Sep 7, 2013
By Brian Rice KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- The second of General Neyland's Seven Maxims reads "Play for and make the breaks, and when one comes your way, score." Tennessee's second game of the season, particularly the opening quarter, was one the General would have been proud of.
After Western Kentucky marched down the field on its opening possession to take an early 3-0 lead and Tennessee's first drive ended in a punt, the UT defense was looking for one of those breaks. Justin Coleman made the break and took it the other way.
"I mean it was just a play that created great energy and a huge momentum swing," Coleman said. "The pick six, it was just something that I guess you could say the football gods offered, and because those who, basically work hard, will gain rewards from it."
The 23-yard interception of the Brandon Doughty pass gave Tennessee a lead it would not relinquish, but the UT defense wasn't close to being done in the break-making department.
After a 3-yard run to start the next WKU possession, Doughty fired a pass to his left, and freshman Cameron Sutton was there to step in front of it for his first-career interception and, 36 yards later, his first-career touchdown.
Dontavis Sapp forced and recovered a fumble on the next play from scrimmage, leading to a Michael Palardy field goal and a 17-3 UT lead. On WKU's very next play, another fumble, forced by Brent Brewer and recovered by Max Arnold. The Tennessee offense needed just two Rajion Neal runs covering 12 yards to go up 24-3. A play later, it was Brewer again, as the linebacker stretched out to intercept a pass just before it hit the turf, giving UT possession again with 0:17 left in the opening quarter. UT needed just three plays before Marlin Lane bowled into the end zone for another touchdown and a 31-3 lead.
In six plays, the Tennessee defense forced five turnovers, leading directly to 31 points and a ton of confidence for a defensive unit that is still working to show off its improvement from a season ago.
"It was a ton," Head Coach Butch Jones said when asked if the defensive performance was a boost in confidence for the entire team. "We have to fly around. We have to get eleven hats to the football. We have to swarm."
Brian Randolph, meanwhile, made preventing Hilltopper touchdown passes his personal mission. Randolph intercepted two passes, both in the end zone, to prevent WKU scores.
"I started feeling a little bit left out," said Randolph of the play of his teammates in the defensive backfield. "I saw my roommate, Justin Coleman get one there, my little brother Cameron Sutton - I just feel like I had to join in."
Jones quoted the General's Maxim as he opened his postgame press conference. He was then asked if he had ever been a part of a defensive streak like the one his team turned out on Saturday.
"I've never ever been associated with anything like that," he said with a smile.