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Will Tennessee football handle crowd noise better this time around?

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A shocking part of the Vols’ loss at the Georgia Bulldogs two Saturdays ago was how the offense had trouble with the crowd noise. Tennessee football committed numerous pre-snap penalties, particularly in Georgia territory.

Now, the Vols have to handle it again. Although the South Carolina Gamecocks are nowhere near as good as the Dawgs, Williams-Brice Stadium may even be louder than Sanford Stadium, and they are playing in Columbia, S.C., at night.

As a result, the issues from Athens, Ga., could carry over if they aren’t careful. According to Josh Heupel, though, rather than change anything, Tennessee football just needs better execution.

“We’ve done the ordinary things, and I believe we’ll handle it in a better way,” Heupel said in his Thursday press conference.

The Vols did win at Williams-Brice Stadium two years ago, but COVID limited the number of people in the stands. Their only other win there since 2008 was in 2014, and they haven’t won by more than two scores since 2004.

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Simply put, it’s a tough place to play. One way to quell the crowd noise is to get off to a quick start, and this game is perfect for the Vols to do just that. They jumped out to a 28-0 lead on South Carolina last year.

This year, South Carolina is No. 100 in first quarter points allowed per game, and the Vols are in the top five in first quarter points scored per game. They are No. 1 in first half points.

“All offseason, we talk about starting fast, finishing strong, but if it doesn’t, I think it’s important that your kids settle back into the ballgame and understand, that’s OK, man,” Heupel said. “It’s a 60-minute game, and no matter how it starts, what it looks like in the middle, you’ve got to continue to put on more steam.”

Crucial to doing, that, though, is not overlooking South Carolina. The Vols are the No. 5 ranked team in the nation, and lots of games will be going on Saturday with playoff implications.

Although they are a veteran team and haven’t overlooked any game this year so far, it gets tougher as the season wanes on. They didn’t take over the Missouri Tigers until the second half last week. Dominating South Carolina last year doesn’t help that case.

“One play doesn’t have anything to do with the next play in a game. Last week doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Heupel said. “One of the things that I think has been good about our players is their ability to reset and continue to compete no matter what’s happened.”

Part of helping to keep the Vols up for games has been the alternate uniforms. Black uniforms Halloween weekend against the Kentucky Wildcats was a huge part of that.

Well, this weekend, they’ll debut orange helmets with their traditional all white uniforms. Heupel said the Vols wore orange helmets a long time ago and this is part of celebrating that tradition.

“I get excited for the kids when they’re excited about it,” he said. “Our classic uniforms are as good as there is, and (I) love them, but I think our players, and recruits, but our players love being able to put a twist on things.”

The issues with the crowd noise also contributed to the six sacks the Vols allowed in that loss to Georgia, as they were often playing behind the sticks. That contributed to so many drives stalling in UGA territory.

However, that has become even more of a problem, as the Vols allowed four sacks last week against Mizzou. Heupel acknowledged 10 sacks in two weeks is a bad number but noted it takes more than the offensive line to fix that.

“It’s running backs, tight ends. It’s the quarterback getting things out on time, getting right with your reads,” he said. “It’s wide receivers winning and being where you’re supposed to be, too.”

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One Response

  1. No matter how one feels about the season thus far we need to continue to take these last two games serious. Go Vols!

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