Following an impressive win over Missouri earlier this season, Georgia earned a reputation for playing “grown-man football.” With the Bulldogs starting a stretch of four consecutive games against ranked opponents for Tennessee, the Vols know it is time for them to grow up.
“This little stretch coming up in October is always our toughest stretch,” senior linebacker Herman Lathers said. “We talk about it being our toughest stretch and that we need to bow up and play like men. It’s going to be a tough stretch but we just have to come together and stay together.”
According to Lathers, UT’s maturation process began with the team’s hard work during the offseason and its preseason training camp, including a week-long stay at Milligan College.
“The camaraderie we built over the offseason should be great for us during this stretch,” Lathers said. “We’re looking forward to holding each other accountable during this stretch.”
If the Vols want to leave Sanford Stadium with a win under their belts, the defense knows it will have to limit the big plays that have plagued it in recent weeks, something Lathers feels is being cleaned up in practice this week.
“It’s assignment and techniques,” Lathers said. “Guys have to be in their gaps when they need to be in their gaps. Up front, guys have to tear off and make plays. We’ve been doing a great job at it today and hopefully they will throughout the week.”
Part of limiting those big plays will be forcing Georgia out of its comfort zone offensively, which is no secret as it enters the game with a league high 14 rushing touchdowns and an average 242.5 yards per game on the ground.
“Georgia is a big running team, so they want to run the ball and I think when you stop the run and get them to pass the ball you have them right where you want them,” Lathers said. “Our main objective is to stop the run and once we stop the run we should have a ball game.
“We stopped the ball well against Florida and we know Georgia is going to come try to run it. We’re going to stack the blocks and have some guys up front that can be some big plugs, so we are looking forward to it.”
Despite their No. 5 ranking, Lathers knows the formula for success is the same against the Bulldogs as any other team.
“Georgia is a good team, but they practice just like we do and have great players just like we do with explosive guys,” Lathers said. “They are going to make plays, we are going to make plays, but we have to make more plays than they make to come out on top. The biggest thing in winning the game is turnover margin and winning the fourth quarter, so that is what we are preparing to do.”