Petrino Gets Turned Over Inside Neyland
By Dan Harralson
Some thought Bobby Petrino could walk into Neyland Stadium and pull off two consecutive wins against SEC teams. It did not happen.
The Hilltoppers had no shot after the first quarter unfolded as Western Kentucky turned the ball over five times. Defensive backs Justin Coleman and Cam Sutton each celebrated a pick-six and the game got out of hand quick.
"We just got beat," Bobby Petrino told Football.com. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first half. I don't know if I've ever been through the five turnovers that we had with a couple of them for touchdowns."
The five first-half turnovers Petrino was referring to didn't include quarterback Brandon Doughty's second-quarter interception. Six first-half turnovers won't allow you to upset an SEC team as Tennessee defeated Western Kentucky, 52-20, and the Vols improved to 2-0 on the season.
Western Kentucky dropped balls, had 17 incompletions, five interceptions (two in the end zone) and seven total turnovers for the game and that really defined the 60 minutes played inside Neyland Stadium.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Western Kentucky wide receiver Willie McNeal said.
The seven turnovers threatened to re-write the history books. Seven represents the highest total for a Vols defense since Nov. 10, 1984, when UT forced seven turnovers in a 41-9 rout of Memphis. The last time the Vols had five interceptions in a game was Nov. 20, 1999. That was another route, a 56-21 win against Kentucky.
Western Kentucky's five first-quarter turnovers happened within a total of six plays.
The Football Bowl Subdivision record for consecutive turnovers forced by a defense is seven straight series. Florida State had four fumbles and three interceptions in its first seven possessions during a loss to in-state rival Florida in 1972.
"I've never ever been associated with anything like that," Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said.
On the first half
"General Neyland Maxim Two: Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way, score. I thought we were opportunistic in the first half. I was really proud of our kids, the coaching staff. Our kids were ready to play, but we still have a lot of work to do."
On the importance of the win
“We needed to be 2-0. That’s a really good football team. We knew we were going to be challenged. They came in and dropped the ball to start the game. We needed some of that. I needed to see how our leadership was going to respond. I needed to see what type of resiliency this team has. I saw some today. Just about anything that could happen, happened and that’s good as we continue to move forward.”
On the defense
“A lot of credit to the defense. They really stepped up and stopped a really good offensive team. We faced a lot of adversity today and that shows a lot of what we do in practice. The offseason workouts are starting to pay off and these guys are really buying into what the coaches are saying. Being able to push through trying times, that says a lot about our team.”
On Tennessee's defense
“I mean that’s really big. I think Coach said that’s the first time we’ve done that since 1984, so it’s really showing how our defense is starting to come together. I think they play really well because they got us out of some bad situations early in the first half. They put us in the red zone twice to score because we were struggling in the first half a little bit, but it’s really good to see those guys coming together like they are.”
On the turnovers
"It was fun to be a part of. I mean there has been many games we hadn’t had five turnovers, let alone right in a row.”
On the how the turnovers gave the team momentum
“It was just a big momentum swing for us and it gave us the opportunity to kind of put our foot down, and try to put a nail in the coffin, but it felt great. Everybody on the sideline was energized. The stadium was energized. It was awesome.”