KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football players knew what to expect as soon as they took off their shoulder pads Saturday afternoon.
After the No. 23-ranked Vols moved to 2-0 with their second victory in five days, a 42-7 triumph over FCS Indiana State, the talk turned to No. 24-ranked Florida.
Junior defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who figures to be one of Tennessee’s key players in the Saturday 3:30 p.m. game at The Swamp, said he understands.
“Of course, you want to enjoy the win, hug mom and dad, hug my sisters, and all that, but it’s Florida week now,” McKenzie said. “It’s a different mindset. It’s the real season now. It’s time to get going. It’s time for our SEC rivals.”
The rivalry had lost some luster before Tennessee’s dramatic, come-from-behind 38-28 win over the Gators last year snapped what had been an 11-game Florida win streak in the series.
Still, the Vols haven’t defeated Florida in Gainesville since 2003, when Casey Clausen was Tennessee’s starting quarterback.
“We know what’s at stake when we go down there or when they come up here,” said Tennessee linebacker Cortez McDowell, who led the Vols with 8 tackles Saturday in the win over the Sycamores. “We know the effort and intensity we have to put into this week coming up.”
Senior defensive tackle Kendal Vickers, one of the most resilient of Tennessee’s players over the course of his career, said the Vols just need to catch their wind.
“We’ll be ready, we’ll get a day off and we’ll get to recover and Monday it’s time to go, the season is just starting now,” Vickers said. “We know the rivalry with Florida. We don’t like them, they don’t like us, so we’re going to have to be ready for it
“They’re going to give us their best shot, we’re going to give them our best shot.”