No. 11 Tennessee turns sights to The Swamp
Tennessee opens conference play against Florida
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee football takes its 2-0 start to the 2023 season down to The Swamp to face the Florida Gators on Saturday. The Vols coming off a 30-13 victory over in-state foe Austin Peay look to take a step forward as they open conference play in week three.
Previous Coverage: Vols grind out a 30-13 win over Austin Peay
Over the last 51 years, Tennessee has not faired well at Ben Hill Stadium. Their last win came in 2003 and before that 1971. Head Coach Josh Heupel said he’s “looking forward to going and playing a really good football team here.”
In the first two games of the season, Tennessee has struggled to settle into games early. The team said part of it is jitters and playing in front of big crowds. Heupel said they’ll have to combat the loud environment that the team will encounter down in Gainesville.
”You’re not going to completely tune out the noise,” Heupel said. “Once you get the play call, you’re focusing on your job. It’s 11 guys inside the white lines. I don’t care if it’s at home, on the road, in the backyard, these guys have been doing it for a long time. You do have to control your emotions. You have to be able to execute a play from within yourself. That will be a big part of the football game.”
Tennessee’s defense has contributed greatly to their early success. Tim Banks’ defense is holding opponents to just 13 points per game and 270 yards per game, both marks that rank top five in the SEC and in the top 30 nationally.
The Vols lead the nation in tackles for loss.
Dominance on defense will be crucial as they face a Florida team that loves to pound the ball. The Gators have a pair of running backs in Trevor Etienne, who’s rushed for 109 through two games, and Montrell Johnson Jr., who’s recorded 125 yards on 18 carries.
“We’ve done a good job of disrupting blocks at the line of scrimmage. Second and third levels have fit it right. At the end of the day, we’ve changed the line of scrimmage here in the first couple of weeks. This will be the best offensive line that we’ve seen. They’re big, strong, they’re athletic and look like a typical Florida offensive line,” said Heupel.
“They [Florida] have great team speed, athletes that can go make plays in space. You have to bottle up the run game. That’s a huge part of what they do, and it sets up their play-action pass. A year ago, they hurt us with some of that. We have to be able to fit the run, play assignment-sound and play the ball well when it’s in the air,” said Heupel.
Tennessee and Florida kick things off Saturday at 7:00 p.m. from Gainesville.
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