NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Volunteers say they have a lot more work to do after clinching the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division title.
"I'd like to have better killer instinct," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I told the players to look at themselves honestly and see if we prepared as much as we needed to."
Tennessee's 38-33 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday means the 15th-ranked Vols (8-2, 6-1) will play Auburn in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4 in Atlanta, but defensive tackle Parys Haralson said they won't lose focus against Kentucky.
"We are thinking less about the SEC championship game and more about (Saturday's) Kentucky game," he said. "We particularly are thinking about how to improve the defense."
It was the defense that struggled to stop the Commodores (2-9, 1-7) after Cedric Houston scored three touchdowns and Rick Clausen threw for another to give the Vols a 28-6 lead in the second quarter.
Vanderbilt scored four more touchdowns - including two in the fourth quarter - and had a chance to win the game between the instate rivals for the first time since 1982 before Roshaun Fellows intercepted a pass by Jay Cutler with 2:07 left.
"We need to get better for Kentucky," Fellows said. "We need to start strong, play the whole game strong and finish strong. We cannot have any lapses."
Only Notre Dame's 41 straight wins over Navy and Nebraska's 36 in a row over Kansas are longer that the current streak the Vols hold over Vandy.
For the Commodores, it was another disappointing game in a disappointing season. Vandy came into the season with higher expectations with 21 returning starters, but finished for the fourth straight year with just two wins.
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, who agreed to a long-term extension just before the first game this year, said they will begin recruiting immediately.
"We'll assess the season and see what we need to improve and get it done," he said. "You can't keep secrets from your players."
Vandy has had secrets of its own, and one of them has been Cutler until this season.
The three-year starter went 22-of-33 for 319 yards - including 160 to Brandon Smith and 118 to Marlon White - but he turned the ball over four times and was upset with the officiating in the game and for the season.
"It's pathetic out there," he said. "They're definitely going to give the ranked teams - the UTs of the league - the calls. I can say it now because the season's over."
For all of Cutler's experience, Clausen started just his second game ever, and first for the Vols. Clausen went 19-of-30 for 189 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, mixing in accurate throws with a few that didn't appear to be intended for anybody.
"I was pretty calm entering the game and through the whole thing," he said. "I just wanted to have fun and knew that I needed to get the receivers the ball."
Fulmer praised his new signal caller who might start both against Kentucky and in the SEC title game with Auburn.
"It's rather ironic," Fulmer said. "He started the season competing for a starting position, but lost it.... He stayed the course and you have to give a lot of credit to him."
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