Vols gear up for first road game of the 2022-23 season

Tennessee is getting ready for rematch against Pittsburgh.
Vols gear up for first road game of the season
Vols gear up for first road game of the season(Tennessee Athletic Communications)
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 11:41 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Vols opened their 2022 campaign with a dominant 59-10 win over Ball State. Next, the Vols hit the road and travel east to Pittsburgh.

No. 17 Pittsburgh has also started their season in the win column after downing West Virginia 38-31.

Pitt and UT met a season ago inside Neyland Stadium. The Panthers go the edge and defeated Tennessee 41-34. Saturday, the two programs meet for the fourth time ever.

Monday afternoon coach Josh Heupel and a select few players will take the podium to talk with the media ahead of their game against Pittsburgh.

Coach Heupel said this trip will be a big test for them. Pittsburgh is a team that’s sound in all three phases and have the ability to shut down the run game.

For Heupels’ team, that’s where their offense starts.

Against Ball State, the offense put up 218 yards on the ground. Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small led the team in rushing.

The ability to establish a run game will be pivotal in the Vols success against the panthers Saturday afternoon.

Heupel spoke to Pitt’s physicality and toughness, especially the panthers’ front four, which could be one of the better lines Tennessee faces this season.

Small said he has confidence in their running back unit, but still needs to continue to improve.

”Very confident. J Wright, my first time seeing him run since spring. He looked really good, I mean, that’s my best friend on the team so it was good to see him. Dylan Sampson, getting in and showing out, showing his skill set a little bit. As well as Patrick, a walk-on, but just does everything right on and off the field. J-Will that he made a couple of mistakes but his mind, he was good. So I’m excited about the whole RB room. I’m proud of those guys who are just learning, we are all learning, and we’re going to enjoy the ride together,” said Small.

After watching film, Heupel said they are some really positive things to take away, like the offensive tempo.

“I thought guys were able to communicate and get lined up in a really good way for our new guys who came into the program,” said Heupel.

Then comparing this first game in year two to last season’s opener, “You know, you look at it a year ago for the new guys, which was everybody in game one, versus his past week for the new guys that are in our program, is drastically different in the way they were able to handle it,” said Heupel.

This is a game that could very well be decided in the trenches. Pittsburgh’s front four set the tone against West Virginia in week one and this Tennessee team loves to run the ball.

Offensive lineman Jerome Carvin said the message this week is playing tough and staying locked in.

“Us, the backs, the tight ends, getting on the same page, pass blocks, we got to keep 5 clean. That’s big for us this week to have success in this game. As well as, allowing Jabari and those guys to have some big runs. Man, mentally it’s a huge third-down day. We’re going to try and keep them clean,” said Carvin.

As the Vols use the rest of the week to prepare for this first-ranked opponent, Heupel said, ”A year ago has nothing to do with what will happen this week. Perform the right way, the way that you do that is to prepare the right way. You know that’s in the film room, make sure we’re gaining an edge on that side of it, prepare for it, practice the right way and be ready to go and compete.”

Pittsburg and Tennessee square off Saturday at 3:30 p.m.