Does Tennessee Have To Overcome Mental Hurdle Against Florida?

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    Juwan Mitchell

    Tennessee linebacker Juwan Mitchell against Florida in his final game of the 2021 season. Photo by Tennessee Athletics

    Longtime Knoxville radio personality Jimmy Hyams asked Tennessee safety Trevon Flowers whether he was aware that Florida has beaten the Vols 16 of the last 17 seasons.

    Flowers responded that he was unaware of that stat, put his head down and chuckled softly before adding one final thought.

    “We gonna see what happens Saturday,” Flowers finished.

    It’s truly a bewildering stat. The Vols have struggled against Florida as much as any team in the program’s last 15 years of struggle.

    Tennessee also has just one win over Alabama in the past 17 seasons, but unlike their rivalry with the Crimson Tide, the Vols have had an abundance of opportunities to beat the, often middling, Gators.

    Tennessee having plenty of opportunities to beat Florida and failing to capitalize begs a question. Is there a mental hurdle the 2022 Vols have to clear against Florida Saturday?

    Redshirt senior tight end Jacob Warren says yes, but not based off of games that happened 15 years ago or even five years ago. Warren points to the losses against Florida over the past four seasons that Tennessee has to put aside ahead of Saturday’s showdown.

    “I guess mental hurdle is a good way to put it,” Warren said. “You kind of have to put the past— for me it’s been the past four seasons — the past four seasons behind you. Every year we go into the game thinking you’re going to win the game. You don’t go into a game like ‘it’s Florida again, it’a Alabama again, it’s Georgia. Let’s just try to go and not lose.’ No, everyone genuinely as a competitor wants to go in the game and win the game. Like I mentioned earlier, you have a snap-and-clear mentality. It’s all about the next. You can’t really think about last year or the years prior. You have to go out there and win this one.”

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    Tennessee coach Josh Heupel agrees with Warren’s point about having a snap-and-clear mentality and turning the page from past Florida games. However, Heupel sees that as a reason why there is no mental hurdle for the Vols to clear Saturday against the 20th-ranked Gators.

    “I don’t believe that,” Heupel said. “Each week is different, each day is different, each season is. For us, we’re however many months into our program, right here right now, and our kids are extremely confident, as they should be. They prepare the right way, they work hard, we have continued to grow. They know that the preparation is going to be the most important thing. It is going to be a great atmosphere. We have got to be able to control our emotions during the course of the football game but compete and not go up and down during the course of the game.”

    The Vols have struggled with penalties each of the last two weeks, leading to Heupel’s comments about controlling their emotions.

    Tennessee committed seven penalties for 70 yards against Pitt and 11 penalties for 118 yards against Akron. As two possession favorites against Florida, Tennessee playing a clean game is extremely important.

    Kick off between the Vols and Gators is at 3:30 p.m. ET. Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jenny Dell are on the call for the CBS Game of the Week.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.

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