JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee drops ‘Toppers to go 2-0

JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee drops 'Toppers to go 2-0 (Image 1)

Butch Ball rolled on Saturday as the oft-criticized Tennessee defense dismantled mistake-prone Western Kentucky at Neyland Stadium.

It was a game of apples and Oranges. The apples lost, 52-20.

Pre-game chatter out of Bowling Green included free safety Jonathan Dowling, a Florida transfer, proclaiming, “We ain't the underdogs.''

One headline said the ‘Toppers were thinking upset. They better think again.

The Big Orange defense took the football away from the Hilltoppers seven times during the game. The last time a Tennessee defense did that was in 1984. None of these Vols were even born. It led to a behind the barn beat-down.

Western Kentucky was very generous by making enough mistakes to beg the question: Just how bad is Kentucky? The Hilltoppers beat the SEC Wildcats in the season opener, 35-26.

The Hilltoppers had an incredible five turnovers in six plays in the first half. When Vols junior running back Marlin Lane rolled into the end zone at 14:38 before halftime, it was 31-3. Tennessee outscored the ‘Toppers 21-3 in the second half, sending Petrino's troops to the showers with a 1-1 record.

After the game, Jones pointed to Tennessee coaching legend General Robert Neyland and one of his football maxims.

“Maxim Two: Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way, score. I thought we were opportunistic the first half,'' Jones said.

“Again, it's a great lesson to our football team about preparing and having a great week of preparation and playing with an energy level and passion. Obviously we're going to enjoy this one, but moving forward I think we all know what's in store next week.''

Tennessee's secondary, which is young but talented, had back to back pick-sixes from Justin Coleman and Cameron Sutton to put Western Kentucky in a 14-3 hole that would soon get much, much deeper and darker.

It wasn't a perfect performance by Coach Butch Jones' team. It didn't have to be.

This Saturday when they visit No. 2 ranked Oregon, they will need to be flawless to keep up with the faster than greased lightning Ducks.

It will be a great test for Jones and his team. The first two games were fun for the fans and the players. The Oregon game will be all business and the Vols defense will get a taste of up-tempo, read option football at its best.

While Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley is still untested, Oregon has one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback Marcus Mariota, a 6-4, 211-pound redshirt sophomore who was the first freshman quarterback to make first team All Pac 12 in 23 years. He was also the conference's Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Mariota and Oregon beat Virginia 59-10 at Virginia. Mariota was 14 of 28 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He ran four times for 122 yards, one a 71 yard touchdown.

You can bet Jones and his coaching staff will burn the midnight oil this week. Matter of fact, they got a headstart on it last week.

“I think the earliest I got home all week, and you can ask my wife this, was about 11:30 at night,'' Jones admitted.

“We work way too hard and sometimes you need to stop and enjoy this. But you know, I will be at home watching film (Saturday night).
Oregon likes to wear defenses down with its fast-break style offense. It requires opposing defenses to be in incredible physical shape, as the Ducks like to run a lot more plays in a game than their opponents.

“The real tests are starting to come,'' said Vols running back Rajian Neal. “That's where we will be able to take strides and see where we are.''

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at


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