Oct. 4, 2008
Head Coach Phillip Fulmer: "First of all, I want to say a really special thank you to all the fans. At the Vol Walk, I was taken aback at the encouragement and energy of that group and really appreciate the same thing all night long.
"We'll take the win. We've been on the short end of a couple of those like that. It was a good football team we played tonight. Defensively, I thought again we played very well. Offensively, we made some steps, I think, in the right direction. We're still not as efficient as we need to be. It seems like everything we do is really hard for us. Like everyone in the stadium pulling for Tennessee, I was very excited about the two big plays we made (offensively). Great play, great throw, outstanding call. It's something for us to build on. We'll take the film, look at it, correct it, learn from it and obviously we've got a big challenge next week at Georgia."
(Regarding quarterback Nick Stephens) "He was extremely poised. There are still a couple of things. The clock was really close a couple of times managing it. It was his first big game. Early especially, I thought he was really in rhythm. I thought he did a nice job.
"When you've got a lead and the other team's not doing very much, you want to be really careful about tossing the ball. It hasn't happened to me but a couple of times, but a couple of times we've tried to finish a game and we've hit the fullback's hand or butt or the tailback doesn't look it in and kicks it around. We were trying to be safe.
"Our defense has played at a very high level this year."
DE Robert Ayers
On the game ... "I feel like we came out and gave a good effort against a good Northern Ill. team. We knew they were going to be tough to slow down on offense. There is a lot to go back and look at and get better for next week. "
On NIU's running quarterback... "We felt like we did a good job in pursuit. They broke contain a couple of times but we did a good job of getting them out of bounds and staying in our rushing lanes."
On getting pressure on the quaterback... "That's our goal. We pride ourselves on getting pressure. WE are not always going to get the sack but if we can get pressure and make the quarterback not be able to get comfortable in the pocket it will pay off in the long run."
DB Eric Berry
On his interception ... "We have been working on it ever since the Florida game when Percy (Harvin) caught that pass in the slot for a first down. Chief (John Chavis) made me tag the slot receiver so I would have him man to man. I just kind of bated the quarterback a little bit and went out for the interception."
QB Nick Stephens
On the offense... "I felt like we moved the ball well tonight. We did a great job at times and we stopped ourselves. We left some points on the field but it's time to go back to the practice field and get better for next week."
On his protection... "With the time that the O line was giving me I could make my reads and I wasn't rushed. Receivers were coming opened everybody was doing their part and we were moving the ball. We just have to keep on that pace."
WR Gerald Jones
On Nick Stephens in the huddle before his first snap... "I think when he first got in they had called a timeout. He was waiting on the tv timeout and he was rushing the ref. The ref told him he had 30 seconds and then 10 seconds later he asked the ref again how much time he had. But he was ready; he was more pumped up than anybody on the offense."
Northern Illinois Quotes
Head Coach Jerry Kill: "First of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Fulmer and Tennessee and the football tradition here. The opportunity to play Tennessee is a dream. It is a tremendous dream for us and I thought our kids played as hard as you could ask anybody to play. We had a chance to win but the big thing is they are bigger, faster and stronger. They have a good football team. There is no question about that. A tremendous defensive football team.
"I think they put together a good scheme and we knew we had to stop the run. We were worried about their physical-ness and certainly the tailbacks. We said we had to lineup, stop the run and make them throw the football. We tried to get as many people in the box as we could and they hit us on a couple but, you have to do that to stop the run. The bottom line is in the game of football you have to be able to stop the run and you have to be able to run the football. They ran the ball a little bit better than we did and that's what it came down to.
"That's the thing about playing Tennessee, they are so physical but, that's Southeastern Conference football."
(On preparing for QB Nick Stephens) "It's not easy and you don't know exactly what they are going to do in his first start. You don't know if they are going to be conservative or if they are going to get down the field with it. I thought they did a great job of doing what they should do with the young man on his start. He had a couple deep balls and made some plays."
DeMarcus Grady, QB: (Increased playing time) "We just had to be prepared. Coaches talk about being ready and it's showed this season, we've used all of our quarterbacks. It's all about being ready."
(Confidence builder) "Absolutely, our whole team feels like we have a great team. Our coaching staff works hard. I feel confident about next week and the upcoming MAC games.
"They're a little faster than the MAC. You just have to make plays and if it wasn't for those guys up front, I wouldn't be able to do anything."
Larry English, DE: "The coaches prepared us well this week and last week having the game defensively that we had, really gave us momentum and confidence coming into this game. We came in here with a lot of confidence. We really just knew one thing; that we were going to come in and play hard. We knew that they obviously had a lot of talented football players. I think the defense played a really good game despite two big plays and those are two we obviously wish we could have back."