Tennessee Vols arrive in Baton Rouge for first SEC road test of 2022

The Vols play at Tiger Stadium for the first time since 2010.
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 8:02 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2022 at 11:44 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Thousands of Vol fans have ascended upon Baton Rouge ahead of Saturday’s matchup between No. 8 Tennessee and No. 25 LSU.

Week five features Tennessee’s first road SEC matchup of the season and their first trip to Tiger Stadium since 2010.

All week the players and coaches have talked about their excitement for their next opportunity, the LSU Tigers. This game will set the tone for the Vols and the rest of Tennessee’s season.

With the excitement comes the understanding that it’s another test to prove themselves as a top contender in the SEC and country.

For the Vols to position themselves in a place where they could win Saturday, they have to come out fast and keep their foot on the gas. This LSU team is dynamic, led by a relentless defense.

The Tigers lead the SEC in forced fumbles, they’re fourth in sacks and sixth in interceptions.

So far, they’ve recorded two double-digit comeback victories, their latest coming in week four against Auburn where LSU posted 21 unanswered points to mount their come from behind win. Tennessee has to play fundamentals at a high level and coach Josh Heupel said he tells his team to play the game for 60 minutes like the score is 0-0.

It’s another early kickoff time, but it’s a schedule the Vols are used too. They begin all their practices bright and early at 8:00 a.m. and Heupel said a noon game is the perfect time.

“If you ask coaches everywhere, they say give me the earliest kickoff possible,” said Heupel. “For us, it’s going to be a great environment. I’m sure it’ll be a packed house. This is a tough place to play, but it’s so much about us and our preparation (and) making sure that we handle things the right way. We have to take care of the football; we can’t have penalties. You can’t do things that hurt yourself in this football game. It’s a really good team that we’re playing. Either way you got to play, so it doesn’t matter. Night game, early game, in the morning, it doesn’t matter – I’ll be ready to go any time.”

One of the keys to staying undefeated is keeping LSU’s quarterback Jayden Daniels contained. While his passing yardages on the year aren’t that high, the junior has completed nearly 70% of his passes without an interception.

Heupel said Daniels is even more dangerous with his legs.

“The quarterback run absolutely is a huge part of the football game. That can be in the read game or just as the pocket breaks down or he goes through his progression - his ability to escape. The way they finish runs is probably a little different just in their style, but the mobility of the quarterback is a huge part of us having to defend that in this football game,” said Heupel.

The Vols arrived in Baton Rouge around 5:30 central Friday ahead of the big game and for many of these Vols it’s also their first trip to Death Valley and for offensive lineman Jerome Carvin, whose family lives in Louisiana, he’s eager to play in front of his family and friends.

“I’m excited to go down there and see them and see my fam and play there. As well as for the young guys, they get to check this off the list of stadiums they’ve been to and that’s amazing. It’s a great conference and you go against great players and these programs that we play in and play against they’re big programs. It’s just some lifelong things you can remember and tell you family and friends that you played there and show them,” said Carvin.

Carvin isn’t the only Vol player with ties to the state, freshman running back Dylan Sampson is from Baton Rouge, and played for a high school in LSU’s backyard.

WVLT’s Sports Team caught up with Sampson’s high school football coach, Guy Mistretta, ahead of kick-off to talk about how Sampson’s been able to find such early success at Tennessee.

“His upbringing for one, he comes from a great family,” said Mistretta. “I had two older brothers came through this same school that so he came up watching them and he’s very mature. He’s mature for his age. He did the same thing here, but he was the first kid we ever pulled up as a freshman and let late last and he averaged almost 100 yards that year as a freshman.”

Sampson arrived on Rocky Top in the summer and instantly became a fan favorite and continued to impress the coaches with his worth ethic. The same attitude, that allowed him to have so much success in Baton Rouge and led him to shatter NFL and Dutchtown alum Eddie Lacy’s program record for all-time rushing yards, racking up 4,927 yards on 521 carries.

“Everybody’s just thrilled for him because he’s such a great kid as good of a player. As he was and he broke our career rushing record set by Eddie Lacy. He’s an incredible football player, but he’s even better person. He just got great character. He’s a great kid. Everybody on campus gravitates to him. So, everybody out here is excited about and we’re all looking forward to seeing him play,” said Mistretta.

His opportunity to join a top SEC program has been a real spotlight for Sampson’s hometown community.

“It means so much from my standpoint is the younger kids looking up to him with his personality. That’s the type of guy you want them looking up to and a school like Tennessee that’s on the rise and for him to be part of that incredible and exciting for us,” said Mistretta.

Before each game coach Mistretta makes sure to send his former running back a good luck text.

“We just text each other and we can just say good luck. Keep your head down, keep working. He knows what a challenge it is. To play at that level, at that age. But he’s I think he’s ready for it. He’s excited,” said Mistretta.

The Vols and Tigers square off at noon on Saturday.