KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones is living up to Tennessee’s “Own It” team slogan this week.
“We’ve kind of lost our way a little bit with passion, energy and discipline,” Jones said on his Wednesday night coaches show, Vol Calls. “That’s something we’re working on.”
Tennessee (5-3) plays host to FCS member Tennessee Tech (3-5) at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in the Vols Homecoming Game.
“We’re going on a four-game stretch and it’s critical and important,” Jones said. “We always talk about playing meaningful games in November, and we have a lot to play for.
“The first thing is to be bowl eligible, and it will be the third consecutive year we’ve been bowl eligible, and it’s the first time since 2002 (-2004).”
The Vols have an outside shot at playing in the SEC Championship Game, provided they beat Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt and Florida loses two of three against Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU.
But for now, Jones said, it’s about going 1-0 against the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech.
Here are five things for Tennessee against Tennessee Tech:
1. Run the offense
This is a great opportunity for Tennessee to work out some kinks and regain some confidence after struggling the past two games against Alabama and at South Carolina.
Jones said he has confidence in quarterback Josh Dobbs moving forward, but this game should also afford Quinten Dormady some much-needed repetitions.
2. Feed John Kelly
The sophomore tailback needs a load of work in the first half, the better to get a feel for the timing of the run plays and his offensive linemen.
A breakout day for Kelly would help put the painful transfer of Jalen Hurd behind the team and prime the offense for what promises to be a key showdown with Kentucky on Nov. 12 at Neyland Stadium.
3. Get healthy
There are plenty of players still banged up who could use another weekend off from football, and they will likely get it.
The opening stretch of the season was brutal for Tennessee and it led to several injuries and starters missing time.
4. Clear the bench
A football team is at its happiest when it wins big and everyone plays.
It’s been a tough season for the Vols in that respect, with the team trailing in every game but one, and on that afternoon, Ohio made it a competitive game through most of the fourth quarter.
5. Have fun
Crazy concept, eh? It’s been that tough of a year, and Jones said as much on Wednesday, saying he wants his team to have fun playing the game again.
There’s been a great deal of pressure on Tennessee from the opening kick this season, high expectations and challenging opponents.
It’s time for the Vols to have a fun afternoon playing the game they love against an overmatched opponent.