Head Coach Butch Jones
Well first of all 102,455, great fan support, made Neyland a home field advantage. I thought our players fed off their energy. It started at the Vol Walk, just seeing the look on 45 percent of the players who played their first game tonight in a Tennessee uniform. About half of them have already come up to me and said, "Coach now I get what you've been preaching that this place is special." We set the temperate of the state of Tennessee. The magnitude and relevance and the people coming out for the Vol Walk, our fans, our student section; it was a great atmosphere. Now here's my challenge.... We need you at noon Saturday. The next evolution of this new football team is how can we handle this, put it to rest, and then come to work tomorrow with a short workweek [preparing] for a very good quality opponent, a very good football team that knows how to win in Arkansas State."
I'm excited for our players; again 45 percent played their first game. We played 21 true freshman and 32 newcomers overall. I know we were ready to go by our overall demeanor starting yesterday in our walkthroughs and at the hotel. I thought our older guys did a tremendous job in mentoring the younger guys. I thought Justin [Worley] played a very productive football game and played winning football at the quarterback position. He managed the offense. First game you always worry about turnovers regenerated force three and we didn't turn the football over. I thought we played well on special teams. We gave up one return that we have to work to get better on and continue to improve. Zero turnovers in a first game were great to see. I thought our tight end position had productivity. It was great to have Jason Witten in our locker room before the game and welcome him back. So again, I think it was a very productive night. I didn't think we got into much rhythm in the first half offensively.
Our defense did a great job and special teams generated some turnovers. We did a good job at capitalizing in scoring touchdowns and not kicking field goals. I didn't think we really got into an overall rhythm. Second half was a little bit better. We had five in a row in terms of third down conversions and possessing the football and keeping Chuckie Keeton on the sidelines was a big thing for us."
(On AJ Johnson)
"He does his job and he takes pride in his job, quality, and performance, the quality of which we talk about playing. He does a great job. We are going to need more from him; obviously there are some things we need to get corrected overall. As we continue to improve. Most growth and development in a football team happens from week one to week two, so we have to take monumental steps in moving forward. This is just one game still a lot of mistakes; a lot of mistakes that we have to clean up but its always great to start 1-0 over a very good Utah State football team. It's a quality opponent."
(On Defense Performance)
"I think we really improved our team speed. We were very active. I think we were able to apply pressure to Chuckie Keeton and he's a great player. I thought we did a great job in the secondary but again being resilient, we give up a big play in the first or second possession of the game and then we settle in and force them to punt the football. We are going to have to swarm and play with great effort, if we don't we become very average. So effort and 63 strain, that we talked about, that has to be our calling card in everything we do in this football program.
(On Coaching Style)
"We want to be a football team that has great team chemistry, that has a love and passion for Tennessee and what we represent, plays with great effort and great strain, and a team that doesn't beat itself. It was great to see the no turnovers but again we have to learn from our mistakes and correct them. We aren't where we need to be but we are making progress.
(On feeling about HIS recruits playing)
"I think it's more instead of hoping to win, it's earning the right to win. Our players earned the right to win by their weaker preparation and their preparation of taking care of their bodies. Now what you did this week doesn't make any difference in next week but we always talk about rather than hoping to win, investing in victory, earning that right to win by your work ethic, by your style of play, by your investment of studying film, and your team chemistry. I love our last year's senior class, they meant so much to us, but as we continue to build this football program and move forward, these players expect to win.
(On getting players off field on 3rd down)
"I think a lot of times it was third and long situations and we had to key fourth down stops early which really provided a momentum change and field position was critical. So much about football is field position and hidden yardage. I thought we stayed ahead of the sticks defensively and put them in third and long situations.
(On new defensive front developing confidence)
"It's very important. I thought Derek Barnett played well, true freshman, making his first career start, I thought he did a very good job. The flipside, we jump offsides and have an illegal procedure penalty on fourth and one, we don't get a third and one, that's unacceptable. On fourth and one we jump offsides, which is unacceptable. There are a lot of things we need to go back and get corrected as we continue to move forward."
(On Justin Worley's Performance)
"Justin [Worley] was calm and collected and he acted like he had been there before. He was kind of a calming presence on the sideline. I thought our receivers, for the most part, did a good job of catching the football. They made some really good catches to extend drives and we haven't had that in the past, so it was great to see as well. Some of the quick touches, Von Pearson makes a great play in the open field, and that's what we need to be able to do."
(On older guys stepping up on defense)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin played three snaps on defense. It's sad when we think he's an older player playing in his second year, but I can't say enough about (Jalen). We put so much on him, not just from a defensive standpoint but also on special teams. It was great to see and these players are taking ownership in mentoring the younger players. I spoke with A.J. (Johnson) the other day and I said 'You know, as much as you keep yourself accountable, you need to start holding your teammates to the same level of accountability that you hold yourself to. You could see that rubbing off.
(On how Jones would rate the tackling)
"I'll know a little bit more when I go back and watch the film. I know we missed a couple of tackles, but overall we did a good job. We didn't give up a lot of big plays and that's the speed and athleticism we've been able to gain defensively. Now we need to continue to get stronger and continue to grow. Again, for first games, you're always worried about tackling and I thought for the most part, we did a fairly decent job."
(On Chris Weatherd's play)
"Chris is continuing to learn our defensive scheme. He brings another element in terms of his speed and his quickness. He's sipping through a fire hose right now: everything's coming at him. We've thrown a lot at him, not only from a defensive standpoint, but also on special teams. He has a long, long way to go, but hopefully as these younger players continue to gain in-game experience and live repetitions, we're able to grow our defensive sets and our offensive sets of the ball."
(On why Jones decided to start Aaron Medley)
"It was kind of a gut feeling. It was neck-and-neck. We charted everything throughout the course of training camp, from being a specialist and pressure situations, and from about 40 yard in, (Medley) was 85 percent, so he has a very strong leg. He started a little slow, missed it, but then came right over to me and said 'I got it, Coach.' It was great to see him on the extra points. At that stage of the game, when he hit that field goal from the right hash, that was great to see because we needed that."
(On his assessment of the run game)
"I'll know a little but more when I see it. Again, they're a very, very good defensive front. What they do schematically is different, so there are different things you have to do when you run schemes, but I'll know a little bit more when I meet with you guys on Tuesday and I watch the video."
(On whether Jones could ask for a more complete first game)
"As a coach, you look back at the 3rd & 1, the 4th & 1 with the penalty, the one kickoff return that we gave up. We didn't do very well on third down offensively in the the first half, but you're playing a good team and they're going to make plays. Closing games out is critical as well, so there's a lot of teaching lessons and it's always a lot easier to teach off a win."
(On the play of the defensive line)
They were much more athletic up front, but you never know how they're going to perform when the lights go on. A lot of these individuals are performing for the first time, but Derek Barnett gave us some quality snaps, It was great to have Curt Maggitt out there, Jordan Williams in the middle adds another dimension in terms of speed and quickness and then Chris Weatherd as well. I thought it was a very good team win.
(On why he put Johnson on the special teams unit)
"Everything is about field position. Kickoff coverage is the first play of defense, We need to improve our kickoff coverage from last year and A.J. has a great sense of getting to the ball, so we thought with the youth and inexperience of the football team that he needed to be on that football team."
(On the tight end production)
It's great to have the luxury. We have great competition at that position and to have those individuals step up tonight was big. We need to continue to evaluate as the season progresses. We want to play with a tight end on the field. It gives us different sets and that was a great starting point for us."
(On Justin Worley's operation in the pocket)
He did have a good feel for the rush. We always talk about having a high-vision quarterback when the protection breaks down and I thought he kept some plays alive with his legs, whether it was a scramble on the perimeter or picking up some valuable yardage with his legs. I just thought the game played slow for him. He was in control of the game and that was great to see."
(On the gameplan including some quick throws)
We have to do a better job of completing the long football, if we get 1-on-1 matchups. We have to do a much better with the deep ball (and) our receivers getting off the line of scrimmage and completing it. I thought we did a good job of mixing it up."
Senior Quarterback Justin Worley
(On getting into a better second half rhythm)
"It was a game of unknowns. They threw some different looks at us and it took some time to adjust to it. We did have more success in the second half. We had some longer drives that we strung together, which ate up some clock and helped our defense out. It was all about adjustments tonight."
(On completing passes to many different receivers)
"We have some playmakers across the board, from a tight end standpoint to receivers and running back. You can't focus on one guy. There are several guys that we can attack you with."
(On what he learned about the team)
"I thought our freshmen did a great job of responding to the Vol Walk and then 102,455 fans. They responded well and they came out with the lights on and played the way they're capable of playing."
Sophomore Defensive Back Cameron Sutton
(On if he anticipated this good of defensive production tonight)
"Yes sir, I definitely did. All week we were focused and locked in. We stayed after hours watching film, communicating and talking to each other. It definitely showed tonight."
(On being effective on third down)
"We know on third down we've got to get off the field and give the ball back to our offense. That's just a time for us to get pressure on the quarterback, and in the secondary just make plays."
Tennessee Freshman Tight End Ethan Wolf
(On his first college game)
"Tremendous, the fans are crazy. The packed house, I never expected it. I have been to a few games and it has never been this full. It was eye-opening and kind of surreal to begin the game but it was easy to block it out when you get on the field but once you get on the sidelines it comes back in and you realize how many people are supporting us. It is a great feeling."
(On his first college game)
"We came in and we wanted to turn the program around to where it has been in the past. We have great people, we have great older guys who can help us get there in terms of coaching and helping us out. And they have done a great job and that is why you see some of us on the field now. We got thrown into the fire a little bit and there has been a lot of guys who have responded really well with the help of the older guys, and the coaches and the strength staff."
Tennessee RS Junior Wide Receiver Von Pearson
(On tonight's performance)
"I think tonight was a good night, to get a win, play as a whole, play as a team. We just have to go back in the film room and make some corrections and be ready next week."
(On Utah State being picked to upset Tennessee)
"Of course we watched that. We came into this game with a nice little edge. We have the fans on our back and we came with an edge so we were ready to go."
Tennessee RS Junior Defensive Back Brian Randolph
(On open field tackling)
"During fall camp, we had a lot of one-on-one tackling drills and open field, so we just went to getting our eyes on the running backs' thighs, and breaking down and closing space at the same time."
(On AJ's interception)
I was definitely happy for him. He was a little bit mad he couldn't make it to the endzone. It felt like he could have got a little bit faster on his little pick. But overall, it was a good feeling to see our leader finally get his first interception.
Tennessee Senior Linebacker A.J. Johnson
"It was a great feeling, but it was disappointing I couldn't take it into the end zone. I was upset about that. The d-lineman gave great pressure that allowed me to get it, so it's all on the d-lineman."
(On possibility of scoring a touchdown)
"That's what I wanted to do. I had my mind set on the end zone, but I messed up and couldn't get there. I was disappointed about it, but it was a nice catch."
(On second near-interception)
"I just needed to get my other hand around, and that would have been a walk-in. I was thinking next time I get one, I'm going to the end zone and I missed my second opportunity. It all came from film study. We knew the routes they were going to run. Coach broke the film down, and we knew the what the keys were."
(On season opening win)
"It feels great. It's my first last senior game. We played as one team. We had great fans out there. I knew we'd have a good day when we came down the Vol Walk, and there were over 60,000 people. I knew we'd have a great day with the fans out there supporting us. We loved it."
(On playing special teams)
"I played a little bit at the end of last season ... Coach told me after last season that he was going to put me on kickoffs. I told him, `I'm ready for it, Coach.' I love kickoffs. It's one of my favorite special teams. You run down, and you hit."
Tennessee RS Junior Curt Maggitt
"It was just smart swarming, how we practiced and preached all camp. All year long really. The talent that we have and all the older guys, we were just flying to the ball. If someone misses a tackle, someone will clean up."
(On returning to the field)
"It was great. I've been ready for a long time. It's football time in Tennessee now. The opportunity is here, and I'm blessed with the opportunity to play in front of 100,000 people. The training staff and the strength and conditioning staff have prepared me well. I've felt good for a while."
(On keeping QB Keeton in the pocket)
"That was most important. That was the first thing on our list on our quarterback points was keeping him in the pocket. He slipped out a couple of times. But overall, the player he is, he makes plays with his feet and looking downfield. As a defense we did a good job, especially with pressure."
Tennessee Junior Wide Receiver Alton 'Pig' Howard
(On returning to the team after a long break away from the team)
"It means a lot. It just shows that hard work pays off, and to get back in to the grind and mixture of things. You know it's an honor and privilege. You know, coaches all around help us game plan. You know we went out and executed."
(On having a good training camp carrying over to the field)
"Absolutely, you prepare every amount mentally and physically, and your off season is your best season. So, I think all around that helped me."
(On what it meant to the team to get a 14-0 lead early)
"I mean that gain of momentum it will add confidence you know in general. It created a lot of energy, not only on the field, on the sideline, and you know our fans brought that intensity throughout the game. So, all around as a unit it helped everyone."
Tennessee Senior Tight End Brendan Downs
(On the two TE set the team used often in tonight's game)
"Yeah certainly, I mean those two young guys, Ethan, and, Helm, and Alex Ellis too. I mean we've got some good depth at tight end. So that's going to be a position that helps us this year."
(On Jason Witten being at the game)
"Well we didn't get the chance to see him much. You know he just passed by before the game. So he just said good luck and he would be watching us."
(On his touchdown catch)
"It was a two tight end set. It was just a play action to the left, quarterback rolling out right, Wolf coming across the line in the flat, me coming on the over drag. They jumped Wolf on the flat. So I popped open on the over, and was able to make the catch."
Utah State Head Coach Matt Wells
(Opening Statement) "Well obviously that was a very humbling defeat. Credit to Tennessee, they came out and executed very nicely. Early in the game, we gave them some opportunities inside the twenty and they took advantage of them. When you score touchdowns in the red zone, that's what happens. Good offenses took care of it. Credit to them, they did a nice job in doing that. It was a weird game for me. Early in the game it was like nothing could go right on offense and it was some assignment break downs, not as much physical. I thought the defense played well for a good stretch and we couldn't get things going. That starts with me as a head coach and I'll take the blame for that. As far as the offense is concerned, we've got to protect Chuckie (Keeton) better. We've got to play a little bit better all the way around, but again, credit to Tennessee. They're a talented bunch and I thought their kids came out and executed early on and when the game was in the hinges, obviously better than us. When you do that and score touchdowns, not field goals, that's what happens. Credit to them, we'll rebound. The thing that I just told our guys is, absolutely nothing out of that game was good. That's our attitude. That will always be our attitude. We'll find some things that are good, I know, in the video as far as effort wise and stuff like that. I'm sure we'll see some individuals step up, but that's not what this program is about. It will never be that way. We have enough talent in there to go compete for the Mountain West and that's absolutely what we still intend to do. That's a bunch that will get the ship righted, trust me, and we'll stick together."
(On why they were not able to run the ball effectively)
"We had some breakdowns early on. When you get behind the chains early on in the play count, ain't nobody going to run the ball on third and nine. You know? Every now and then you are. Like I said, we had some mistakes up front, maybe missed a read here or there or there was an identification call that was wrong and that is what it is. We didn't play good enough on first down. I'll tell you exactly where we screwed up on offense. I see the third downs, three out of fourteen, I would be curious to see how many of those are third and longs. When you get behind in the play count, talking about making four yards or more on first down, we didn't do that. I already know that before I see the quality control. That's where the problem lies."
(On Chuckie Keeton's first game back)
"I thought he moved around well, as far as his health and everything. I think he was right on some things and was a little off on some things. I think he probably tried to over compensate, whether it was a breakdown in protection or it was pressure. Several times we had some guys running open and he's getting flushed. As a quarterback when you do that, as a coach it's easy for me to tell the media, `Yeah, he's pressing, where he's trying to make something out of nothing,' but the guy's a competitor. It's hard as a quarterback when you don't stay on schedule either."
(On if he had concerns about his offensive line coming in)
"They were a concern because four of them hadn't played yet. I'm sure there were some bright spots and I can point out half a dozen right now that were not good. There were times when they did not hold up, whether it was pass pro or in the run game. That'll continue to be a work in progress. I'm sure a lot of it, before I see the tape, actually will come out good. Like I said, I've always said this about offensive line, all five guys have to do it well together at the same time. One little breakdown, one guy getting on an edge, whether it's a communication issue or what, makes the whole group look bad. I think you know that coming in, I think they probably thought the same thing coming in, that we'd both have some, ours got magnetized a little bit early on."
(On not getting pressure on Tennessee's offense early on)
"I think you hang in there as long as you can hang in there. You still hold out hope that there's going to be a play made, there's going to be a blocked punt, or there's going to be a return, or there's going to be a pick, or you're going to knock the ball loose. We didn't create any of that. As much as it was on offense, it was just as equal on defense because there wasn't anything being created. You always hold out hope. I think there was a good look in a lot of those kids' eyes, throughout the game, even when the thing is, maybe what I should say is a competitive game, and obviously you get to the end of the fourth quarter, the middle/end of the third quarter and you know that it doesn't look good. At that point, that's where I want to see how they're going to play. That's not a spot we've been in very often at Utah State."
(On the health of Chuckie Keeton)
"One-hundred percent, next question."
(On the turnover at the end of the game)
"Which one, the kickoff return? Yeah, not taking care of the football. That's one of the things in our plan to win, that we've got to care of the football. Two picks, one of them I can see. I guess I should say, one of them I can forgive. I can't forgive that one. I mean, you've got to squeeze the rock. It doesn't matter what happens. You can't just lay it on the turf. That's almost like cherry picking in basketball. You just hand them one right there."
(On what was lost for the program tonight)
"An opportunity to beat an SEC team and nothing more than that. We had every intention to come in here and compete, and I think we did for a while. We're used to competing a heck of a lot longer, and honestly I'm in complete shock the game wasn't a ball game into the fourth quarter. We didn't make it to be, so that's our fault. I think we've got to learn and grow from that, but you're right, it absolutely has no bearing and I'd probably be saying that had we won the game. That is very much coach speak and you can write it, that's coach speak, but it doesn't, it doesn't. Utah had no bearing on us last year, neither does this one. It's an opportunity lost is what it is. We need to use it as an opportunity to learn, learn more about our guys, learn more about who we are, what we do and if we need to tweak some stuff, and then we need to move on and do that."
(On response to the crowd)
"You know, I may have a different thought on that in a couple of days. I didn't think so, because I didn't think that they were...I didn't think it looked sloppy out there. That's one of the concerns - was the loudness. The first third down - and that thing was rocking now, and we weren't jumping offsides. I think our penalties were at a minimum. You know, I talked about unforced errors. I talked to you guys about it, I talked to our team about it. I thought we were pretty clean there. Execution wise, we didn't execute early on. So did that noise have an effect on it, you know, I don't know. Sure, maybe it did. I don't know."
(On losing Fackrell)
"We'll know more when we get back on his knee. It was a big part of our defense. He's a big part of our team. Any time a guy goes down like that, it gives another guy an opportunity to step up and rally around it, and there's the first piece of adversity we've faced this year. So now, `how long is he out' and how will we respond as a defense and as a team, we'll see."
(On the challenge to prepare for Tennessee's new players)
"I think in a lot of openers, it's a challenge. We had new players...I can't say that. I think, schematically, they stayed pretty true to form."
On being worried about this carrying over into next week)
(On taking frustrations and making them teaching moments)
That's our job as coaches. We have to deal with the not-so-good and the good times. And we've had a whole lot more good times than the not-so-good times at Utah State. This is a new one for us, and the biggest thing that I want our new kids and our newcomers and our young kids to know is that it is absolutely not acceptable. Absolutely is not. So we will teach, hopefully we will learn, as players and as coaches, a little bit more about ourselves and we'll move on. But, I think there will be a lot of teachable moments."
Utah State Linebacker Nick Vigil
"Today, as a defense as a whole, we didn't play good enough. Third downs, we didn't do good enough in the second half. They had some big plays where we need to eliminate. So we need to watch the film and correct some things."
(On the team's overall performance)
"We expected to play a little better. Honestly, coming into this game we thought we had a pretty good chance to win, but Tennessee outplayed us in every phase of the game. They just were better everywhere tonight, so we can either look at this game and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can watch the film, correct things, and see where it takes us."
Utah State Offensive Lineman Kevin Whimpey
(On UT's defensive front) "I'm going to give all the credit to Tennessee. Obviously, they destroyed us 38-7, or whatever it was, but I think that we beat ourselves up front. We did things to beat ourselves up front, whether it was not getting to our aiming point, or not paying attention to small details that could have changed the course of the game, we didn't. They beat us. They're better than us."
On the reason for not executing on offense
"I thought that we did handle the noise well. We did have one false start. That atmosphere didn't stun us. We didn't come in here thinking, `Oh, my gosh, there's 102,000.' We've played in big games before. I think there were breakdowns on each play, individually. And as an offensive line, when you have an individual breakdown, unfortunately it makes everybody look bad."