KNOXVILLE — As Georgia's defensive coordinator in 2009, Willie Martinez faced a difficult week of preparation for a game against Arkansas and Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks' head coach and offensive guru.
The Bulldogs were torched for 41 points and 485 yards of offense by quarterback Ryan Mallett and the receiver duo of Greg Childs and Jarius Wright on that night, though Martinez, now Tennessee's secondary coach remembers it differently.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is we won," he recalled following Wednesday's practice.
"We were lucky to get out of there with a win."
He'd take the same result in two days, too.
Nearly four years after that night in Fayetteville, when Georgia won 52-41 behind a five-touchdown performance from quarterback Joe Cox, Martinez and Volunteers' defensive coordinator John Jancek, then Bulldogs' co-coordinator and linebackers coach under Martinez, are again preparing for Petrino, who brings his first Western Kentucky team to Knoxville on Saturday.
"I have a lot of respect for Coach Petrino," Jancek said. "He's got a great mind. A lot of the things that he does are very well thought out, and he knows how to attack coverages. We know that there's going to be times when they're going to be in a great call, and we've got to be able to play through the call and allow our fundamentals and our technique to carry the day."
The two defensive assistants are not the only members of the Vols' program who have run into Petrino in the past.
While the receivers coach at West Virginia, first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones twice faced Petrino at Louisville. The Mountaineers won on a two-point conversion in a triple-overtime thriller in 2005, and Petrino's Cardinals exacted revenge a year later on the way to the Orange Bowl. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen faced Arkansas three times while at Auburn.
"He does a good job of mixing up things, the run and the pass [with] excellent play-action," Martinez said. "His quarterbacks are well-coached. The offense executes like it's supposed to."
Tennessee defensive backs Brian Randolph, Justin Coleman and Byron Moore all played in the Vols' lone run-in with Petrino, when Arkansas eviscerated the Vols 49-7 in Fayetteville in 2011.
The game most remembered for Joe Adams' incredible punt-return touchdown also included Razorback touchdowns of 71, 40 and 26 yards and an 8.8-yard per play average led by quarterback Tyler Wilson.
"I don't really try to forget it," Coleman, then a freshman, said Tuesday. "I just try to use it as a learning experience, to kind of motivate me to play a lot harder and get ready to play. I kind of use it as a drive to make plays on him this time."
The Vols have watched film of Petrino's Arkansas teams to prepare for the Hilltoppers, who ran up nearly 400 yards of offense on Kentucky in their season-opening win.
"His offense, he does a lot within it," Moore said. "He's got a lot of different route combinations that we're going to be having to work on this week, a lot of crossing routes, meshing, attacking the corners and attacking the safeties as the same time. It's not a lot of standard route concepts.
"It's a lot of trick stuff that we're going to have to really lock in on and focus on our discipline and focus on our techniques. We'll watch a lot of film this week and get a feel for all those different route concepts that he throws at us."
Tennessee is aware, too, of the threat posed by Western Kentucky tailback Antonio Andrews, the only player in the country to surpass 1,600 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving last season. The 6-foot, 219-pound senior ran for 99 yards and a score against the Wildcats.
In his first start at quarterback, Brandon Doughty completed 27 of 34 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown and orchestrated touchdown drives of 75, 80, 75, 70 and 60 yards.
"It's a very balanced offense," Randolph said.
Multiple players and coaches have noted the similarities between Petrino's Arkansas offenses and what Western Kentucky showed against Kentucky, but Martinez cautioned that it's not identical.
What is identical is the challenge the Vols, who were hardly tested by Austin Peay in their opener, will face with a Petrino-coached offense.
"It's a big challenge," Coleman said. "It's just something that we've got to be detailed on, like our eye discipline. We've got to play aggressive and try to create turnovers."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...