Sept. 17, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Since former Vol kicker James Wilhoit's 50-yard field goal to give the Volunteers a victory in 2004, Tennessee has been winless in its previous eight matchups against the Gators.
Tennessee head coach, Butch Jones, talked Tuesday about the importance of the rivalry and what they must do to keep it alive.
"You know it's a great rivalry, but in order for us to continue to make this a rivalry we have to start winning some of these football games," he said. "You know all we can control right now is team 117 and all we can control is our mental preparations, our mental intensity, the way we approach the game and the way we play on Saturday."
For senior Corey Miller it is all on the line in his last opportunity to beat Florida.
"Rivalry never changes," said Miller. "Not in my eyes, not in any of the guys' around me. I know the fans for one-- they hate these guys as much as we do. Not going to lie, I have no love for them at all. I feel like the rivalry is going to be exactly what it is. It's going to be a knock down, drag out fight when we head out there on Saturday."
Jordan Williams, a Gainesville, Fla. native grew up around the rivalry, and while his father played at Florida, he just wants one thing to happen this weekend.
"It would mean a lot," said Williams. "We are on an eight-game losing streak and I feel like we are due one."
Williams, a junior, will have one more go-around with Florida after this season.
After having just faced one of the nation's elite offenses while in Eugene, Ore., the Vols (2-1) will turn around and be handed another tough task: scoring on the Florida defense.
The Gators (1-1) enter Saturday allowing only 208 yards per game of opponent's offense.
"This is what makes college football, rivalry games," Jones said. "The pageantry of college football - that's what makes it special. This game should live with you the rest of your life and for our seniors this is their last opportunity to play Florida just like for Florida's seniors it's their last opportunity to play Tennessee."
"Everyone has to step up and give us valuable repetitions and be accountable and so Jason is being mentored by our older players and it's a great opportunity for him along with everyone else," Jones said.
QB BATTLE UPDATE
On Tuesday, all four signal callers saw ample time and Jones said he would review the performances of Worley, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson after practice.
"I will know a little bit more when I watch the film," said Jones. "I saw a little more of a competitive spirit amongst all of them. A little more sense of urgency. As I talk about, competition is healthy. I will know a little bit more in terms of the execution and the base fundamentals of our offense when I watch film."
'SNAP AND CLEAR'
Coach Jones and his staff challenged Team 117 on Tuesday, the first full-padded practice since Saturday's loss at Oregon. And his message was clear... It's time to move on.
"First of all you come back in and have a workmanlike mentality; you have to learn from your mistakes," said Jones. "That is a good thing in terms of they are very prideful, but now you have to let it go.
"Florida has our attention, a rivalry game, a talented football team. I liked our approach today. I wanted to see how our team would respond. I told them, the more you put in, the more it should hurt."
After last week, redshirt sophomore defensive back Brian Randolph and the Vols' defense have something to prove.
"Saturday is just going to be used as a motivator for us," Randolph said. "It is going to be in the back of our heads knowing we have to prove ourselves because that wasn't us. We are going to go out there this Saturday and prove we are a better defense than that."
Randolph also pointed out that this defense and Team 117 as a whole is capable of bouncing back because it's different from past Vol squads.
"I think we're a better team this year. When adversity hits - when the offense goes three-and-out - we're better-equipped this year to go out there and get the ball back for them," said Randolph. "The same thing with them, if we get scored on the offense can pick us up."
After the loss, the Vols' strong safety took it upon himself to remind his teammates of the snap-and-clear mentality.
"We just had to remind [each other] that we have an SEC game so we can prove ourselves," said Randolph. "The season is not over. It is not like we are going on a losing streak. We can turn it right back around."
Florida is another test on the Vols' brutal schedule this season. Under this week's rankings, Tennessee will play the current No. 1, No. 2, No. 9, No. 12 and No. 19 team in the nation. For Randolph, each one is a chance to beat the best and prove what this team is made of, starting with the Gators on Saturday.
"There's always a chance to improve yourself," Randolph said. "My Dad always told me to be the best I've got to beat the best. So it's good to have the best competition possible."
THE LAST TIME...
The last time the Tennessee Vols beat Florida, they made it a game for the ages.
A last-second field goal will be remembered for ever.
But since that historic game in 2004, Florida has won eight-straight.
When asked what they were doing then, here's what some of the Vols had to say.
Senior Defensive Lineman Corey Miller: "I was 13 or 14. I was playing football and basketball at the time. I was at Florence Chapel Middle School in South Carolina around that time. I don't remember too much of that. I'm not going to lie to you. That was a while ago."
Senior center James Stone was playing another sport.
"I don't know, I was probably playing little league basketball or something."
Gainesville native junior Jordan Williams knows exactly where he was when Tennessee won.
"I think I remember that game and was actually in CiCi's pizza and I remember watching that. I was probably like 11. I was in the pizza shop watching it."
And Brian Randolph was where he usually was at the age of 11.
"I was probably in middle school on the playground chilling."
THE KEY? CONTAINMENT
The Tennessee defense got a practice round at a mobile quarterback last weekend when they faced Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
While Mariota and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel are both mobile quarterbacks, they have a different approach to the game.
Senior Corey Miller learned last weekend, the key to the defense this week is containment.
"Us as defensive ends have to do a good job of getting up field, setting up edges, and setting our points so these guys can't get outside of us," said Miller. "We need to force it back to our linebackers. That is one of the main things we have to worry about."
Last season, junior Trey Burton broke for a long run coming out at the half that shook the UT defense.
This season the Vols plan is to contain the dynamic running back.
"He is talented," said Miller. "He can get in the wildcat, line up at receiver, or at running back. He can do a lot of things. I just feel like we need to be technically sound on defense in order to stop big plays from happening."
After losing to rival Miami two weeks ago, Florida has had two weeks to prepare for the Vols and get their confidence back.
"Florida is one of the most confident teams I have seen on field," said Miller. "They believe they can beat anybody. They are a very talented team."
At the same time, we believe in ourselves," continued Miller. "We believe in the program Coach Jones has set up for us. It is going to be a great chance for us to going out there and put one on for Tennessee."
ESTABLISHING A RUN GAME
The Tennessee offensive line came into the 2013 season as one of the most veteran corps on the team.
After allowing just eight sacks the previous season, the expectations were high.
This year, the Vols line has allowed two sacks, one during the waning moments of the Austin Peay game, none of the starting line was involved. Another on a quarterback scramble against Western Kentucky. None against Oregon.
Center James Stone believes the group can step it up.
"I feel like as an offensive line we really need to elevate our play," said Stone. "I feel like we've done some good things, but we've done some things that we really need to improve on. I feel like we all hold each other accountable and to high standards on how we have been playing. We want to step it up each week."
Where does Stone think the line can improve?
"Just leverage, guys getting up on the second level and sustaining blocks," said Stone. "Little things you work on in practice but you really need to transfer into the game."
Getting up to the second level translates to the run game, something very key to the Vols match up against Florida this year.
Because in 22 of the last 23 meetings, the team that has the most rushing yards has won the game.
"When you saw that the person who leads in rushing has been winning in 22 of the past 23," said Stone, "that just lets you know, that much more emphasis is being put on the run game, and how much more essential it is for us to establish a run game in this game."
"You have to be physical in a game like this."