All week, Vol Twitter was touting a Tennessee football takeover in Louisiana. Nobody could have predicted just how much they’d live up to that.
The Vols filled Tiger Stadium Saturday to watch their team blow out LSU 40-13. As LSU fans started heading towards the stands, the stadium still looked semi-full. Josh Heupel took notice.
“I just appreciate our fanbase, man,” Heupel said in his postgame press conference. “Our players do too. They feel that energy and excitement from them.”
Heupel noted that orange was visible all over Baton Rouge, La., as the Tennessee football team was rolling into town. The fan support was as much a part of the takeover down there as the win.
As the game got out of hand, Twitter videos filled up with Vol fans singing Rocky Top in Death Valley. Baton Rouge was Knoxville South.
“It’s rare that you have a fanbase that travels the way that ours is right now,” Heupel said. It’s a great time on Rocky Top and we appreciate our fans.”
Of course, it wasn’t just the celebrations after the game. Heupel noted that the energy from the fans was evident the minute Tennessee football kicked off.
He added that it had an effect on the players and what they were able to do. They did build a 20-0 lead, and they recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff.
“When our players walked out, man, our fans were in their seats early,” Heupel said. “You could feel their energy. As the game unfolded, they were a factor and a part of the game for us.”
The wild ride actually started Friday night. Not only did fans take over Baton Rouge. They also took over Bourbon Street in New Orleans an hour and a half away.
That obviously carried into fan support throughout the game on Saturday. Heupel stressed that it was a great environment for the players.
“You love the energy from our fanbase,” he said. “You could feel it as soon as we drove anywhere near campus.”
When it comes to the players, the focus and commitment is there as well. Heupel has done an incredible job keeping them focused for road games, against top 25 opponents and coming off bye weeks.
It was clear Tennessee’s football team used the bye to its advantage. Play-calling was elite early on, and the players were crisp.
“I think they’re all on the same page,” Heupel said of his players. “They’re fighting for the same goals. They understand the plans on their unit and compete really hard. They love each other and they love competing every day.”
Now, though, the Vols have to return home and get ready again, as they have to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. It’ll be the highest combined ranking for both teams in the history of the series, as written about here.
No matter how exciting fan support on the road may be, Heupel noted that there’s no place like Neyland. He also said he expects the approach from his players to be the way it has been.
“Everyone knows who is coming to town and the opportunity that we have,” he said. “I expect next Saturday to be an electric atmosphere. Can’t imagine it won’t be louder, more hostile than it was for Florida. Looking forward to that.”