Petrino, WKU Seek Second Straight SEC Win
By Dan Harralson
Tennessee did what they were supposed to do against the lower-tier Austin Peay team, but the competition rises a half-step this week.
The Volunteers will entertain Western Kentucky on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, and it is a crucial game in order to continue mounting Ws in the win column and reach a bowl game.
This is not just Western Kentucky coming to Neyland Stadium for an easy Vols win, this is Bobby Petrino coming in wanting to vault himself back into the national conversation for something positive.
Like him or not, Petrino is a top-tier coach and he is looking for two consecutive wins over SEC teams to begin his Western Kentucky tenure.
"I think it would be great for our program (to beat Tennessee)," Petrino told Football.com. "Any time you can go out and compete against one of the best conferences in the country and excel and do well, it helps you in recruiting. It certainly would be a real boost in our recruiting effort."
Recruiting is not the only thing on Petrino's mind playing these big games. He wants to win. Western Kentucky looked every bit like a Bobby Petrino team Saturday night against Kentucky, Petrino's first game with the school. He won Conference USA (2004) and Big East (2006) championships during his tenure at Louisville and had BCS bowl success at Arkansas.
Petrino may have changed destinations, by choice and by lack of choice, but the Montana native never has changed his offensive philosophy. It is the same pro-style attack, and he has weapons to successfully run it right away.
It starts with running back Antonio Andrews, who became the second player in NCAA history to record 3,000 all-purpose yards in a single season. The only other player to do it? Barry Sanders. Andrews fell just 89 yards shy of the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner's single-season total yards record. Andrews had 99 yards rushing on 20 carries and scored one touchdown against Kentucky. Andrews resembles Sanders in his ability to juke a defender and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He brought in three receptions for 37 yards against the Wildcats.
"Antonio is a very, very talented young man," Petrino said. "He can do so many different things with his ability to run the ball and break tackles and get extra yards after contact. He really showed up in the first half and was really very important to our win. He also did a good job in catching punts and returning kickoffs. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can just do a lot of things."
The Kentucky victory was a close nine-point win, 35-26, but the box score was well in favor of Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers amassed more total yards, passing yards, first downs and time of possession. The two teams were deadlocked at 216 rushing yards.
"I'm very proud and excited for our players," Petrino said. "We worked extremely hard in camp and our preparation that our assistant coaches did and did a good job (adjusting) during the game. It was a really good win for us."
One of the reasons why Western Kentucky allowed the Big Blue to stay in the game was turnovers and the lack of third-down conversions. Petrino's offense was only able to convert two third downs in 10 tries and had two crucial turnovers when his offense was about to score.
"We can't turn the ball over," Petrino said. "That's as simple as it gets. We have to do better of taking care of the ball and understanding the speed of the game and he (Antonio Andrews) was just trying to make an extra effort play and cutting back. You have to know that you are going to get in contact and when you do that, you have to get both hands over the ball."
Petrino nailed it right on the head with his knowledge of the SEC speed that he faced last week and that he will see again Saturday. The Vols may be rebuilding and getting the right pieces in place for what Butch Jones wants to do at Tennessee, but Jones will put speed on the field Saturday against Western Kentucky.
The Vols still cannot underestimate Petrino's team and his quest to win back-to-back games against SEC teams.
"It is was an exciting game in Nashville. The fans did a really good job traveling, and now we get ready for another big game down in Tennessee," Petrino said.