After two bad weeks, Tennessee football is looking to end its regular season the right way with a victory over instate rival Vanderbilt inside Neyland Stadium.
While it’s been a bad two weeks for Tennessee, it’s been a bad season for Vanderbilt. The Commodores haven’t won a game since Sept. 2 and enter this week’s matchup 2-9 (0-7 SEC).
Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea met with the local media on Tuesday afternoon and discussed the Commodores poor year in addition to this weekend’s matchup against Tennessee. Here’s everything Lea said about the Vols during his Tuesday press conference.
“Obviously excited for the final challenge of the season, going on the road to play a good Tennessee team and our instate rival. It’ll be a nice way to go out with our best performance. Think we’ve had a good couple weeks here. Obviously just getting off the practice field this morning. Two good days which we need to have in order to play better on Saturday.”
On the keys to stopping Tennessee’s offense, a possible QB change
“I think independent of who the quarterback is, you have to handle the tempo first. If you’re able to handle the tempo they’re going to be able to get the ball into space to dynamic playmakers. What does handling the tempo mean? It means you have 11 guys that have gotten the call and are on the same page, able to play with their eyes pre and post snap to take space early in the down. Obviously we’re training and I think Coach Howell and the defensive staff have done a nice job of making that a priority in creative ways in practice.
“The second thing about defending this group, this system is stopping the run. This is an area for us where a year ago we really struggled, particularly in the second half they were able to get some breakouts. This has shown up on our film this year and I’ve talked here and in the past about what it means to defend the run and play within structure. We’ve spent time on the details of that and again where we can make small, incremental progress to get better. As a team, in terms of taking space around the ball and being within structure and seeing what we need to see. This is a group that knows how to run the ball and when you talk about the horizontal stretch of the ball and formation and again the vertical creases in the run game— it’s a dangerous combination.”
“So handling the tempo, stopping the run and then obviously we can’t play a game where the ball is behind us a bunch. They’re going to take their shots. If we do a good job of keeping them off schedule early you’re going to see less-and-less of that but when they get in rhythm offensively we know the ball is going to go up in the air and we have to keep it inside and in front, down our mistakes and force them to go the long hard way.”
On if he enjoys this rivalry
“I think anytime you have a chance to play against— yeah, I do enjoy it. This goes back for me to when I was a kid. This week is special to me and we know we have a lot of work to do to go out and play a game that we’re proud of in Knoxville but I think anytime you’re talking about a spirited game and a game that has emotional connection it’s a great opportunity as a team to go east and play our best. That’s what I expect. We need to have a chip on our shoulder and that’s what I expect.”