KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones decided that what the Vols needed last Wednesday during their bye week was not more practice, rather, a trip to the movies.
The feature presentation the Tennessee team took in was “The Accountant,” which, like the first half of the Vols season, was “compelling and absurd,” according to a review by GQ Magazine.
Jones’ decision to give his players an unexpected break — and perhaps, a psychological boost — makes sense when one considers the beating Tennessee took in its most recent game, a 49-10 loss to No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Jones has said more than once he loves this particular UT team and is proud of the resilience they’ve shown, and he sensed they needed a break.
“I still felt that they were exhausted, and instead of practicing we went to the movies,” Jones revealed at his Monday press conference in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio. “To me, there’s so much that goes into the mental fatigue of a long football season, and you have to be able to read your football team.
“I think this football team and this football program was exhausted. It was a seven week grind, mentally and physically taxing, taking its toll on everyone in our organization.”
Tennessee won four of its first five games by rallying from double-digit deficits.
But in the past two games, it faced large attrition.
Nine players left the 45-38 double-overtime game against Texas A&M due to injury, and since the start of October two starters left the program (a dismissal and a transfer), and two other starters were ruled out with likely season-ending injuries.
The No. 18-ranked Vols (5-2, 2-2) return to action at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday at South Carolina (3-4, 1-4) at Williams-Brice Stadium (TV: ESPN2).
As for the movie, tight end Ethan Wolf said “everyone was taped up” and ready to practice when Jones made the surprise call to treat the team to movies and popcorn.
“There was a little bit of fatigue for sure, so he made a gut call and rewarded us little bit with a day off to go see the movies,” Wolf said. “I think it energized us as a team.”