Vols playing loose, but will pressure return?

Tennessee players admitted that pressure and expectations might have gotten to them a little bit this season but now they're playing loose again.

Tennessee's focus leading up to Saturday's 55-0 win over Tennessee Tech seemed to be all about having fun again.

"We talked all week about this being a child's game," said offensive tackle Brett Kendrick, a Knoxville native. "It's just what we fell in love with as kids growing up out in the backyard, on the playground."

Scoring touchdowns on each of your first four possessions, with three of those drives lasting less than a minute, sure sounds like fun.

"We played more loose on Saturday," said Kendrick.

But the Vols certainly didn't seem to be playing loose the previous week, when Tennessee, a two-touchdown favorite, lost on the road at South Carolina. 

At the time, that loss seemed to throw a wrench into the Vols' postseason plans.

"I think it could have had some stuff to do with expectations on us," Kendrick said when asked why the Vols weren't playing loose before the Tech game. "I feel like there was a lot of pressure on us."

The Vols have always seemed very focused on the task at hand, but perhaps the approach became too businesslike.

"I don't think it's the fact that we didn't have fun, but we didn't really look at it as just being a kid's game and running around. We wanted it to be businesslike but at the end of day you've got to let loose," said defensive tackle Kendal Vickers.

It's easy to have fun against a 3-5 FCS team when you're putting up points at will.

Florida's loss to Arkansas puts the Vols right back in the thick of the SEC East race. In fact, ESPN's Football Power Index has Tennessee as the favorite to win the division.

They'll have to beat Kentucky on Saturday to keep it that way. Does the pressure return now?

"I think that's part of what makes it fun, it's a huge game and as a football player you want to play in big games," Kendrick said. "I think we're just going to take that and turn it into a positive and we'll be excited and eager to play on Saturday."


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