Charlie Burris, creator and lead writer at the Orange & White Report blog, joined me Thursday as we discussed our three keys to the game for Tennessee to beat Kentucky.
Charlie: I would say my number one key to this game is eliminating turnovers. Tennessee in the last three SEC games they’ve turned the ball over 11 times. They really need to limit those turnovers and really just in the general sense get the offense going. We don’t know if Alvin Kamara’s going to play so John Kelly’s going to need to step up hopefully Alvin Kamara can get out there and play.
Luke: Yeah Alvin Kamara questionable. It’s a game time decision. John Kelly is my first key. Three out of the last four games he’s gone 89 yards or more. Only seven snaps against Tennessee Tech so he should be good to go, should be fresh, hopefully has a lot to build on.
Charlie: My second key is stopping Kentucky’s run game. Surprisingly when I took a look at the stats – I haven’t watched a lot of Kentucky I’ll be honest I haven’t watched them play a lot of football but they run it out of the Wildcat formation where they directly snap the ball to a running back, wide receiver, whoever and run it out of that formation. They’ve run it 27 percent of the time out of the Wildcat formation 243 yards and 4 touchdowns. So Tennessee their run defense has gotten worse as the season’s gone on. Really need to step that up because that’s Kentucky’s strength.
Luke: This leads me to my second point, which is special teams. Butch Jones is adamant that this is an important third of the game. As equally important as offense and defense. You take a look at these games. The kickoff against UGA toward the end, Evan Berry taking that out. Without that 40 yard return they probably don’t win that game. South Carolina, Berry again with that touchdown getting them back in that game. Also Butch Jones icing the kicker at Texas A&M, he was able to shank that ball. And also Marquez Callaway, a bright young star, coming up in this Tennessee Tech game with that punt return. So if I’m a Josh Smith or a Micah Abernathy, I’m asking myself right now, how am I going to make a difference on special teams, how am I going to impact this game and really step on their throats?
Charlie: My final key to this game is just drowning out the distractions. Last week Florida lost to Arkansas and it brought Tennessee’s chances back for making the SEC Championship game and winning an SEC East title. Tennessee needs to drown all that out. They need to forget those things are on the line and need to concentrate on this game and not be distracted because it seemed like specifically against South Carolina they came out just looking forward. They were like alright Florida’s going to lose one more game we’re going to make it to the SEC Championship and this is in the bag and they dropped the ball, so to speak.
Luke: Tennessee has their future a little bit more in their grasp. I wrote down, if you don’t mind an interpolation of our president elect’s slogan, I wrote “Make Football Fun Again” and that’s really what Tennessee’s got to do. You take a look back, Cortez McDowell with an interception then slam dunking a football into a trash can, wearing a camo hat on the sidelines. Marquez Callaway getting mobbed after his touchdown. So much elation on their faces. Derek Barnett, when you’ve got him smiling, looking like Santa’s about to come or you just told him that Christmas is on its way for the very first time, that’s what it looked like. Jauan Jennings celebrating a touchdown in the end zone on what I thought was probably the worst unsportsmanlike conduct foul I have ever seen in my history of covering football. The home run swing. That’s kind of the swagger Tennessee needs to come back in this game or at least to, you know, win a game, win a competitive, important game, but have fun doing it this Saturday.