Tennessee coach Butch Jones appreciates the pain his players felt in the moments after losing 29-21 to Missouri in its home finale, but he wants to make sure the Volunteers are over it.
There's too much at stake in Saturday's regular-season finale at Vanderbilt to waste any time brooding.
"There was a lot of pain in the locker room after the game - a lot of hurt, a lot of tears," Jones said. "That is good because that is a direct correlation to their investment. They take pride in their performance. We are getting to the point now where our players expect to win every time they go on the football field.
"So as a coach, when you see that type of investment and that type of emotion, that is great because you know they have invested in it. But now it is time to move on. This football team has displayed a great consistency in terms of moving on."
Tennessee (5-6, 2-5 SEC) can reclaim state bragging rights and become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010 with a win Saturday. Vanderbilt (3-8, 0-7) can earn a third straight win over Tennessee for the first time since 1920-26, when the Commodores beat the Vols six consecutive times.
A Vanderbilt victory would give Tennessee its fifth straight losing season, something that's never happened before in school history. Tennessee had four straight losing seasons from 1903-06.
"It's definitely big for our program, just to get win No. 6," sophomore linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "We're trying to focus on that now and not look ahead to a bowl game. All eyes (are) on Vanderbilt."
This isn't the same Vanderbilt team that beat Tennessee the last two seasons. Vanderbilt went 9-4 and finished in the Top 25 in 2012 and 2013 under former coach James Franklin, now at Penn State. Vanderbilt has lost its seven SEC games by an average margin of 24.9 points in the first year of Derek Mason's tenure.
Tennessee, a 17-point favorite, also has changed quite a bit. The Vols have played 23 true freshmen, the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision program.
"We can't worry about the past," sophomore cornerback Cam Sutton said. "A lot of guys on this team haven't played Vanderbilt or don't know much about Vanderbilt. We're trying to teach the young guys the meaning behind the game."
Tennessee's big obstacle may be overcoming the injuries and off-field issues. The Vols started a school-record seven true freshmen against Missouri while playing without suspended linebacker A.J. Johnson and cornerback Michael Williams, who have been named as subjects of an ongoing rape investigation in which no charges have been filed.
The Vols also are without wide receiver Marquez North, who wouldn't be available for any potential bowl game either as he recovers from a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Jones has praised his team's resiliency. The Vols will need that quality in abundance this week as they put their postseason hopes on the line.
"We've been going through adversity all year with losses that we think we should have won," Sutton said. "Missouri was another game that we feel like a few plays here or there could change the outcome of that game. It's too late to go back and change that now. We've got another opportunity - a big opportunity - this week coming up just to keep moving forward and hopefully get win (No.) 6."
NOTES: Jones said he submitted Tennessee's first onside kick attempt against Missouri to the SEC for review. An offside penalty nullified Tennessee's recovery of an onside kick. "It was a bang-bang play," Jones said. ... Jones said center Mack Crowder's status for Saturday's game is uncertain. Crowder missed the Missouri game with a knee sprain and high ankle sprain. ... Jones said he hasn't "had any dialogue at all" with A.J. Johnson and Williams during the investigation. "We're letting the investigation take care of itself, and that's all I'll say," Jones said.