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Tennessee Volunteers Welcome Petrino, Western Kentucky


Nathan Morgan/The Associated Press

Tennessee’s football season finally kicks off this Saturday in Neyland Stadium as the Wild Hog Bobby Petrino rides into town with his temp-agency-appointed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

(Come on. I’m not labeling last week’s scrimmage as a part of the season, and neither should you! At AllVolYall, we’re better than that.)

The regular season is finally here in Knoxville, and the newfound sense of urgency from the coaching staff this week in practice speaks volumes to the challenge at hand.

Butch Jones repeatedly screamed over the loudspeaker throughout Tuesday’s practice about how he cannot wait to see Western’s standout linebacker Andrew Jackson in action this weekend.

“You get to be on the field with a NFL linebacker on Saturday. He’s a first rounder, you’re a practice squad player!” Coach Jones continuously taunted AJ Johnson.

*Sidenote, if you enjoy this column and want to introduce me to Andrew Jackson, it is not frowned upon.

Jackson will be in charge of slowing down Tennessee’s rushing attack and forcing Justin Worley and his young, inexperienced receiving corps to make plays in the passing game. Which coach will be able to dictate the battle?

The Vols’ biggest advantage lies in the trenches as they boast one of the best offensive lines in the country. If the game stays under control, the two-headed rushing attack of Raijon Neal and Marlin Lane should be able to dominate the game late and wear down the Western Kentucky defense.

Looking at the box score, you can see that Kentucky seemingly ran the ball at will while racking up over two hundred yards. Wildcat quarterback Jalen Whitlow was responsible for seventy-five of those after he busted a fifty-yarder. Can Worley move the ball on the ground with the read option?

However, the last thing that comes to mind in a Bobby Petrino word association game is “under control.” I expect mayhem.

Three things are for certain: Bobby Petrino is a creep. Bobby Petrino is an offensive mastermind. Bobby Petrino likes playing in Tennessee- he’s 6-0 all-time in the state.

At the risk of triggering some traumatic memories that you may have just been getting over, think back to 2011 and the 49-7 massacre as the Razorbacks racked up 499 yards of total offense. Granted, WKU does not have the same type of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but the scheme is going to be very similar.

Are we supposed to look into the fact that Worley, Neal, and Lane all played in that game or do we write it off and assume they are different players two years later? The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The stakes are high. With the gauntlet of top-ranked teams looming, a loss this week would most likely send the season spiraling out of control.  For a program looking to rebuild its identity, each game, each quarter, and each snap carries weight.

Team 117 cannot afford to fall behind early this Saturday. Years of ineptitude are lingering in the psyches of the players and the fans, and mob mentality is a true phenomenon; when things are going greatly, this is a positive, however, a rough beginning to the game or the season could quickly produce some “here we go agains.”

The drama of the game resigns on the sidelines.

Bobby Petrino had a fall from grace captured in the tabloids of the sports pages. His character, or lack thereof, is widely publicized. With all of the attention the affair with the volleyball gal received, you may have forgotten his middle of the night disappearance from the Falcons upon taking the Razorback job that made Lane Kiffin’s departure from Knoxville seem like a sweet farewell.

After striking out on that Gruden fella, a lot of desperate Vol fans were willing to put their moral code to the side and take a chance on Petrino’s proven track record as a top ten collegiate football coach, but from what we’ve been led to believe, that was never an option for Dave Hart.

Instead, Tennessee landed a winner that had proven himself on a smaller platform and very well may have hit a grand slam with Butch Jones. The momentum of the program is trending upward. The match-up Saturday with a familiar foe provides both a test of where Tennessee lies heading into Eugene, Oregon next week.

It also could give a glimpse of what could have been in Knoxville if the Vols were willing to sell their soul to the devil.

(OK, I’m sorry, Bobby. That was harsh)

Here’s to hoping Tennessee wins, but I’d take the points regardless of what JCO suggests.

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