Grudge rematch

InsideTennessee recognizes that the mental aspect of a football game can be as crucial as the physical aspect. Check out this article on how that relates to Saturday night's Vol-Vandy showdown:

Tennessee has spent the past 11 weeks digging its own grave. Saturday night the Vanderbilt Commodores hope to finish the job by burying the Vols.

The Commodores historically hate the Big Orange but the bad blood may hit an all-time high this weekend. That's because Vandy outplayed the Big Orange last November in Knoxville only to lose on a series of flukes.

Leading 21-14, the Dores appeared to seal the deal when Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy booted a field-goal try into the backside of one of his linemen with 6:27 left. Vandy was penalized for running into the kicker, however, and the Vols parlayed the do-over into a game-tying touchdown. Tennessee then won the game in overtime on a controversial 90-yard interception return by Eric Gordon that appeared to have been ruled dead by one official.

Making that loss even harder for the Commodores to swallow was a YouTube video of Vol head man Derek Dooley telling his players in the post-game locker room that "One thing Tennessee always does is kick the s--- out of Vanderbilt."

Given all of the above, Vandy's players will be vengeful and volatile when the 2012 rematch commences Saturday night in Music City. Tennessee's players recognize this.

"I think that's going to be a little bit of bulletin board material," senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner said of Dooley's 2011 post-game comments. "That's last year but I think those guys may have that in the back of their mind."

Given how many times the Commodores have watched that video the past 12 months, it's more likely in the front of their minds.

"I know it's a rivalry game, two in-state schools," junior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said, "but last year they saw a video or something and they're kind of mad, so I know they're looking forward to this game."

Senior linebacker Herman Lathers knows that, too.

"Oh, they're going to be real fired up," he said. "They're going to be very well prepared. They're going to come out running a lot of stuff on offense and trying to confuse our defense. We've got to be prepared, and I know we will be.... It's a tough task but we're looking forward to it."

Sophomore offensive tackle Antonio Richardson, a Nashville native, knows from his visits home how eager the Commodores are to face Tennessee.

"They think they're going to come in and win the game," he said. "At the end of the day, they're Vanderbilt and we're Tennessee, and the rivalry's always going to be there. We've just got to do what we do — execute our offense, execute our defense and we can win this game."

Asked if Tennessee can match Vanderbilt's fire, Richardson nodded.

"They're bowl eligible right now and we're not, so most definitely there's a chip on our shoulder," he said. "There's a chip on their shoulder because I don't think their coach has had a win against us since he's been there. I know they want to get the W but we need it worse than they do, so we've got to go in there with a chip on our shoulders."

Another Nashville native, junior guard Alex Bullard, also has seen up-close how much this game means to Vandy's players.

"Coach (James) Franklin has a lot of pride," Bullard said. "He's coached 'em up to where they're really good. I have friends on Vanderbilt's team, and they want to beat us. They're going to be fired up. We have to expect them to play their best game because they are going to play their best game."

Yet another Nashville product, senior wideout Zach Rogers, agrees that the Vols will get Vandy's best shot.

"Oh, they're feeling pretty good about themselves right now, and they should; they're playing some great football," he said. "We're confident in what we have. We know we haven't had the best season but we know the potential we have. We just have to go execute."

Although Tennessee has won 28 of the past 29 meetings, Rogers says the rivalry remains heated.

"It's grown each and every year," he said. "They believe in what they do and we believe in what we do, so it'll be a good test for us."

Junior wide receiver Justin Hunter also expects the Commodores to hit an emotional peak with Tennessee visiting.

"They had a very close game last year, so they expect to win this year," he said. "I guess it's going to be a tough game. It's going to be neck and neck the whole way."

Waggner always anticipates a neck-and-neck game when the Vols and Vandy take the field.

"As long as I've been here, Vanderbilt's been pretty much a big rivalry," he said. "I don't remember a year that we won by a large amount against Vandy."

Sophomore tailback Devrin Young believes both sides will be extra motivated this year due to the controversies surrounding last year's game.

"Definitely. Whatever side of the stick you were on in that game last year, you know how it felt to win or lose," he said. "They're going to be ready. They're a better team this year; you can tell by their record. We've just got to come with our A-Game."

Like Richardson, Young believes the Commodores have a chip on their shoulders regarding last year's ending and Dooley's post-game comments.

"They probably have a huge chip on their shoulders," he said. "What team that's truly competitive wouldn't? It's just the nature of the game."

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