Postgame Quotes: Tennessee 31, South Alabama 24

Sept. 28, 2013

Recap |  Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery 1  |  Photo Gallery 2  |  Photo Gallery 3 



(Opening Statement)
"I've been doing this twenty plus years and every win is a good win. It's extremely hard to win in college football. We needed to get to victory number three; we got to victory number three. It's a difficult process, but we got there. I don't think I've ever been in a game like that. You take goods and bads from it. Positive, I'll look at the positive, this team found a way to win. When you're learning to teach individuals how to win, everything is a teaching opportunity. We had anything and everything that could go wrong. We turned the football over, we have a fake field goal, penalties, not getting off the field on third down, and yet we found a way at the end of the game to win a game. We had to run the football out with the clock, and prior to that we had to have a defensive stop, and we found a way to get a defensive stop.

We're going to go back to work tomorrow and work to get better. As we continue to move forward, obviously we can't make mistakes. I wanted a clean game and it was far from that. It's been a grind for these kids. I think that's what people don't realize, it's been a grind for these young men. Back to back opponents on the road, and then coming in here. They gutted it out. We take a lot from this. We have to learn from it and move forward.

I thought we had some really really good individual performances. I thought Rajion Neal stepped up when we needed him to. I really liked what he did. I thought he ran physical, he ran assertive, and he ran with great pad level. I thought at the end we generated pass rush, which was great. Greg King, when they sky kick it and he comes from all the way over trying to get the ball out of bounds, those are things that I look at to continue to build this football team and this football program. We have to get a lot better. I think we all know that. Our margin of error is very very small. We have to be a team that overachieves. It is what it is and we just keep getting better and we learn from it. I'll answer any questions you may have."

(On the team having to learn how to handle success)
"Well it is the small things and it starts with taking care of the football. I think that's a learning process when you're learning how to win, it's also learning how do you handle success. It's a sixty-minute game. I give South Alabama a lot of credit too. I said they're a really well coached football team. Those kids believe. But there is. That's why you work to dominate your opponent for sixty minutes and you never look up at the scoreboard. You just keep playing and fighting on every single snap. That's something that we talk about all the time and we have to continue to improve on that."

(On Justin Worley's game and his interception before the half)
"I don't know if it knocked him off course, but again he's got to learn to throw the football away in that situation. He wasn't helped out with the guys on the perimeter as well and it's a team game. I thought he did some good things moving forward. He made some big throws when we needed them on third and long at the end of the game. Again, it's just the overall management. They brought a lot of pressure and they were trying to impact the quarterback. He needs to learn just one more split second because we had crossing routes, but I'm proud of Justin. Playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee, there's a lot that comes with that and he's learning as we go. I thought he showed some resiliency today."

(On penalties today and what happened with Tiny at the end)
"Again, we pride ourselves in being a disciplined football team. I said it, our margin of error, and we're turning the football over and making penalties, which you can't do. We're going to get it corrected. With Tiny, Tiny's an emotional individual. He's very very competitive and it was just at the end of the game. We had challenged our O-linemen all week to run the football. He's very prideful and I think he got caught up in the emotion of it a little bit. It's my job to make sure that we get him in and get him calmed down and we teach him from that."

(On if the team relaxed up 31-7)
"No, I don't think relaxed. I think we stopped making plays and we stopped paying attention to the small details. The small details lead to the big details. That's the thing; it's that mental conditioning, that mental effort that we talk about. It's a sixty-minute game, it's not a twenty-minute game, and it's not a fifteen-minute game. That's something that we talk about it and it's hard for young individuals to understand that. You look at all the great teams; again, they don't look at the scoreboard. They just keep fighting, playing. I think when you want to win sometimes as badly as we do you tend to look up. You can never relax, great learning point. It's obviously better to teach and correct with a victory in this type of setting. Our players understand, they know. I never want to diminish winning. Let's get that straight right now. Tennessee won the football game. We said we needed to have three wins at this point. We have three wins at this point. We won the football game and this team didn't quit. We found a way to win. To me, that's one of the first steps of learning how to win: managing your adversities, being resilient, persevering, and finding a way to win. You look at all the great teams. They find ways to win football games when maybe you don't bring your "A" game, but you find a way to win. I'm proud of our kids."

(On the fake field goal and the longer field goal after)
"The fake field goal, we had practiced it all week. They were in an overload situation and we had it. Again, penalties, that changes the game. I'd like to think the game's over with and we jumped offsides and illegal procedure. I didn't really see that. He kicked, the holders hand got under the football. That's a great lesson too of covering down and I believe they missed a field goal on that. If we don't cover, we had guys giving great effort to tackle the individual down the sideline, they score and it's a different game. That was a big part. That'll also be a great teaching point moving forward."

(On if this was Rajion Neal's most complete game)
"Yes. Yes, I thought so. I thought he ran with very very good pad level. He got the ball north and south. He gave us some big splash plays and he took care of the football. He's been suffering through some aches and pains. I think he also learned how to play through some pain. I'm proud of him. I thought he played his best game."

(On Marlin lane being banged up)
"Yeah, lower extremity injury. We won't know his status until probably the middle of the week. So, here's Rajion. He's got to be a warrior. He stepped it up and he went. Those are all great lessons and great things."

(On the sack and interception at the end)
"Those were as big as you could imagine. That's right, we found a way to win. Our defensive line took great pride in impacting the quarterback and they got a great push and our secondary did a great job. You find out about your team in critical stretches. That was a pressure situation. We needed a game like this. We needed to find out as we move forward through the SEC schedule. We've had some adversity. We were in a tight game and you really find out which guys step up in those types of circumstances and they did. They were able to generate a pass rush and Brian (Randolph) did a great job taking a knee. They had one timeout left, so we weren't ahead on running and taking a knee. So we needed a first down and we needed to run the ball and we were able to do that and close it out."

(On if he considered putting in any of the true freshman quarterbacks at any point in the game)
"No. When they're ready to play, they'll be ready to play. That's the thing, unfortunately, where we've been with our program, we've had to force a lot of true freshmen to play and play early. We don't have that luxury of just putting them on special teams and letting them gain their confidence before they're into it. You look at Cam Sutton and Devaun Swafford, where would we be without them? We haven't had that luxury, so again, when the quarterbacks are ready, and we think they're ready, and we've been doing this a long time, we'll let them. They continue to get better but I thought Justin did some good things today. Obviously a lot of areas for improvement but I thought he did a good job."

(On the team scoring three straight times in the first half)
"I thought we played with really good tempo and I thought it was a byproduct of field position with our special teams play. I thought Mike Palardy was outstanding. That is monumental when you can put the kickoffs in the end zone and force an opposing offense to start at the 25. I thought his punt, his kickoffs put us ahead in the field position game and then quite simply we had some big plays. I thought we played with good tempo, we got into a rhythm and good things happened and we had some receivers make some plays, which is really good to see."

(On why South Alabama was able to complete so many slant passes over the middle)
"Some of it was his three step drop, some of it was our eyes at linebacker getting the underneath coverage, some of it was man coverage where they worked the 45 and come underneath so it was a byproduct of a lot of little things."

(On how technically sound Cameron Sutton is)
"I think he'd be the first to tell you that he needs to continue to develop his technique and his fundamentals, but when we were recruiting Cameron I went and watched him play basketball. The thing that I saw was we talk about about competitive character and he has great competitive character and he continues to get better and better and he was tried today, they attacked him, and we know moving forward with Georgia coming in here next week and we know that it's part of being a freshman, when an offensive coordinator looks and sees freshman, they're going to try to see what he has but he's just a model of consistency."

(On how much he feels the need to get the freshmen quarterbacks some reps in case something happens to Justin Worley)
"We would like to but first and foremost we live in a week to week society in college football and it's all about winning this game. If I put one of the freshmen in and we lost the game, you all would be sitting here saying to me 'why did you put the freshman in?' See, that's the beauty of your pen, the power of second guessing so I've always learned to go with my gut instinct, and you know I love you just to get that out there, but I want to make sure they're ready to go, and yes, we do have to get them reps but this was the first week that we tried to simulate as many game-like conditions in practice and we'll continue to do that. At the end of the game I believed in Justin, even throughout the course of the game. And Justin needs as many repetitions, just like the freshmen do, so as many repetitions as he can gain, the better.

(On Michael Palardy)
"He's done a great job. He was a great contributor to the victory today. With his kickoffs, his punting, he had what I believe was a 40 yard field goal and he's been a model of consistency."

(On why the defense was able to bounce back and not allow any points in the first half after South Alabama's opening drive)
"I think we settled down. They went through their script and they did a great job. A lot of lateral type plays, getting the ball out on the perimeter, spitting the ball out there fast and making our defense run sideline to sideline and they're a good football team. They're well coached, they have a running quarterback, and any time you add a running quarterback to the mix it adds another dynamic, and they executed. I thought we missed some tackles early. Big plays on defense that they're giving up. Lost leverage football plays and mental errors and missed tackles, and we lost leverage on the ball a number of times. I thought when we settled down we contained the football and force everything back into the middle of the field."

(On if he thinks the wide receivers have made strides in being more aggressive when the ball is in the air)
"I did. Josh Smith ran a great route and went and got the football. When you look at where we're at as a program, we had two freshmen score their first touchdowns today: AJ Branisel and Josh Smith. They'll continue to progress and get better. We've worked extremely hard at what we call high pointing the football and attacking the ball in the air. I thought Jason Croom really stepped up today. I thought he did some good things as well."

(On why it seems Justin Worley and Marquez North have struggled to get on the same page)
"Repetitions I think, and timing. Marques is still going through the nuances of being a college wide receiver. He was basically a high school running back last year so he's learning and wide outs paint pictures for the quarterback and everything in the throw game is rhythm, spacing and timing. Each play has a life of its own so sometimes it may be Justin, sometimes it's Marquez but we have to get that fixed and fixed in a hurry."

(On preparing for another top 25 opponent)
"First, our players are intelligent. They understand what's at stake, they understand the program that we're facing in Georgia, and that they're a great football team, but we have to concern ourselves with ourselves. If we turn the football over we'll have zero chance. We have to take care of the football, we have to be disciplined and we can't make penalties, and we have to tackle and we have to play great complimentary football, offense, defense and special teams. We're going to go back to work tomorrow and continue to work to get better."

(On how important it is for the defense to create interceptions)
"It's big. They've done a great job. It's seven nothing, and we talk about being responsible for creating our own opportunities, we're responsible for creating our own momentum. The first interception of the game kind of switched the momentum and gave us three points. It kind of got South Alabama out of their rhythm a little bit. Our players have done a great job. It's little things, like the tip drill. If LaDarrell comes down with that right there, then ball game over. These are all great things that you can go back and continue to work and strive to get better, especially after a victory."


(On finding a groove and staying with it)
"We started out with play calling. Coach (Mike) Bajakian had a really good scheme going into the game. We really came out after the first couple of drives and started executing it. We converted on some third downs that helped with my confidence as well as the offense. Getting in that groove was good we came out third quarter, marched down the field and scored then it kind of fell off. We just have to work at being a little more consistent through the long run."

(On having great offense then throwing an inception)
"It hurts pretty bad. It sucks. You don't want to go through the situation. It is kind of hard to bounce back from that, but my teammates did a great job saying we got your back. Coach Jones always uses the term snap and clear that is a great example of that."

(On what happened with the interception)
"We reped it several times throughout the week and it was just a little miscommunication between Pig (Howard) and I. I was expecting him to run out of his break and he read the defense. It was just a little miscommunication."

(On shaking confidence)
"I mean throwing a pick especially in the end zone when we are driving late in the second quarter, it hurts. It rattles you a little bit but I thought we bounced back the first drive of the third quarter and responded well and how we should have."

(On feeling the three score drive in the first half)
"That was probably the best overall we have felt running the ball and throwing the ball just knowing what to expect from the defense, picking it up and things like that. They were a high pressured team and we did a great job for the most part today picking it up especially in run blocking as well, helping spit out some of those explosive runs."

(On running the ball yourself)
"Finally had some pull keys, a lot of the teams in the past couple of weeks were playing both the running back and quarterback. This week there were pursing hard towards the running backs especially after some of those big runs in certain situations so we could run the ball a little bit."

(On calling being predetermined)
"The runs in the past were all defender reads so none of them have been predetermined."

(On thinking I wish I would have kept the ball)
"Sometimes it happens and you think I might have been able to keep that but for the most part you have a safety coming down to fit on a gap you are running to or a situation like that. It may have looked like something was there but chances are there weren't."

(On balancing quarterback play)
"We've installed just about every week. I think the wide receivers are doing a great job picking it up. We haven't thrown too much at them, but there's still a lot we can work on and also install. I don't think we've shown our full deck of cards yet."

(On Rajion Neal)
"Yes. Rajion did a great job. It starts up front with the offensive line. They did a great job picking up the blitzes like I said earlier, creating holes for both him and Marlin [Lane]. I thought both of them ran the ball exceptionally well."

(On running the ball)
"Yes. Definitely. When we spit out some big runs, even just eight or nine yarders, to make it second and two, it really opens up our offense and really helps with getting a drive going."

(On younger wide receivers)
"Yes for sure. I want to say, Wednesday, Jason Croom probably had the best catch of his life going up atop one of our DBs in the end zone, just bring the ball down. Definitely. They've done a great job working on that, catch the ball eye level or higher as we say, just going up, making the play, being playmakers."

(On Marquez North)
"I mean, each play has a life of its own. Some things have happened in the past, little nuances that we haven't quite been on the same page with. It just comes with repetition in practice. It will continually progress as the season goes on."

"He goes out and works every day-- doesn't show a sign of frustration when it comes to catching balls in a game or anything like that. He goes out and works. He puts in the time to be an elite receiver."

(On freshmen quarterbacks)
"I appreciate that out of him. I know all four of us, Nathan [Peterman] included, put both him and coach Bajakian in a bind because of our progression in the offensive scheme and how we've done in practice, but hearing him say that he has my back like that-- that means a lot."

(On South Alabama game)
"Looking back on it, we had some missed opportunities-- threw the interception in the end zone, also another interception in the end zone before that, just missed out on some opportunities. We were trying to give them the game and they made it a game, so having our defense step up like that and having faith in the guys across the board, it's good to have. It was a little nerve rattling knowing that we might have to go down in a two minute situation and score but our defense had our back and they had a great stop."


(On how the defensive line helped them)
"It definitely helped us because the pressure is big. We made the quarterback feel uncomfortable and he got erratic and threw us one."

(On third downs)
"We just have got to focus on getting off the field on third down, that's a big thing for us. We definitely have to do a better job at that. We just have to work on it this week and get better."

(On stopping slant routes)
"It was just a good call for the defense we were in. Every coverage has a little thing where there is a hole in it so they were just hitting the holes. But for the most part it was probably just the scheme of it."

(On South Alabama's comeback bid)
"We just knew we had to go out there and compete. The game's not over until it's over and we just have to go out there and make plays and that's what we tried to do. Don't let up and try to get interceptions and ball disruptions."

(On what they learned about themselves)
"I fell like as a team no one started pointing the finger at anybody, everybody just kept calm and just had to go out there and do our job. I just felt we were brothers out there and we know that we can count on each other."

(On last year's Georgia game)
"I wasn't there, I was hurt so I was watching it on TV. They've got a powerful run game, we've just got to be able to stop that and then stop the passing game."


(On South Alabama gaining momentum at the end of the game)
"South Alabama is a talented team, they play hard, and they executed their game plan well. They made some adjustments. It worked for them."

(On pushing through and getting the win)
"Everybody's real proud with one another. You can't say we would have done this a year or so ago, but you could tell the team is really coming together ready to fight and compete on each down no matter what the circumstance is."

(On gaining confidence from the team's play in the fourth quarter)
"Definitely, the whole game is a learning experience, from the first to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter we came out and we fought, we didn't give up when they made a couple plays and things were going south for us. We just kept fighting."

(On mentality of the defense in the huddle)
"Surprisingly, nobody really said anything. He just gave us a call, everyone knew what the situation was, we had to have a stop to win the game. Words really wouldn't have to be spoken. We just went and got the call and went out and played."

(On finishing out the game as compared to last year)
"It showed that we have matured as a team and that we're willing to fight. Overcome things, when things go bad, and we need something done it shows that we can go out and get it. It was a good confidence building experience and we're just happy we came out with the win."

(On learning to win despite penalties and setbacks)
"Coach Jones is trying to bring the winning back to Tennessee, trying to get this program back to where it was. It was just a good experience all together, when things went bad it was really sloppy, but you know there's a lot of thing we can fix and get better at next week."

(On the team's mentality after the two road losses, then playing today)
"I wouldn't say it was too tough. It was just the mentality we have to have on this team. No matter what goes on the week before, we just have to come out here and play. We can't use last week or the week before as an excuse for how we play, we just have to come out here and get it done."

(On South Alabama's QB and Offensive Line)
"Our pass rushing lanes broke down a couple times. He got loose on us, he's a pretty athletic guy, and he can run a little bit. We just have to go back to work on our pass rushing lanes and containing the quarterback in the pocket. We knew he could run and we just wanted to make the quarterback sit in the pocket. He got out a couple times and made a couple big plays, but we pretty much just have to fix that."

(On sticking with the receiver)
"It gets tough because you want to turn back and see what he's doing, see if he's running, and we can't do that. Not until he crosses the ball, and then we can come out of coverage. We just have to lock onto our man and then wait until he crosses the ball, then we take it."


(On how a game like this can help them)
"You know it just showed how hard we worked, how resilient we are as a team just coming together and getting that team victory. You know the offense struggled a little bit but they kept grinding and the defense grinded so you know we made plays at the end."

(On if he agreed with Butch Jones that they needed a game like South Alabama as a teaching tool)
"It just showed the leadership. You know, Brian Randolph, Corey Miller, Big Dan, all made plays at the end getting pressure on the quarterback. We need everybody on this team to do their job and we did."

(On his interception)
"D-line, we had a spy on the quarterback so that was what I was doing. The d-line got a lot of good pressure and got a hand on the ball. I just ran to the ball and caught it."

(On how often they used a spy on the quarterback)
"We spied four or five times. We knew they could run a lot - No. 7 and No. 2 so they were a big threat."

(On creating turnovers)
"It's real big. We preach that every day in practice you know stripping the ball, ball disruptions so I know coach loves that."

(On shutting them down after their initial touchdown)
"Just calming down and just doing our jobs, everybody's job. That's how we stopped them for a little while and then they're resilient, fighting back and I give credit to that team. They were a good team."

(On calming down)
"Just get the jitters out. You know everybody's a little up at the beginning of the game, you know adrenaline rush so everyone calmed down and focused on their job at hand."

(On preparing to Georgia)
"Oh yea, we need a lot of productivity from our d-line, getting pressure on [Aaron] Murray and just stopping that run and just fitting the gaps right as linebackers and DB's."

(On last year's game vs. Georgia)
"You know I remember their running backs. Great two running back tandem they have with No. 4 and then Gurley and their quarterback was really good so we've got to stop those."


(On miscues in the second half)
"Well what happened was, we started to not execute right, and they made a lot of big plays on us, and they got a couple quick passes, and they just rolled down the field on us. We shouldn't let that happen, and we can work on that for the next opponent, Georgia."

(On how fast the team has to learn with their difficult upcoming schedule) "We got to learn pretty fast because we got a couple of big SEC games coming up, with Georgia, Bama, and South Carolina. So it's going to be a tough test, but we're going to be prepared."

(On this game being McCullers' best game of the season)
"Yeah I would say so, cause they actually ran the ball a lot in the middle, and you know they ran toward me. So, when they did, I had to make the plays. I did."

(On what made today McCullers' best day)
"I say just cause they ran the ball a lot. They didn't run to the outside a lot. You know run outside, and then running backs can make most of the plays. So they actually ran in the middle. So I just made a couple of plays."

(On this being one of McCullers' best days in terms of intensity and energy)
"Yeah, we in Neyland Stadium, you know we had a lot of energy, you know coming back home from the two losses. So, you know we had to come out with some energy, and run to the ball, and make plays."

(On what Coach Jones said to the team after the game)
"He said he's proud of us because we fought through and we won a game. We finished it off, but we still have to continue to work, because we have a tough schedule ahead of us. So, we got to get better."


(On playing rhythm)
"I think once we got going in the first half that we felt really good as an offense. So that is good, and we got some good momentum there."

(On if they played at the desired tempo)
"Definitely, I think we scored 31 straight points. We were running the ball really well. So yes, I think we were playing to our tempo."

(On keeping the tempo for four quarters)
"We need to continue to work and get better. We have to stay calm when bad stuff happens. We need to stick to our stuff and keep our poise, and really just keep playing hard the entire game."

(On finishing games)
"Based on what happened today, I think that is definitely something we can improve on."

(On A.J. Branisel)
"A.J. has done great. From day one to now, he has come an extremely long way. Now we are moving to where we feel more comfortable with him in there, and he was able to get a touchdown today. So he has definitely come a really long way."

(On why the team needed a game like this)
"Things just don't go how we want them to in the second half. At the end we found a way to win it, the defense really stepped up. Then the offense was able to get a first down and run the clock out. It was a little messy there in the second half, but we got the win in the end."

(On the offense at the end of the first half)
"It felt really good. We had big plays in the run game, which is really good, and we were just moving the ball really well and really consistently."

(On what changed in the second half)
"I really can't put my finger on it honestly, so I really don't know. We will just have to go back and watch the film. We will get it corrected, and definitely learn from it."



(Opening statement)
"They (Tennessee) ran through us in the first half, and we didn't have anything offensively other than that first drive. We came in at halftime and I challenged them to come out and fight. And they did that. We were eight yards from making unbelievable history, but we didn't do it. I am proud of the way we fought; we did some great things in the second half. My hat's off to my team. Tennessee has a really good football team; they did a good job against us. But I'm just real proud of the way our kids fought."

(On the second half)
"Defensively it was just a matter of stopping the zone play. They were cutting behind us a lot and we were over-running the play, so we tried to slow them down on the backside. Offensively, it just came down to us going back to our stuff. The new wrinkles we added for the game didn't really work. We went back to running a lot of base plays that we always run, and that really helped us."

(On what the team will take from the game)
"We know how to fight; we're not going to give up. But that's an SEC team that is pretty good that we played down to the wire. We lost the ballgame and we need to correct those things, but I was proud of the way we fought back."

(On Ross Metheny's play)
"Ross is just always steady. He is always going to compete and make the right throws. I'm real proud of the way he played down the stretch."

Defensive End Alex Page

(On second-half defensive adjustments)
"We made some adjustments on what side we were pressuring on; we started to mix it up as far as our pressure. After we made that adjustment we were able to shut them down."

(On head coach Joey Jones' halftime speech)
"We understood him, and knew we had to play better than we did in the first half. We trusted the coaches and went out and executed better (in the second half). I think we played a little harder in the second half because we didn't want to get embarrassed. We showed them that we really can play."

(On what the team can take from the game)
"Something we learned since the first game is that it is a 60-minute game. That's held true for every game so far, and it will keep holding true. We know that now. You have to play the whole game; you never know what will happen."

Quarterback Ross Metheny

(On the second-half comeback)
 "The message in the locker room was that we have to come out and fight, what do we have to lose? Really, the plays we ran in the first half we just weren't executing at a high enough level, and I think we came out in the second half and started executing better. That put us in a position to be successful and we started to get some drives together."

(On how it felt to move the ball)
 "It was encouraging. They are a pretty good football team; to be able to hang in there with them and be in a position to win the football game at the end, we're proud of that. But, it's a tough one to swallow."

(On how disappointing falling short is)
 "We came out with the mindset that we wanted to win the football game, I think we did a great job of responding to some adversity at halftime. Coming out in the second half our defense picked it up and played really well and offensively we started putting some drives together, and ultimately came up eight yards short. While it's encouraging it's also disappointing, but we'll watch film, make corrections and move on."





  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago