can go in the tank and blame.
"We just have to find solutions and that is what we are going to do. With good energy, go out there and compete - compete like men. And that's what we should do."
Waiting for Tennessee's solutions are the LSU Tigers, who come to Knoxville this weekend with a perfect 6-0 record.
"They have good players, but they are the same age as us," offensive lineman Alex Bullard said. "If we go out there and play the way we are capable of playing, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to give them a good game."
That's just what the Vols did at LSU last year, but fell short, 16-14. The way that game ended left a bitter taste in the team's mouth, but the Vols have moved on.
After the clock expired with the Vols ahead 14-10, official replay showed the Vols had too many men on the field. With one last shot, LSU's Stevan Ridley ran in the winning touchdown from one yard out.
"Last year was last year," defensive lineman Malik Jackson said. "It was a different team and a different season. This year, they're number one and coming into our house. We just have to go out there and know what we can do. We look back at the film and we played a pretty good game. We almost had them. Knowing that, we know we can go out this week and if we just play a stout game like we did last time, we can hopefully get a win."
Tennessee has defeated a number one-ranked team twice, the first coming in 1959 against LSU, 14-13, at Neyland Stadium.
"Every game you should come ready to play but certainly when you have the number one team, the opportunity to do something special should get you more excited," Dooley said.
SIMMS TO START
With Bray out for an estimated six weeks with a fractured right thumb, senior quarterback Matt Simms will make his first start of the season and ninth at Tennessee when the Vols take the field Saturday.
Simms started in the Vols' 16-14 loss at LSU last season, completing 12-of-23 passes for 121 yards and rushing for a touchdown.
The senior has maintained a positive attitude throughout his time as a Vol.
"Matt has been great and I'm proud of Matt to this point," Dooley said. "Of course we all know how disappointed he was last year when we made the switch and it's tough to go out there and watch the other guy light it up, which is what Tyler did. Of course then it is the talk of ,`Is he coming back or is he transferring?'
"I told Matt we were going to need him this year. He brings a lot of leadership ability. He has been in the fire before. He has a real good command of the offense and he has prepared every week like he is a starter. This is his time and we will see how he does."
Junior defensive back Prentiss Waggner is one three Louisiana natives on the Vols' roster. Being from Clinton, La., Waggner has a lot of friends that go to school at LSU giving him a little extra motivation again his homestate team.
"It's pretty big for me," said Waggner. "I have a lot of family members coming up from Baton Rouge to come see the game. A lot of high school classmates that I went to school with, they attend LSU now, so they are already sending me text messages and calling me. It's fun."
Waggner comes off a career-high 11 tackles in the loss to Georgia. Looking ahead to the gameweek versus the Tigers, Waggner is focused on the task at hand, facing the Tigers on the field.
"I will just talk to them (friends and former classmates) after the game," Waggner said. "Throughout the day, I don't think about it. I just think about having a good positive practice and I deal with things like that on my social time."
After the Volunteers rushed for -20 yards against Georgia on Saturday, much of the postgame analysis focused on a lack of communication on the offensive line.
For Dooley, however, that is `mouse manure' and the answer can be boiled down to a much simpler solution.
"The communication issue is not why we are -20 rushing yards," Dooley said. "It is a knock somebody's `you-know-what' backwards. I think that's mouse manure. Have you ever heard that old statement? We're over here worrying about mouse manure when we are up to our ears in elephant `you-know-what.' That's mouse manure. The communication is fine. Look, it requires a lot more communication in pass protection and we are doing good in pass pro, we really are. Knock on wood.
"We are seeing a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. We are seeing continuity getting better, but the reality is we can't punch some guys out and run the football. I know the issue."