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Vols guarding against complacency vs Georgia State

Associated Press Modified: September 7, 2012 at 9:34 am •  Published: September 7, 2012
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Any mention of the names Dooley and Curry around the Southeast conjures up memories of some memorable Georgia-Georgia Tech games from the 1980s.

The latest Dooley-Curry matchup shouldn't provide nearly as much intrigue.

Bill Curry will continue his final season before retirement Saturday by leading Georgia State into Neyland Stadium for Tennessee's home opener. The likely mismatch pits Curry against Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, the son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley. Curry went 2-5 against Georgia while coaching Georgia Tech from 1980-86.

Curry's Georgia Tech career also included a 24-21 upset of fourth-ranked Alabama that represented the Yellow Jackets' only victory of the 1981 season. A victory Saturday could rank as an even bigger stunner, though Curry believes that 1981 Georgia Tech team wasn't nearly as good as his current Georgia State squad.

Georgia State is in its final season as a Football Championship Subdivision member before joining the Sun Belt Conference next season. In its only two previous games against Football Bowl Subdivision programs, the Panthers fell 63-7 to Alabama in 2010 and 56-0 to Houston last year.

"Our goal when we play these kinds of games is to get better every time," Curry said. "So far we haven't done that. We've played one of these games each of the last two years and haven't played our best in either of those cases. If we play our best and we catch the opponent on a down day, we've got a chance."

Maybe a small chance.

Georgia State is coming off a 33-6 loss to South Carolina State, while Tennessee opened its season with a 35-21 victory over North Carolina State. Georgia State's best hope is that Tennessee gets caught looking ahead to next week's game against Florida.

The Volunteers insist they won't fall victim to complacency.

"No matter who the opponent is, just take it like it's for the national championship, that last game," Tennessee cornerback Marsalis Teague said. "You hear coaches say all the time play each game like it's your last. You kind of got to really take that approach to it, and it will make it a lot easier."

Dooley believes this game should test his team's maturity. Throughout the spring and summer, the Vols fed off the criticism that followed a season-ending loss to Kentucky last year. Now they must prove they can handle praise as well as they responded to those barbs.

"Most teams rarely reach their dreams, never reach their dreams," Dooley said. "I think one of the main reasons is they overestimate an event and underestimate the process. That's going to be our biggest challenge this next week, not overestimating the event, patting ourselves on the back and listening to everybody talk about how good we played (instead of) remembering why we had success."

Dooley also noted the success FCS programs had against FBS teams last week.

Youngstown State beat Pittsburgh. McNeese State defeated Middle Tennessee. Eastern Washington knocked off Idaho. UT Martin beat Memphis.

"He's always talking about that," Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter said. "Don't underestimate them because they could come out and embarrass us in our home."

Considering the way Tennessee and Georgia State performed in their season openers, a Panthers victory probably would be more surprising than any of the FCS triumphs over FBS opponents last week.

Tennessee's Tyler Bray threw for 333 yards against a veteran North Carolina State secondary while Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College transfer Cordarrelle Patterson scored on a 67-yard run and a 41-yard catch. Now they face a Georgia State defense that allowed 300 passing yards to South Carolina State.

Georgia State attempted to shore up its secondary this week by moving Kelton Hill from quarterback to safety. Hill split time with Ben McLane at quarterback last week. On offense, Curry wants to better utilize Kentucky transfer Donald Russell, who rushed for 120 yards on just 12 carries last week.

More than anything, Curry wants his team believing it can compete with Tennessee. He remembers the attitude that 1981 Georgia Tech team carried into its game with Alabama.

"We certainly weren't cocky, but we had a bunch of kids who played really hard and made just enough plays to win the game," Curry said. "It was probably a fluke, but it was a 'W.' "

Thirty-one years later, Curry will try to deliver an equally improbable victory.