Oct. 14, 2008
"It goes without saying that no one is happy at all with the season to this point. We all know and understand that winning cures a lot of things: frustration, confidence level, and those kinds of things that come with having a disappointing season. As I told our football team--and we talked about it as a staff--anybody that has played this game for any length of time has had their struggles at times when things didn't come together like you would have expected them to. Going back to high school or my time as an assistant here or as an assistant at Wichita State, there have been lots of battles to fight. As a head coach, at different times, there have been a few (seasons) like this one where you'd have to persevere and overcome. We've been able to do that in the past and certainly expect to do that again.
"We look at our football team every Sunday as we grade the tape and make evaluations of whose doing well and what schemes are working. We've certainly done that to a greater degree now more than ever. We're looking at our personnel, looking at our practice schedule, looking at our schemes, anything that we can do to do better and change what's going on. We have changed some of the practice schedule routine going into this week with a little bit more game-like situations and full-speed type things to get some of that carryover--for an inexperienced quarterback for example--from practice to the games. Our plans, we feel like, have been good, but our execution has not been there. How can we help, whether it be a guard be better or a tight end be better or a quarterback be better or a safety be better? We have certainly looked and adjusted that some starting today.
"The good thing is that we don't have an effort problem. Our guys are busting their rears if you watch the game on Saturday or go back and watch the tape. There's a lot of really good effort on both sides of the ball. Our defense is flying around but made some mistakes in the course of the ballgame and gave up some big chunks of yards. But I don't see our team making excuses or having a lack of effort. I saw a lot of them come around yesterday to watch tape on their own. I saw a group of quarterbacks and receivers out there on their own throwing and catching in the indoor facility. Those are positive signs that our guys are really listening and staying the course and are anxious to get this turned around like we all want to.
"I have to credit the staff some for that, the energy and their character of how they've approached this, having to work through the disappointment and frustration that comes with not having the kind of season that you would like to have.
"We have a number of issues that we have to address. Early in the season, we were a very good running football team. What has happened to that is people are daring us to run the ball against numbers that are not in our favor. That makes things more difficult. Down and distance becomes a problem, and we haven't been very good in any kind of third-and- medium or third-and-long situation of consistent execution. However, we have in the last two ballgames made people pay for those efforts to play man-to-man and we have to continue to make them pay for it. Denarius Moore has made a couple of really nice plays and Nick (Stephens) has a knack for finding those guys and getting the ball to them with accurate throws. We'll continue to work toward those kinds of plays.
"Mississippi State is a good team. They had a nice win versus Vanderbilt. The tailback is a good player and the quarterback is making plays for them. I think he's given them a lift, much like Nick has for us. The offensive line is physical and they have a good group of receivers and tight ends. They're a real challenge for our defensive football team. Last year they might have been the most physical team that we played, and we're expecting the same kind of football game this year.
"Defensively, they're a very aggressive team that will challenge you. I think Vanderbilt had 107 total yards, which is really not very good at all but good for their defense. We've got to work at it, have a great week of preparation and take that preparation and be as good as we can possibly be in the game. Hopefully, that preparation, some of the full-speed things, will carry over for us."
SELECT SINGLE GAME UT FOOTBALL TICKETS AVAILABLE
Individual game tickets for three remaining University of Tennessee home football contests, including Saturday's home outing against Mississippi State, remain available for purchase online at utsports.com, via phone at (800) 332-VOLS and at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Kickoff for UT-Mississippi State is 7 p.m., with VideoSeat carrying the pay-per-view telecast.
Other games still available are Wyoming (Nov. 8) and Kentucky (Nov. 29). Tickets for Wyoming are $40 each plus shipping and handling. Tickets for Mississippi State and Kentucky are $50 each plus shipping and handling.