Normally when speaking of crowd noise affecting a team’s ability to communicate, it’s the offense that comes to mind.
But Tennessee’s coaching staff worked Thursday helping the Vols defense prepare for a loud and boisterous Neyland Stadium when UCLA visits for a Saturday afternoon kickoff (4 p.m. Eastern; Vol Network and ESPN).
“We played a lot of crowd noise for the defense because we anticipate our crowd being very loud,” head coach Lane Kiffin said. “I thought our guys responded extremely well.”
Last Saturday’s crowd was noisy in the early going, but the 63-7 outcome against Western Kentucky didn’t lend itself as an edge-of-the-seat affair. This Saturday should be different, and Monte Kiffin knows the crowd definitely can make a difference.
“It’s all about third down and getting off the field, right?” UT’s defensive coordinator said. “These fans are awesome. If they can be fired up on third down, it does make it harder on the quarterback.
“So as loud as they want to get, it won’t bother me! We don’t have to listen to the snap-count on defense, and when they’ve got the ball you’ve got to use your home field advantage.”
Lane Kiffin added that crowd noise can be another obstacle for quarterbacks trying to manage the game.
“We need our crowd the whole game, especially on third down. It causes the quarterback a lot of issues to have to go to a silent count if our crowd’s going. If our crowd’s not, it’s not a big deal to him.
“(Kevin Prince) played extremely well last week in a home game and now he’s got to go on the road. He was very accurate and looked very poised last week.”
Kiffin was most impressed with the speed of UCLA’s offense.
“They’re very good,” he said. “Terrence Austin is a big-time receiver who can really run. He is a great returner as well; we will have our hands full with him. And the true freshman (Randall Carroll), I’m sure they’re going to start playing him more. He’s the fastest guy at 10.3 (seconds for 100 meters) in the state of California last year, so it’s a very fast receiving corps.”
Kiffin closed his comments by commending senior center Josh McNeil for his return to practice.
“Surprisingly, Josh came out today and was able to practice. We gave him some reps today and he could possibly even play Saturday.
“It was a surprise to see him back this fast from the (arthroscopic surgery). He was not supposed to be back until at least two weeks from now. Credit to him for working so hard on rehab and getting back. He would be able to play for us Saturday if needed.”