Vols, Tigers collide today

Playing your first collegiate road game at Tiger Stadium is kind of like playing your first round of golf at Augusta National. The challenge is much too imposing for a beginner. That's the task facing nearly half of Tennessee's players today in Baton Rouge, however.

Because of the decibel level and hostility of LSU fans, Tiger Stadium ranks among the toughest places to visit in college football. It is no place for the meek ... or the young.

"It's going to be the first road game for almost half of our travel squad," head coach Derek Dooley said earlier this week, noting that 30 of the 68 players suiting up for the Vols "have never even been on a road trip at Tennessee."

That wouldn't be such a big issue except that most of those 30 newcomers will be playing key roles today for a Big Orange squad that is alarmingly young and inexperienced.

"It's fun to go on the road when you've got a good, confident team and go in there and play well and get a victory," Dooley said.

Here's the catch: Tennessee is not a particularly good team and it is not a particularly confident team. Its confidence was shaken last weekend, when the Vols needed an overtime to subdue a 14-point underdog UAB team 32-29 at Neyland Stadium. That makes visiting Tiger Stadium somewhat akin to visiting a lion's den.

"We're just going to go see how we do," Dooley said. "I don't know how we're going to perform."

No one knows that, of course. This much is known, however: Tennessee incurred four false-start penalties last Saturday vs. UAB. The Vols could sustain twice that many at Tiger Stadium, where hearing yourself think - let alone hearing the snap count - is virtually impossible.

"That's always your worry with the crowd noise," Dooley conceded. "We've had that problem in the past."

Clearly, Tennessee's poise will be tested when today's game kicks off at 2:30 Central. That's why the Vols need a fast start to quiet the crowd and senior leadership to calm the younger players.

"The leaders, when we're in the locker room we've got to be vocal," senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "We've got to be talking, letting those young guys know that we're confident, we're ready to play and they've got to be ready, too. I think that's important - pregame and halftime - that we're talking and telling 'em what we're thinking and that we're ready to play."

Like fans everywhere, LSU supporters are a lot noisier when their team is leading and playing well. Thus, a quick start by the Vols could be tremendously beneficial.

"It's going to be huge," Reveiz said. "They're going to bring a lot of noise, especially when we're on offense. It's going to be a big momentum game but through those ebbs and flows our intensity can't change. We've got to keep bringing it."


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