Dec. 28, 2009
Kiffin, Berry, Crompton Audio - 12/28 | GALLERY
ATLANTA - Tennessee's 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl experience switched into higher gear Monday when the Vols practiced for the first time inside the Georgia Dome, site of the Thursday's matchup against 11th-ranked Virginia Tech.
"Today was a little better," quarterback Jonathan Crompton said of the team's 90-minute workout. "I think being in the dome, it helped a lot, being where we are going to play with the surface and the lights. Today I thought we were more crisp; we executed a little better. But we've got to come back out here tomorrow and have a good `Thursday' practice."
Tennessee's plan for bowl-site workouts has been to stage consecutive Wednesday-type practices Saturday and Sunday at Decatur High School, followed by a pair Thursday-type practices inside the dome. So far, Vols head coach Lane Kiffin said the extra time preparing for the Hokies has been challenging but beneficial.
"It's hard to manage a little bit because, for myself, you have so much time that you end up putting in too much stuff," Kiffin said. "We had an initial game plan two weeks ago. Then you had the time off where the guys went home for three days and I'm at the office coming up with more ideas.
"It's easy for me to understand all that but it's got to be about the players playing fast. It's a difficult thing sometimes and I've had to watch myself. I've probably put in too much stuff over the last two days so I need to slow that down."
Key to a New Year's Eve victory for the Vols (7-5) will be slowing down Virginia Tech freshman tailback Ryan Williams, who has rushed for 1,538 yards and 19 touchdowns during a 9-3 season. All-America safety Eric Berry says the UT defense gets a good look at Williams' hard-nosed running style every day in practice.
"Ryan Williams is a great running back, in my opinion," Berry said. "He runs very hard. But at the same time, I feel like Montario (Hardesty) is the type of back who can get our defense prepared for someone like that. I think Ryan is the closest person to Montario as far as running style, as physical as he is and how he runs with a low center of gravity.
"We are going to keep working on wrapping up Montario and making sure we are in the right positions to stop him because I think he (Montario) is the best running back I have ever faced and he is doing a great job of getting us prepared."
Hardesty himself has a chance at history Thursday night, needing 159 rushing yards to eclipse the Tennessee season record. Travis Stephens set that mark of 1,464 in 2001, but it came behind what many would consider a more star-studded offensive line than the workman-like group UT placed on the field this season.
"I thought James Cregg and Mitch Browning did a great job," Kiffin said of his offensive line coach and key assistant. "To lead the SEC in fewest sacks allowed (12) with a center and left guard that are 6-foot, 260-pound walk-ons, says a lot about the coaching.
"For Hardesty to possibly break the all-time school record in rushing, to have the most carries of any back in the SEC, says a lot about James and Mitch - but it's mostly about the players."
The Vols attended the Martin Luther King Jr., historic site after Monday's practice and were set to participate in the Georgia Power Family Feud against Virginia Tech later in the evening at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Tuesday's early schedule includes a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast.
"This has been a very exciting week for us," Kiffin said of the bowl's activities. "It's been an exciting week for our players, our staff and our families to be down here in such a great bowl. I referred to it last week as, in my opinion, we are in a BCS bowl.
"We're playing one of the top 11 teams in America, a team that has played in two straight Orange Bowls, a team that won the Orange Bowl last year and I think only had one player drafted off that team. So obviously they have a ton of great players back and a legendary coach. We will have our hands full. But we've really enjoyed our time down here. The people with the Chick-fil-A Bowl have been great to us at so many different events."
Tennessee has one full day of practice remaining and then a Wednesday afternoon walk-through to prepare for its crack at the Hokies and, with a win, possibly a chance at cracking the top 25 polls.
"It would be huge, especially for the guys coming back next year, to finish in the top 25," Crompton said.
BUYERS BEWARE OF POSSIBLY FRAUDULENT CHICK-FIL-A BOWL TICKETS
As a service to its ticket holders, the Chick-fil-A Bowl is issuing a warning to fans to beware of purchasing fraudulent tickets. As with any major sporting event, there exists the possibility that counterfeit tickets may be sold to unsuspecting ticket buyers.
Tickets for the New Year's Eve match-up between Tennessee and Virginia Tech are sold out. As fans attempt to purchase tickets on the secondary market, the Chick-fil-A Bowl would like to encourage buyers to beware of possible counterfeit or fraudulent tickets. Individuals will not be granted access to the Georgia Dome with a counterfeit ticket.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Georgia Dome will be offering a "Ticket Validation Window" at the main box office located between Gate A and Gate D beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday. The box office representative will be able to verify the authenticity of any ticket.
Some hints when purchasing tickets from a secondary source:
- Have a map of the stadium with you to verify section numbers are correct.
- Check ticket for inaccuracies like date and time of the game.
- Look at the ticket and make sure that the text and picture are crisp and that the coloring does not run or bleed.
- Feel the ticket to make sure it is printed on heavy stock and not on a lightweight paper.
Unique features of the Chick-fil-A Bowl ticket:
- An authentic Chick-fil-A Bowl ticket has a perforated stub at both the top and bottom.
- When held at an angle, the trophy on the front of an authentic ticket should shine in the light. There is a custom gloss coating on the trophy image. If the trophy does not reflect light, it is a counterfeit.