Across the (By)Line: Tennessee Volunteers


Junior quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. drops back in the pocket during the game against Tennessee on Saturday, November 9, 2019 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Hunter Shelton

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky football fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor. 

This week: Josh Lane, The Daily Beacon, Tennessee

Tennessee is coming into this game with a 4-4 record. Is that record indicative of how well this team has played this season? 

Lane: At the end of the day, what Josh Huepel always says is a loss is a loss. If you can’t finish in the end, then, you know, the rest doesn’t really matter. They’ve had close games on multiple occasions with chances to win. But, you know, at the end of the day, four times they just haven’t finished. So in one sense, yes. But I do think they’ve played better than the record shows. They’ve just been a couple plays away in a couple of games, but I do think, just in general, they have played a little bit better than their 4-4 record. But again, at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. So you can’t really put too much stock in the hypotheticals.

How well do you see Tennessee’s defense being able to hold up on Saturday?

Lane: The question is going to be with the injuries that they’ve had. Some of their big players on the defensive line have been out due to injuries. Tennessee’s run defense was pretty good to start the year, but they’ve fallen into the middle of the pack since then. Kentucky’s probably going to be attacking with Chris Rodriguez, so you know, if they can limit him in any capacity and maybe force Will Levis to throw the ball after he’s kind of been struggling the last few weeks, I think maybe that’s where the defense has to step up, and that’s where they can be successful.

How well does quarterback Hendon Hooker have to play for Tennessee to win on Saturday?

Lane: That’s a good question. I mean, they’ve not had much success running the ball lately. They’ve had some injuries on the offensive line and their running backs have not been as good as maybe Tennessee hoped for. So all those factors with the running game, I think that does put a little bit more pressure on Hooker. He’s been an accurate passer. He’s been a smart passer. He’s got just two interceptions on the year now, so he’s made good decisions and he can actually run the ball. But I do think that most of what Tennessee wants to do often starts with Hooker leading them in tempo.

Kentucky has not won back to back games against Tennessee since 1976 and ‘77. How important is this game to Tennessee?

Lane: This is a big one for Tennessee. This is the separator for Josh Heupel and his first season. If UT goes up there and loses that game and finishes at six and six, then you know, it’s just not quite as good of a season as maybe people might have expected in his first year.

What is Tennessee’s biggest key to winning this game?

Lane: It’s gonna be on Hendon Hooker. He’s just gonna have to have a great game. So, I think if he can really torch Kentucky, maybe even on the ground and add that element back into the game with some diversity to the offense, that’s the key.



Will Levis — 136-205, 1,476 yards, 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions.

Wan’Dale Robinson — 58 receptions, 645 yards, five touchdowns.

Chris Rodriguez Jr. — 135 attempts, 809 yards, five touchdowns. 12 receptions, 56 yards, two touchdowns.

DeAndre Square — 61 tackles, 32 solo, three sacks, one forced fumble.


Hendon Hooker — 114-166, 1,578 yards, 17 touchdowns, two interceptions

Velus Jones Jr. — 31 receptions, 453 yards, four touchdowns

Tiyon Evans — 80 attempts, 516 yards, six touchdowns, four receptions, 74 yards, one touchdown

Jeremy Banks — 60 tackles, 33 solo, 9 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks