Saturday’s contest against Vanderbilt has plenty of implications. It’s senior night, the last home game of the season in Neyland Stadium and carries the possibility of a bowl game for the Vols.
But the game also means a lot for the entire state of Tennessee.
Tennessee assistant coaches spoke on Wednesday about what the state rivalry game means to Team 117, the University of Tennessee, and the state as a whole.
“I think it’s tremendous, you know we – both Vanderbilt and Tennessee – we’re both great representatives of the state of Tennessee,” said wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. “When it comes to this Saturday we’re on opposite sides and we’re battling for that state pride for sure.”
The Vols will also wear the new Smokey Gray uniforms which were last worn in the thrilling overtime loss to Georgia, 34-31 on Oct. 5. The senior Volunteers voted to wear them in their last home game.
One of the highlights of the jersey is a patch in the shape of the state of Tennessee on the back collar of the uniform.
Steve Stripling, the defensive line coach touched on the jerseys and how important this game is to the graduating players.
“Well we talked about how the state of Tennessee is on our jerseys and that it’s extremely important,” he said. “It’s extremely important because its senior night and these seniors will remember this game for the rest of their lives.”
Offensive line coach Don Mahoney said that he’s been proud of his senior lineman especially those from Nashville who have excelled in their consistent approach. Mahoney said once they get to the hotel Friday and get to gather as a group, he feels they’ll really be able to focus on what this game means to each one of them.
“Make no mistake about it, this is of the utmost importance this coming Saturday,” Mahoney said.
HOME SWEET HOME TO ME
Although he hasn’t even been on Rocky Top for a full year, Steve Stripling took no time to create a close-knit relationship with his defensive unit and on Saturday, Stripling will wish five players good luck as they participate in senior day activities.
“From day one, they’ve been outstanding,” said Stripling. “They come to work every day and I have no issues with their attitudes, work habits – those types of things.”
Being their last home game in Neyland Stadium, Stripling hopes that each individual appreciates the opportunity they have had to wear the Orange and White and that they come out in the end with a victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt.
“For those seniors – it’s the last home game for them,” Stripling said. “They understand, I think we’re 27-1 in senior days around here, so I would hope that they truly understand how important. This will be a lasting memory.”
When former Volunteers come back to the University of Tennessee, Stripling wants them to be able to reminisce on all the positive and successful things they contributed to the Volunteer football program.
“You want to have a great memory the rest of your life when you come back as an alumni – whether it’s next year or five years down the line – you want to have great memories of that last game,” said Stripling.