(utsports.com) KNOXVILLE, TN – Tennessee’s questions going forward were answered, and answered quickly, on Saturday night inside Neyland Stadium when the second-ranked Vols beat then-No. 19 Kentucky, 44-6. The volunteers returned to the Anderson Training Center Monday morning, beginning their preparation for a road battle in top-ranked Georgia.
Both sides of the ball were on point as the offense capitalized on opportunities, the defense was solid and had a great performance in pass coverage and the special teams forced the issue, especially in the punt return .
With the result in the back sight, the Vols (8-0, 4-0 SEC) turned their focus to the next challenge, the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0). These are challenges like the ones head coach Josh Heupel and his team have prepared for, and they don’t take the opportunity lightly.
“You can win a game with confidence because you’ve paid the price, you’ve worked, you’ve prepared to go out and play the right way,” Heupel said in his Monday afternoon press conference. “I’m sure both teams are confident and should be. For us this week, preparation is going to be key. They’re really good. You have to understand their schemes, that’s important. The personnel, the battles in the battle, are going to be really important. The line of scrimmage is going to be important. It’s also a physical game on the perimeter, so on both sides of the ball you have to match that.
One of the biggest bright spots on Saturday was the defensive secondary. The Vols limited potential first-round pick Will Levis to just 98 passing yards and had three interceptions in the game. It was a complete demo and one looking to build a strong performance.
“You heard me say it: good teams keep improving throughout the year,” Heupel continued. “It happens as a unit, but it happens because individuals take action. We continue to improve. We have great coaches there. Coach (Tim) Banks and Coach (Willie) Martinez are doing a great job in class with these guys. We will continue to grow. Last week we were healthier than the week before. I have a feeling this week will be the healthiest we’ve had in a while.
Tennessee’s rise to the national stage is new and fresh, but the doubt and adversity the team members have gone through is a big reason they continue to perform at such a high level day after day.
“A lot of guys just have a lot of talent and have so much to prove and so much to show,” senior redshirt quarterback Hendon Hooker said from the podium Monday morning. “We also have a lot of ambition. Going out and playing with a chip on our shoulder day after day. We always feel like we have something to prove and that inspires us to work hard every day.
Starting on the road to Athens, Ga. presents a unique event in its own right. Tennessee has already faced two ranked opponents on the road, Pitt and LSU, and that groundwork will continue to pay off as the stakes rise.
“Very excited, very excited,” said senior offensive lineman Jerome Carvin. “You’re in the SEC, anytime you play on the road it’s going to be a tough environment in this conference. Really excited to go out there and play. All the guys ready to rock and roll. Were excited. Still gotta keep a cool head, stay focused. Even with all the distractions, like I said from the crowd. We should still be good, still mentally focused, mentally locked in and ready to play, so excited.
The Vols and Bulldogs are scheduled to face off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS in Athens. ESPN College GameDay will also be on hand, highlighting the showdown between the top two teams in the country. This is UT’s third appearance on the show this season.