The fact Tennessee is coming off an impressive 45-0 drubbing of Austin Peay should bode well for the Vols heading into Saturday’s game with Western Kentucky. Recent history suggests that hammering a hapless foe may be hazardous to your health, however.
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Tennessee crushed UAB 35-3 in 2008, then was flogged by Florida 30-6 a week later.
Tennessee routed Western Kentucky 63-7 in 2009, then lost to a bad UCLA team 19-15 a week later.
Tennessee hammered Memphis 56-28, also in 2009, then got blown out by a so-so Ole Miss team 42-17 a week later.
Tennessee crushed UT Martin 50-0 in Derek Dooley’s 2010 debut, then got crushed by Oregon 48-13 a week later.
Tennessee manhandled Buffalo 41-10 in 2011, then lost to Georgia 20-12 a week later.
Tennessee trounced Middle Tennessee 27-0, also in 2011, then was annihilated by Arkansas 49-7 a week later.
Tennessee routed Georgia State 51-13 in 2012, then lost to Florida 37-20 a week later.
Clearly, the Vols tend to fall flat after posting a lopsided defeat of a non-conference cupcake. Perhaps the players get a little overconfident when victory comes too easily.
“There probably have been times,” junior cornerback Justin Coleman conceded, “but this year we’re just going to snap and clear, play another game and try to get to 2-0.”
Senior center James Stone says the key is practicing the same way coming off a big win as you would coming off a loss or a tough win.
“We just have to focus on the process,” he said. “Focus on our preparation and invest in the preparation before Saturday.”
Head coach Butch Jones helps in this regard by preaching “snap and clear.” In other words, play the snap, then clear your mind for the next snap. Don’t be thinking about the last play when the next play is about to begin. The same principle applies in going from game to game as from play to play. Coleman says the Vols were not lulled into a false sense of security by their Game 1 romp.
“We know every game is going to be hard,” he said. “Austin Peay probably wasn’t that tough but we have to snap and clear, not play down or up to anyone’s level. We’re going to play to our standards … Tennessee champion standards.”
Although he concedes that the blowout of Austin Peay was “a confidence builder … everybody played well,” Coleman understands that each Saturday represents a new challenge.
“We have to focus on this week now, just get ready to play,” he said, noting that Bobby Petrino’s high-powered WKU attack poses “a big challenge.”
Stone shows a healthy respect for the Hilltoppers, as well.
|Senior running back Rajion Neal says talking smack with coach Butch Jones helps keep players motivated and challenged.|
“You can’t look past any opponent,” he said, “especially an opponent that has guys like Western Kentucky has…. From watching film during the summer I kind of had a feeling they was going to be pretty good.”
Tennessee’s first teamers played a near-flawless first half against Austin Peay, scoring touchdowns on all six possessions without a single penalty or turnover. Still, they say that success hasn’t gone to their heads.
“Going to practice every day with the same worker’s mentality is what keeps you from getting satisfied,” Stone said. “You can’t be complacent anytime. You’ve got to go out there with a blue-collar mentality every day.”
One Vol says putting the Austin Peay beat-down in the rear-view mirror wasn’t all that difficult.
“The way the coaching staff has put it in our mind, it’s not too hard at all,” redshirt freshman defensive end LaTroy Lewis said. “It’s like we win a game and we’re ready for the next one already. We can’t dwell on things too much. Coach Jones says at the end of the season we can dwell on everything that happened. But right now we have to get ready for Week 2.”
Senior running back Rajion Neal says the Vols were not deluded by the ease of their Game 1 victory for a very simple reason.
“Coach Jones,” he said, flashing a big grin. “Coach Jones will definitely tell you the real raw and uncut (truth). You kind of like it because it’s always exciting when you get around him. I think Coach Jones does a great job of keeping us level-headed.
“He gives us a little trash talk here and there. It’s kind of fun because you want to go out and prove him wrong, then talk a little trash talk with him after you do something good. He does a good job of keeping us honed in and real humble.”
Freshman defensive backs Cameron Sutton, Malik Foreman and Devaun Swafford played reasonably well in Game 1 against Austin Peay. They’d better not assume Game 2 will go as smoothly. Coleman is taking steps to make sure they don’t.
“The younger guys made a couple of plays last week,” he said, “but I say, ‘Those are last game. You’re going to have to make more plays this game. You need to play harder. It’s going to be a greater challenge, so you’ve got to be ready.’”
If they aren’t ready Saturday afternoon, the Vols may continue their recent trend of following a blowout win with a disappointing loss.