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UCLA football: Eric Berry says Volunteers gave game away in 2008

September 8, 2009 |  1:54 pm
Berry So what happened in the Rose Bowl last September? UCLA won, defeating Tennessee in overtime, 27-24, but the opinion on the Volunteers side is the game was lost.

“We can’t let what happened last year, with us losing focus and pretty much giving up at the end of the game, happen again,” Tennessee safety Eric Berry said. “I’m not saying we thought we were going to beat them going into the game, but we did ease up on them at the end.”

UCLA scored two touchdowns in a back-and-forth final seven minutes to send the game into overtime. The loss sent the Volunteers into a spiral that ended with a 5-7 record and the ouster of Coach Phil Fulmer.

“It hurt us to lose that game,” Berry said. “We never did get back right after that game. It was a good lesson for us. We have to stay focused throughout the whole game. We can’t take a win for granted late in the game just because we have the lead.”

The Volunteers appear to have straightened things out, though it's hard to judge off a season-opening victory over Western Kentucky. Tennessee won in a rout, 63-7, but that is tempered by the fact that Western Kentucky just stepped up to the Bowl Championship Division this season.

That game matters little to the Volunteers, because, as Berry said, they are following Coach Lane Kiffin’s “24-hour rule.”

Said Berry: “The first thing he said after the game was that we should celebrate the win, but after 24 hours we should focus solely on UCLA.”

That, for Berry, means cramming to prepare for Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

“He mixes it up very well,” Berry said. “He does a lot things simple. You have to remember to look at your keys, because he will throw a few tricks at you.”

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Tennessee safety Eric Berry. Credit: Wade Payne / Associated Press