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Tennessee C Cooper Mays talks Vols’ play in two very different halves

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A second half that saw Alabama put up 27 unanswered points. 

A Tennessee run game that never fully developed. 

Missed opportunities on both sides of the ball. 

To say Tennessee’s 34-20 loss to Alabama was disappointing is an understatement. On this week’s Vol Report, a visibly frustrated center Cooper Mays discussed the loss and how his team will bounce back from it. 

It was a tale of two halves – at halftime the Volunteers had a commanding lead over the Crimson Tide 20-7. 

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“I thought we executed well,” Mays said of the first two quarters. “We took control in the first half, but the second half wasn’t what it needed to be.” 

What changed for Tennessee after halftime? Mays couldn’t pinpoint exactly when the tide turned for the Vols, but he had some ideas. “I didn’t think we took advantage of our red zone opportunities,” Mays said. 

And it wasn’t just the run game that was stale. 

“Red zone points can go either way, running or passing,” Mays said. “We just haven’t been able to put a lot of red zone success together.” 

“The second half didn’t go our way,” Mays continued. “It wasn’t like an effort thing. We didn’t execute at a high enough level to win. At the end of the day, we didn’t get it done. 

“And it sucks.” 

Mays is already moving on to next week’s game. He’s confident in the Vols’ resiliency as well. “The way we practice this week, the way we attack and play this week is going to be a big sign of our program and see who we are as men,” Mays said. “It’s a big test to see what people are really made of.” 

The loss to Alabama puts Tennessee’s playoff hopes into serious jeopardy, but Mays isn’t focused on that. 

“I’m not that guy that is thinking ten weeks down the road,” Mays explained. “I think if you do that you lose sight of what’s going on in front of you. I know it’s cliché. I focus on winning one game and the next game.” 

That next game is on the road against the 5-2 Kentucky Wildcats, who are coming off of two consecutive losses. While Mays and Co. are taking the Alabama loss hard, they are ready to get back on the field and demonstrate how quickly they can recover. 

“It’s not saying we aren’t good enough,” Mays said. “Obviously, we have the talent and everything it takes. We’ve done it before. We have to come back to the drawing board and figure out what we can do better to have more success in the future.” 

Kentucky is a familiar foe – but don’t expect Tennessee to prepare for the game any differently. 

“(The opponent) doesn’t really matter,” said Mays. “They’re a good team. And we’re going to be excited for the challenge whenever it comes.”

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