The Tennessee Vols will travel to Gainesville this weekend to take on the Florida Gators in the first road game of the Josh Heupel era.
Florida is coming off a narrow 31-29 loss to Alabama this past weekend. The Gators played Bama a lot closer than most folks expected. Florida managed to effectively run the ball against the Crimson Tide, while also mostly shutting down Alabama’s typically potent rushing attack.
UF fans are going to be rowdy on Saturday night in the Swamp. It’s going to be an intense, hostile environment.
Tennessee’s players, however, are embracing the challenge. They’re ready for the legions of truculent Gators fans.
“It’s going to be a tough game, especially on the road in the SEC, it’s a very tough environment,” said senior offensive lineman Jerome Carvin this week. “But you love those types of games. That’s what you come to the SEC to play, play in tough environments and go get a win on the road.”
Freshman wide receiver Walker Merrill, who will be playing in his first collegiate road game on Saturday, echoed Carvin’s sentiments.
“I’m really excited for it, honestly, going into the Swamp,” said Merrill on Tuesday.
“We haven’t been away yet, I haven’t had people in my ear, screaming at me, all that stuff,” added Merrill. “I’m really excited to be in that atmosphere, because I knew I wanted to experience it. I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Junior pass rusher Byron Young is another player that’s excited for the challenge.
“I’m really excited, first SEC game, on the road,” said Young. “This is why I came to Tennessee, to compete. I feel like it’s going to be a pretty good atmosphere so I’m ready for it, honestly.”
Redshirt senior defensive lineman Ja’Quain Blakely is one of the players on Tennessee’s roster that’s made the trip to the Swamp before. And he had some advice for his teammates this week.
“I’m telling my teammates that haven’t been, this is going to be a hostile game,” explained Blakely this week. “There’s going to be a lot of noise, there’s going to be a lot of crowd, a lot of talking. Just keep your cool and composure. That’s the best thing you can do, play your game because the crowd is going to be into it as they always are. It’s going to be loud.”
“It’s going to be very intense, but it’s going to be a great game as long as we keep our mind straight and keep going.”
There’s no doubt that Florida’s crowd will be a factor in this game. But it certainly sounds like Tennessee is ready for the raucous environment that awaits on Saturday night.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports/Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services