Tennessee football welcomes South Carolina to Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon for a pivotal SEC East matchup.
Not only is it the Vols’ first SEC home game this season but is their first true home test after defeating Austin Peay and UTSA with ease.
“Expect (there) to be a lot more boats tied up on the river this week and expect Vol Walk to be electric and cannot wait for the noise and the energy inside of the stadium,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said Monday.
It wasn’t Heupel’s only comment on the environment ahead of Saturday’s matchup. Tennessee’s third-year head coach called for Volunteer fans to make life very difficult on the Gamecocks’ offense ahead of the rivalry matchup.
“Home field advantage matters,” Heupel said. “We need energy and momentum. Need to make it extremely difficult for them to communicate. For us, our fans need to be a huge part of this football game. They have been every Saturday that I’ve been here.”
Home field advantage is important in any big game but it’s significance can be even greater while facing a strong passing attack. That’s what South Carolina has proved they have early in the season with quarterback Spencer Rattler and star receiver Xavier Legette.
The former Oklahoma transfer Rattler struggled for much of his first season at South Carolina before dominating Tennessee through the air last season. That proved to be Rattler’s breakout performance. The dual-threat quarterback turned in strong performances against Clemson and Notre Dame to end last season before starting this season strong.
“He was dynamic in that football game but he has that in his arsenal,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said of Rattler. “For us, the line of scrimmage is important but we have to do a really good job. We have to get them in third-and-longs. Last year, we didn’t get off the field on third-and-longs. Some of that was coverage. Some of that was him extending and making some really special plays. We have to do a great job of bottling him up and applying pressure at the same time.”
Neyland Stadium has an opportunity to make its presence felt on third downs against South Carolina and Vol fans didn’t need Heupel’s encouragement to make it happen.
Tennessee fans are hungry for payback for South Carolina’s 63-38 win in Columbia last season that sabotaged the Vols’ College Football Playoff hopes.
Kickoff from Neyland Stadium is at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday night. Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic are on the call for the SEC Network.
“Home field advantage matters”
Tennessee HC Josh Heupel discusses the importance of a big time atmosphere against South Carolina in Neyland Stadium. pic.twitter.com/nhq7a2CODC
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 25, 2023