Western Kentucky, Vols' next opponent, already 1-0 vs. SEC and looking for more

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee coach Butch Jones addresses players during the first half against Austin Peay on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee coach Butch Jones addresses players during the first half against Austin Peay on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Butch Jones comments on the Austin Peay win

Ja'Wuan James and Antonio Richardson on the Austin Peay win

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If Western Kentucky had lost to Kentucky by four touchdowns on Saturday, Tennessee coach Butch Jones might still have used the same superlatives to describe his team’s next opponent.

The fact that WKU not only beat the Wildcats, but did so convincingly, makes his job that much easier.

The Vols (1-0) play host to the Hilltoppers (1-0) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.).

Moments after winning his first game at Tennessee, Jones described Western Kentucky as an “extremely talented team.” Actually, he used “extremely” three times.

The opening game under first-year Hilltoppers’ coach Bobby Petrino offers plenty of evidence that the Vols would be unwise to look ahead to their game at Oregon in two weeks.

WKU controlled the clock and used a balanced offense to amass 487 yards and beat Kentucky 35-26. It was the second victory in as many seasons by the Sun Belt team over its SEC rival.

While Kentucky is likely the worst team in the SEC this year, the unexpected dominance of the Hilltoppers’ win raised eyebrows. Two WKU fumbles and a 2-for-10 third down conversion rate kept Kentucky in the game. In other words, it could have been worse.

So maybe the wait to see Petrino’s magic at WKU won’t be as long as some thought.

Petrino was 75-26 in eight seasons at Louisville and Arkansas (with an ill-fated stop with the Atlanta Falcons in between) before losing his job at Arkansas for failing to disclose an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The scandal that unfolded after a motorcycle wreck in April 2012 forced Petrino out of coaching for only about seven months.

Although he didn’t get an offer from a high-profile program (like Tennessee), Petrino’s reputation was such that he didn’t remain a free agent for long.

That may be why Jones was mentioning Western Kentucky only moments after wrapping up a 45-0 win over Austin Peay, an overmatched Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

The Vols outscored the Governors 42-0 in a punishing first half, but couldn’t maintain the dominance after halftime with virtually every starter on the bench.

“We have to continue to get better and we have to roll our sleeves up and come to work,” Jones said.

On Saturday night, senior defensive tackle Daniel Hood was relating a story from the game and accidentally said “Western Kentucky” instead of “Austin Peay.”

It’s a Freudian slip that Jones wouldn’t mind.

“He wouldn’t let anyone get too happy about (the win),” Hood said. “He’s already talking about Western Kentucky. We’ve known for a while that they were going to be a really good team and last time we played that coach (Petrino) he beat us pretty bad down in Arkansas.”

Hood is referring to the Vols’ 49-7 loss to the then-No. 8 Razorbacks on Nov. 12, 2011, in Fayetteville.

Many Vols remember that game, including quarterback Justin Worley, who was a true freshman starting in place of the injured Tyler Bray.

“We owe him a good one,” Hood said.

At Petrino’s behest, the Hilltoppers didn’t douse him with Gatorade or celebrate their victory over Kentucky with unusual gusto. Why? They didn’t consider it an upset.

“This year we felt like we were going to win this football game. We felt like we had a better team, a better program,” WKU President Gary Ransdell told WDRB columnist Rick Bozich. “Look at the stats. I expect they’ll speak for themselves. I expect we gave Tennessee some things to think about this week.”

Even before he knew the final score, Jones was already doing plenty of that.

“We’ll enjoy this one, but the more you win, the more is at stake,” Jones said. “We’ll enjoy it, but there’s a lot to work on.”

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Comments » 13

bUTch__please writes:

Keep talking that smack Petrino. You'll be leaving Neyland with road rash, but it will be on your backside

Knox_Born (Inactive) writes:

Found this bad joke on SB Nation under the story "100 things that will happen this college football season"

Tennessee's entire football program -- including facilities and stadium and staff -- is seized as part of an FBI investigation into Pilot's finances and business practices. For the remaining eight games, the part of Tennessee will be played by East Carolina. Results will be indistinguishable from projected 2013 Tennessee football performance.

underthehill writes:

Ouch..that ain't funny..the Pilot fiasco is not good for UT or Knoxville..whether you like the Pilot folks or not..you have to recognize they mean a lot to Knoxville sports..like the Web.com golf tournament at Fox Den..just one example..wish it hadn't happened..now back to football..the W Ky game is huge for UT..and I know Jones is taking the right approach to give his team every chance to win..I didn't bother to watch the Peay deal but I plan to see how this one plays out..

Orange_Power_T writes:

My take on the WKY game is this: WKY is a MUCH improved team verses Petrino and they are going to play their "A" game. I know that CBJ is taking this game very seriously and will have the team prepared. While Petrino is an offensive mastermind, CBJ is well balanced on both sides of the ball and he understands that one small mistake can determine the outcome of a game. If it were up to judging just the coaches I would decide the game at even or with only a slight edge to UT. I think the deciding factor here will be the same thing that will have us coming in at #3 in our division, the level and depth of talent. UT has the edge against WKY albiet slightly. I foresee big plays from WKY which will have their defense on the field more than offense. With our seasoned O line and Neal running behind them, look for WKY to gas out in the fourth. Mistakes will also play a factor in this game with WKY making the most of those. While looking for a win in this game, it won't be a cupcake for UT.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

Western Kentucky is a must if we have any bowl chances at all. We have to have wins over S. Alabama, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and one of the Big Guys.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

Keep talking that smack Petrino. You'll be leaving Neyland with road rash, but it will be on your backside

The only real smack talk I saw in the article was by Dr. Ransdell, the WKU president. Not that Petrino is above talking smack himself, but he probably wanted to strangle the Prez after that remark.

bUTch__please writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The only real smack talk I saw in the article was by Dr. Ransdell, the WKU president. Not that Petrino is above talking smack himself, but he probably wanted to strangle the Prez after that remark.

You are correct, it wasn't in this article, John. I was using a reference from the after-game interviews of Petrino's win at Lexington.

"We are now 1- 0 in the SEC". Notably, not "vs".

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Orange_Power_T:

My take on the WKY game is this: WKY is a MUCH improved team verses Petrino and they are going to play their "A" game. I know that CBJ is taking this game very seriously and will have the team prepared. While Petrino is an offensive mastermind, CBJ is well balanced on both sides of the ball and he understands that one small mistake can determine the outcome of a game. If it were up to judging just the coaches I would decide the game at even or with only a slight edge to UT. I think the deciding factor here will be the same thing that will have us coming in at #3 in our division, the level and depth of talent. UT has the edge against WKY albiet slightly. I foresee big plays from WKY which will have their defense on the field more than offense. With our seasoned O line and Neal running behind them, look for WKY to gas out in the fourth. Mistakes will also play a factor in this game with WKY making the most of those. While looking for a win in this game, it won't be a cupcake for UT.

Pretty much agree. I would say that if both teams bring their "A" game, the Vols should win. However, if the Vols are not sharp, Petrino's quick-strike offensive game could make our still thin defense look bad. It should really tell us something if the Vols can win convincingly, but they will need to raise the level of their game to do that.

As just one example, Worley has to hit some receivers in stride rather than making them dive for everything. Some of the catches the receivers made reminded me of the way the Vols caught the ball at South Carolina when Tee Martin set what was then the record for consecutive pass completions. That is impressive, but it is not the way a team can dominate consistently.

You may well have put your finger on the downside of the quick-strike offense. Heck, we saw some of that downside last year with the Vols.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

You are correct, it wasn't in this article, John. I was using a reference from the after-game interviews of Petrino's win at Lexington.

"We are now 1- 0 in the SEC". Notably, not "vs".

Thanks for the info. As the old saying goes, "All I know is what I read in the papers." I just didn't happen to see THAT paper. Seems like Petrino thinks he is still in the SEC. Either way, the Vols really need to bring that little "winning streak" to a quick halt Saturday!

bUTch__please writes:

This is a perfect step-up game for the teams progression this season.

The secondary will get a dose of coverage challenges with a lot of balls in the air. The DL will be pushing, hard, play after play at a quick pace. The LBs will have a ton of underneath coverage responsibilities. The offense will feel the heat to keep moving the chains. "Fast-paced ball-control". Scoring will be mandatory, no lapses allowed.

This is a strong challenge, but winnable opportunity.
Gives the team a custom ordered preview of Eugene.

Go Team #117!

volbald writes:

The score of the WKy - UK game was closer than the game looked as they played it. WKy really outhustled and outhit UK the entire game. Not so sure that WKy will be gassed in the fourth quarter. I just hope that the VOLS bring their A-game for 60 minutes. Coach 'um up Butch and Go Vols.

OrangePride writes:

VOLS will need another top effort this Saturday. Since I will be out of town til Friday night, I am going to give my own Keys to Victory here.
1. Control the line of scrimmage. We should be able to do this on offense, but defense will need to be in A+ form. Control of the clock will depend on this. 2. Avoid the big play. Defensive secondary will need a scheme that helps cover for the newer guys. A good pass rush is essential because too much time is a killer. 3. Special teams play is where the game can turn. Palardy needs to flip the field when necessary and we will need to make field goal attempts when they're available. Close games are won here! 4. Make first downs. Don't worry too much about the BIG plays down the field. Play within ourselves, know where the sticks are, and make first downs. This means the backs must run downhill scrapping for every yard and not always try to bounce everything outside looking for the 25 yard gain. So that's it. Now GO VOLS!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

VOLS will need another top effort this Saturday. Since I will be out of town til Friday night, I am going to give my own Keys to Victory here.
1. Control the line of scrimmage. We should be able to do this on offense, but defense will need to be in A+ form. Control of the clock will depend on this. 2. Avoid the big play. Defensive secondary will need a scheme that helps cover for the newer guys. A good pass rush is essential because too much time is a killer. 3. Special teams play is where the game can turn. Palardy needs to flip the field when necessary and we will need to make field goal attempts when they're available. Close games are won here! 4. Make first downs. Don't worry too much about the BIG plays down the field. Play within ourselves, know where the sticks are, and make first downs. This means the backs must run downhill scrapping for every yard and not always try to bounce everything outside looking for the 25 yard gain. So that's it. Now GO VOLS!!

Looks like a recipe for victory to me! A "move-the-sticks" offensive philosophy will help save the energy of a thin defense. The Vols have enough D-linemen to rotate to keep them fresh. Their biggest problem last year was the inability to shed blocks. The pass rushers seemed content to "dance" with the O-linemen and seemed unwilling or unable to throw them aside and attack the QB. The D-backs thus had to cover receivers for far too long; one or more eventually came free, as is always the case if the QB can sit back and take his own sweet time. I still saw a little too much of that last Saturday.

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