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Vols hope to regain king of the hill title

Vols hope to regain king of the hill title
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee defensive end Xavier Mitchell thinks it’s time for the Volunteers to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs: a Neyland Stadium home-field advantage.

“We’ve got to let everybody know this is our house,” he said. “Just like your mom’s house, you wouldn’t let anyone come in and take anything from her.”

The odds haven’t been in Tennessee’s favor recently when the Vols (2-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) play ranked teams at home. Since the start of 2002,
Tennessee holds a record of 2-9 playing at home against ranked opponents.

Georgia (4-1, 2-1) has taken away wins the last three times the Bulldogs have visited Knoxville. Under coach Mark Richt, Georgia is 23-3 in an opponent’s stadium, including a 9-2 road record against ranked teams.

Mitchell acknowledged that it’s sometimes easier to get motivated for a big game on the road.

“It’s us against the world,” the senior said. “I think I get more amped about the home crowd booing at us more than anything because you have something to prove. You come in with a chip on your shoulder.”

In the past six years, the Vols have managed five road wins against ranked opponents. They’ve won the past two meetings with No. 12 Georgia at Sanford Stadium, including last year’s 51-33 win.

Tennessee hasn’t always struggled in the big games at home. Coach Phillip Fulmer holds a 16-12 home record against top 25 teams during his tenure. That record includes a win over Florida in 1992 when Fulmer was interim coach.

In 85 seasons at the Neyland Stadium site, the Vols have been able to use the crowds to their advantage, winning a little more than 79 percent of their games.
With a 102,038 capacity, Neyland Stadium is the fourth-largest stadium behind Michigan Stadium, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium and Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium.

The attendance record was 109,061 for the 2004 Florida game.

The Vols won 23 straight games in Neyland Stadium from the fourth game of the 1996 season through the first home game of 2000, one of the best stretches in Tennessee football history that included the undefeated and national championship season in 1998.

Tennessee’s opponents often talk about how difficult it is for their offenses to communicate when the orange-clad crowds of 108,000 or so begin screaming and stomping their feet.

Georgia split end Mohammed Massaquoi said he doesn’t believe playing in that kind of atmosphere will be any tougher, just different.

“It’s just that you have to stay focused. It’s one of those things where you can’t hear, so there is no sense in trying to scream at your teammate. You have to be up on your Ps and Qs and stay true to what you did all week in practice.”

Offensive guard Anthony Parker has a lot riding on a win at home against the Bulldogs. Parker, a native of Jonesboro, Ga., about 60 miles southeast of Athens, knows it will be a tough trip home if the Vols lose.

“This is the perfect situation right here. We’ve got a great team in Georgia coming in. If we get a victory, it will be big for us,” Parker said. “I take pride in my home field.”

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