There are some songs that get stuck in your head. “Baby Shark” has undergone a resurgence among nostalgia-minded millennials. Some catchy songs we inflict on ourselves by playing it ad nauseam on repeat out of a simple sense of masochism and primal aural pleasure.
And then there’s “Rocky Top.”
Good ol’ Rocky Top. Woo.
It can get unnerving, even aggravating when it’s played against your will. Just ask running back Lamical Perine.
“I’m getting pretty tired of it,” he said. The reporters surrounding Perine suppressed some light chuckles.
Perine remained stone-faced.
“I hate it.”
That’s the result coach Dan Mullen has been going for in practice. He spent Monday and Tuesday afternoon blaring the Tennessee fight song through loudspeakers while his offense squared off against the scout team.
It’s one of the most recognizable fight songs in college football, and the Gators have had plenty of chances to learn it by rote this week.
Florida players hope they don’t have to hear too much of it Saturday night in Knoxville. Tennessee has outscored its opponents 83-3 over the past two games after losing its first game of the season in a 40-14 blowout to No. 12 West Virginia. East Tennessee State and UTEP aren’t exactly the pinnacle of college football, so UF will be the Volunteers’ first real test outside of that Week-1 matchup.
One of the main points of emphasis for the Gators heading into Neyland Stadium has been sticking to individual responsibilities on the offensive front. The O-line managed to pave the way for Florida runners to rack up 222 rushing yards Saturday against Colorado State, but it still missed several key blocks against blitzing corners and in getting to the second level.
“We have to have complete mental focus on the fundamentals and the job we have to do,” center Nick Buchanan said, “and we just have to worry about executing. If everybody executes, all the people execute, then we’ll come out with a win. That’s about it.”
Whether or not the front five can achieve this is up for debate. The team hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher this season. Freshman Dameon Pierce posted 87 yards on five carries against the Rams on Saturday — the highest single-game total for the Gators this season — though most of that came off his 68-yard touchdown gallop.
It may get worse for the running back corps before it gets better. Sophomore Malik Davis’ broken foot will hold him out of action for an unknown period of time.
“That’s such a bad loss,” Perine said. “We know if he was out here, he’d give it his all, so we’re gonna do the same thing.”
The Gators may need Perine to step into a bigger role this weekend with Davis’ departure, which means “Rocky Top” will intrude upon his thoughts on a more consistent basis. Some offensive players don’t seem to mind it too much. Wide receiver Van Jefferson attended high school in Tennessee and said he’ll have family — including his mother, sisters and 2-year-old daughter — at the game.
“They’ve got their own little thing,” Jefferson said about the repetitive fight song. “I guess it’s catchy.”
Mullen shares the same sentiment, saying he’d be whistling “Rocky Top” by the end of this week.
“Like every other or every third song, it’ll roll through within the crowd noise that we play at practice,” he said. “You get used to it, and it’s a catchy tune.”
But then there’s guys like Perine who, no matter what Mullen says, can’t fathom the idea of the song’s likability.
“(Mullen) said it’s catchy?” Perine asked. “Coach Mullen is a funny guy.”
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Running back Lamical Perine (22) said he's no fan of Tennessee's fight song, "Rocky Top."