Sept. 5, 2009
Head Coach Lane Kiffin
Opening Statement: "We had a rocky start there at the beginning. I was very impressed with our style on defense for most of the day, but especially early on. At one point halfway through the second quarter, I think they had one first down and five penalties. So I am excited about the way we played on defense, especially early, but I'm a little disappointed with the way we played on offense. It was turnovers; we were hurting ourselves. Usually, if you struggle on offense, it's a bunch of third downs you're not making. We didn't even have a third down at one point. We hadn't punted, hadn't had a third down, but we didn't have any points so unfortunately we weren't taking care of the ball and that was disappointing to see.
"At one point, they way they came back after that first quarter, scoring 63 points in three quarters was good to see. But we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Today there were a lot of things that reminded us of how much work we have to do. But to get our first game under our belt, it was exciting. The band was awesome. The Vol Walk was unbelievable. The fans were just so special today. It was really neat."
On the defensive performance by Tennessee: "At one point in the third quarter, I think they were -4 total yards, so that was great. They had the one long drive, which we had put in some backups by then. We've got to build our backups up and play better. We took out Nick (Reveiz), and as soon as we took out Nick they went right down the field. Not that that's one person's fault, but whoever goes in there has got to perform. Nick and Eric (Berry) came out and the first drive they went right down the field.
"I was pleased with how physical they played, the style they played. There were a lot of big hits out there and a lot of people capping off the huddle. Guys were still up and finishing plays and playing with great effort. So I was very pleased with that."
On the players being able to bounce back from a difficult 2008 season: "I think it's very good to see, because as you guys know there's been a big job here offensively as far as building their confidence. This is a quarterback and an offensive line that has been torn apart for a while now. And to see Jonathan (Crompton) throw for five touchdowns today, more than he threw all of last year combined, was really good for him. I've been trying to tell everybody who will listen that the guy is as prepared as anybody. He's done a great job, he's had a great offseason, he's been a great leader. I think that showed today. He had two interceptions that were tipped balls and weren't his fault. I thought he played extremely well.
"And then up front, to give up no sacks, although the batted balls were an issue. Part of that was because there was some dead rush on the defensive line because we were rushing the ball so well. But to give up no sacks was good to see up front. To have 657 yards or something means that you're doing things right and being consistent."
On going for it early on fourth down and challenging his own defense: "I didn't want us to do what happened. I didn't want us to come out of the locker room and not score. We really got onto them at halftime about how they were not playing to the level that we needed them to play. We really challenged them. They came in feeling pretty good about themselves, and that's not what championship teams do. So we got into them and I really think the momentum switched right there. The defense responded right there and I think went three-and-out. It was a good position to put our defense in. You're going to go for it on fourth down sometimes and not get it. That was good practice for our defense."
On using the victory to set a tone for the season: "I think there is a lot to your team having a certain personality, and I think today, for the most part, we played with that personality. We were a very physical, aggressive team that played pretty smart for the most part. I think we ended up with six penalties. In a game like that when you have six penalties for 45 yards, and one of them being a 15-yarder, when you play that many guys, it's a pretty good job. I've never said how many games we're going to win or how good we're going to be. I've said we're going to be physical and play smart, and you saw that today. We've got a lot of work to do before next week because we have a really good team coming in here."
On the success of the young players: "I thought that we spent a lot of time with their mentality, making sure we could calm them down as much as we could. And sure enough, Nu'Keese puts the first punt on the ground. But I thought Bryce (Brown) did well, and I thought Marsalis (Teague) was not a freshman today. He did not look like a freshman. As a receiver, a lot of times you see them line up and the quarterback has got to move them around, or you'll see a false start, or they're not on the line of scrimmage when they're supposed to be. I thought Marsalis was extremely impressive, especially for him to start and all the pressure with that. It's easy to be Bryce. Bryce came in after a couple of carries and Hardesty has them going. I was most proud of Marsalis of all those guys, and then Bryce played really well. He had a great hit on the tipped-ball interception that we were able to get back because we forced a fumble. He's an explosive player. I was disappointed in his long run down the right sideline the way he finished, and we pulled him. He ran out of bounds and did not finish in the style that we play with here. So that was disappointing, but he'll learn from that."
On his emotions of the day: "I really had to make sure that I did not go up and down today, because that's what I talked about with our team a long time last night - dealing with the emotions of a wonderful scene like the Vol Walk, a wonderful event like running through the T and playing in front of 100,000 people. That's to our advantage in a lot of ways, but we have to manage that with our players. So if I'm out of whack and I'm up and down, they're going to respond to that. So I had to make sure I stayed really even throughout the day."
QB Jonathan Crompton
Opening statement: "It feels good to play a game against a team. For so long, we've been going against our defense. It was fun to start it off in the second quarter. In the first quarter, we gave some things away, so we have to correct that for next week."
On his approach after first quarter turnovers: "That's part of the game. Things happen. It's 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how you respond to it. Seeing our team come back coming back, saying, `Let's just forget about it and keep playing' and having a short-term memory, we did a good job responding to it."
On UT's play in the second quarter: "The first quarter we weren't down, but we felt like we should have scored. The second quarter felt really good, scoring points and getting in a groove and let it carry over."
RB Montario Hardesty
"We've been working for nine months to get to this point. I think we came out a little slow, but once we got together, I think our offense started jelling. We started putting our identity on how we wanted to play this year."
On beginning the new season: "We wanted to come out and show how were were going to set up our season and try to set up our identity at the team. Coach Kiffin's relentless on defense and relentless on offense. I think we started on a good foot and we started Coach Kiffin on a good foot, and we've got to keep doing that for the rest of the season."
On overcoming early turnovers: "We talked last night about the `two-second rule.' You remember it for a second. The coaches remember it for a second. Then you move on. We accomplished that today."
On the first scoring drive: "Coach Kiffin said to come out and pound them, and that's what we did. We pounded the rock. That's going to be what we do this year. We ran the ball good and passed the ball good. That's us."
On the offensive line: "It feels good. Going through the whole fall camp and spring, I've been saying our o-line can dominate games. Once our o-line got going, it really helped our running game. I can go make little runs, but it all starts out front. Those guys are the foundation of our team."
LB LaMarcus Thompson
On the first quarter: "When one part of the team needs it, you have to pull them up and you have to keep going and get them fired up. I think we accomplished that."
On the game plan: "Our mindset was very good. We were very mentally prepared. We went through a ton of walkthroughs, a ton of run-throughs, so we could execute and play very fast."
S Eric Berry
On the first quarter: "No matter what the offense is doing, no matter what the opponent is doing, you have to keep stopping them. You have to keep making plays."
On the game plan: "Our coaches put in numerous hours in the office getting the game plan ready. All we had to do was buy in and do what they told us."
On the NCAA record: "Coach told me to just keep playing defense and doing what I'm doing. That's what I'm doing, just focusing on where I need to be. If it happens, it happens"
Western Kentucky Quotes
Head Coach Dave Elson
On the defeat: "We played one quarter of decent football, and then I think for the next three quarters we were physically dominated. That's very disappointing. We'll have to look at the film and figure out exactly what was causing us to be completely inept on both sides of the ball. We're going to have to learn from it and get ready for a Big East opponent. We learned today that we can't play with the SEC so now we'll see if we can step up and play with South Florida (next week)."
On his players facing such a high-level of competition: "Nothing feels good right now, but as I looked out there and watched the game I noticed there was a lot of guys getting some very good experience against very good competition. I told them in the locker room if we approach the game the right way there is going to be a ton of teachable situations. This can really propel us to some major improvement going into game two and going into the rest of the season."
On the game plan heading into the contest: "With first games I've always felt the same way - you just run your system. You've got your core plays that you've been working on since preseason camp. You look to see how they are going to align to certain things. Obviously, you've got to be aware of where No. 14 (Eric Berry) is. We didn't do a great job with that. Offensively, we just didn't do a good job. We didn't get a first down in the first half. You have to give credit to their defense. Their speed on defense I thought was a difference. We were not ready for it."
QB Brandon Smith
On the first game offense: "We came in with a lot of excitement, with a lot of hype around this game, but offensively we didn't get the job done. We started out slow in the first half, but put a nice drive together in the third quarter. We've got to have a faster start than we did today."
On the noise and challenge of playing in front of a large crowd: "It really wasn't that big of an issue. We practiced for it. We knew what was going to happen. Last year we had a lot of games with big noise. It really wasn't that much of a factor today."
LB Thomas Majors
On the defense: "On defense it all starts up front. After the first quarter, I don't know what happened. We shut them out in the first quarter, but after that we just shut down. We couldn't get any penetration up front and the offense was blowing us off the ball. We just got beat, no if ands or buts about it. We've got to learn from it, watch film and get ready for next week."
On being from Nashville and being recruited to Tennessee: "It was an experience; I was recruited by Tennessee coming out of high school and a little bit in junior college. I always thought I'd play on Tennessee's field, I just didn't think it would be like this."