Randall Cobb was trying to play it cool Monday when addressing the media about the upcoming game at Tennessee.
Despite the fact that Kentucky will be playing to: A) end the nation's longest losing streak to another school at 25; B) to finish in a possible tie for third in the SEC East; and C) to improve its bowl destination, Cobb wouldn't give the media much ammo with regards to the importance of the game.
That's not even taking into the fact that Cobb is a native of nearby Alcoa who didn't get the recruiting love he probably should have from Tennessee.
When asked of the game's significance, Cobb said, "It's just another game."
Never miss a local story.
"That's it. I've got nothing to say this week. I'm going to talk with my pads."
What are you feeling inside?
"It's time to play ball."
That was Cobb at his most politically correct. But everybody else knows better, even Cobb's head coach Joker Phillips. The Volunteers certainly know better, because they've got just as much at stake as the Cats. UT (5-6, 2-5 SEC) will be trying to finish off a late-season turnaround under first-year Coach Derek Dooley and land in a bowl. And you know the current group of Vols don't want to be known as the group that surrendered the streak.
"You can't say it's just another game for either party," Phillips said. "I mean, you can't go down there and find any person that will say it's just another game. You can't come here and find any either. We've got a chance to be 7-5. They've got a chance to be bowl-eligible. So it's a big game."
Right tackle Brad Durham also acknowledged that the game was a big deal. "It's obviously a big game, the biggest game of the year," Durham said.
"We can knock them out of a bowl and move ourselves up the ladder." And Durham wishes he had a dollar for every time he heard a fan approach him and say, "This is the year."
"I've heard it for three years and I'm already tired of it," Durham said. "Every year is supposed to be 'the year.' We're putting more emphasis on this game than we have in the past to win this game and end the streak, so hopefully this year is the year."
While they won't talk about it publicly, Phillips and the players have indeed been zeroing in on the Tennessee game all year. There are 'Beat Tennessee' banners all over the locker room, and as you exit the Nutter Training Facility, the numbers '517' are pasted above the door. The players admitted that '517' was Tennessee-related but no one would elaborate.
"Just a little something the coaches have used to motivate us," junior cornerback Anthony Mosley said. "But we're keeping it amongst ourselves. Maybe we'll tell you guys after the Tennessee game."
In fairness, Cobb is probably keeping his lips zipped for a reason. Two years ago he was admittedly too emotional in his first trip to Neyland Stadium. Starting at quarterback, he had just 23 yards passing before being benched for Mike Hartline midway through the third quarter of a 28-10 loss.
"The biggest difference will be me keeping my composure and not getting too hyped up for the game," Cobb said. "Just going out there and playing football and making sure I'll keep myself calm and worry about the task at hand. If you start worrying about the other stuff, it takes you out of your game."
Phillips said he had no problem with Cobb's publicly mundane approach to the game.
"Whatever approach he takes, I wish all of them took, because he comes to play every week," Phillips said. "I like his approach, because he'll be ready to play. We know that."
Crawford suspendedfor team rules violation
Junior defensive tackle Mark Crawford has been suspended for the rest of the year for a violation of team rules, Phillips announced on Monday, meaning Crawford will miss both the Tennessee game and any potential bowl game.
Crawford started five games and had 24 tackles, 41/2 tackles for a loss and two sacks. Crawford had already been suspended once earlier this season when he missed the Western Kentucky game for a violation of team rules.
Phillips said freshman Donte Rumph would see more action in Crawford's absence.