UT players say they’re ready to prove themselves at Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

(Courtesy: Nashville Sports Council/Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee is only 10 days away from the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and players said they are ready to prove themselves.

“We’re always as good as our last performance and our last performance wasn’t up to standard, so we’re always looking at ways to improve on that,” said junior Cortez McDowell.

Tennessee (8-4) will play Nebraska (9-3) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium. The game will feature a 3:30 p.m. E/T kickoff on ESPN.

The Volunteers are ranked No. 21 in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings. The Cornhuskers are No. 21 in the latest Amway Coaches Poll and No. 24 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.

Cortez said coaches have been focusing on some of the fundamentals that were missing during the season, such as tackles, communication and alignments. He said they are really working through identifying formations and talking through them while everyone is out on the field.

“I feel our coaching staff has done a really good job of not going too early, but also focusing on the fundamentals that we needed to correct from the season,” said sophomore Darrin Kirkland Jr. “Right now we’re getting into a really good jump on Nebraska and before we go home the next couple days, just finishing the final details of our game plan.”

Kirkland, who was stuck on the sidelines for several games after an ankle injury, said he’s finally feeling like his old self. He said he wants to do everything possible to help his team finish as best as possible.

“I was in the training room every day, you know, guys are still looking at me to lead, so when I came back out here, that didn’t change at all. I just want to lead by example and be out here for my team,” said Kirland.

Even though players are busy with practice, several were ready to get home. McDowell said he is looking forward to spending some time with his family this Christmas.

“I get to see them on Saturdays, but I’m only with them for 15 to 20 minutes so it will be great to see them,” said McDowell.