Vanderbilt-South Carolina Postgame Quotes

Sept. 1, 2016

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Vanderbilt — South Carolina Postgame Quotes
Sept. 1, 2016
Vanderbilt Stadium

Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason
Opening Comments:
“Give a lot of credit to South Carolina. They played hard. They’re a scrappy football team. They battled. They kept fighting and clawed back into the game. They made the most of their opportunities and we didn’t. We were inconsistent.

“South Carolina did a good job of flipping the field. Their kicker, an All-American, did a great job of putting it through the uprights.

“It’s a game that we’ll learn from. We’re just going from week one to week two right now. We need to play better offensively. It’s only game one. We’ll go back to work tomorrow and get ready for our next game.

“I told the team that this is where your character gets tested, not defined. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”

On the early quarterback change:
“It was predetermined. We needed to get Wade [Freebeck] a series or two… Kyle [Shurmur] needed to find more rhythm. He didn’t have rhythm. We needed to make some plays. We wanted to find momentum in our [passing game].

“You forget that we went into halftime up 10-0. We had an opportunity to come out after halftime and play ball. [The loss] was about us not playing well in the second half.

“Wade is one play away from having to start. [If] Kyle went out for whatever reason, I didn’t want [that snap] to be Wade’s first snap.”

On Vanderbilt’s offense:
“We needed consistency in the passing game. Kyle has to play better. Our defense has to play better. Our special teams have to play better. There’s enough of this to go around. We just have to keep working. You didn’t see turnovers this game. You saw inconsistency.”

On third down defense in the second half:
“We called two coverages where we should have had two interceptions. We didn’t always take advantage of the opportunities that were there. We have to be better at playing defense on third down.”

On the team’s emotions:
“It was every emotion you could have. I just finished telling the team that tomorrow the sun will come up. Every decision we made will be questioned. The bottom line is we didn’t win this game. Now we have to get back to next week and play MTSU.”

OLB Oren Burks
On how the loss felt after having the lead:
“Lets just take this one game, it definitely hurts. We have worked very hard to perform and I feel that it wasn’t enough tonight. Bottom line it just wasn’t enough.

On what South Carolina did in the second half that was so effective:
“I don’t think it was anything that they did, I just think it is us not executing our defense. I don’t know, we just didn’t execute at the end of the day and it is on us.”

On what needs to happen so Vanderbilt can win games like this:
“Two things that can happen from this game, lay down and quit or grow and get better. So I am choosing to grow and get better. I know this team is committed to do whatever it takes to be successful. Tonight we didn’t do it, it just wasn’t enough so we have to keep pushing and that is it.”

On what positives you can take from this game:
“Just go back in the film, we have to have a short term memory. This is going to be a long season and we are going to have to take it one game at a time and just fix the little things that is really going to make a big difference in our games.”

LB Nigel Bowden
On how to keep the locker room in a good place:
“We all know, as a whole, we are a family and everybody has to stick together. So there is no finger pointing, everybody just has to do their job.”

On how confident the defense was on the last drive:
“We were very confident on the sideline, keeping up with the offense the whole time as they were driving down the field. Also, we are used to coming back on the field and playing top down defense so our confidence was always high at that point.”

On how they handled South Carolina switching quarterbacks:
“We schemed against both of them the same. We knew the young quarterback was going to be more of a runner, actually both of them were going to be runners so I think we executed that pretty well. The only thing that goes back to is that everybody has to be in their gaps, everybody has to do their jobs and feel where they need to be fitted.”

QB Kyle Shurmer
On if he knew about the quarterback switch in the week leading up to the game:
“They told me that Wade (Freebeck) was going to play and I was prepared for that. Wade went in. We had prepared for that to happen and we had some momentum and I thought Wade was going to do a great job when he went in there. We were confident. They are confident with me or Wade in there.”

On if he lost any rhythm from not playing those two series after the touchdown:
“I don’t know about that. Whoever is in there we’ve got to execute. It doesn’t matter.”

On the inconsistency in the passing game:
“We just didn’t execute as a whole. Starts with me, obviously I have to play a lot better, but all of us as a whole have to play a lot better. It’s a team game and we just have to play better. It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, but we are going to get up in the morning and move on to MTSU.”

On if this loss any harder to get over with it being the opener:
“It’s just one of 12 games right now. We’ve just got to move on. That’s it.”

On if South Carolina did anything defensively in the second half to mix things up and stifle the offense:
“No, they were pretty consistent. We weren’t completely surprised by anything they were doing.”

On what happened in the second half to make the offense not move the ball as effectively:
“We as players, we have to execute better. That’s it. Plain and simple.”

On if the last drive on offense felt like it was going in for the touchdown or setting up for the field goal:
“We were just going in to score by whatever means possible. You know, at that point we thought those were the best plays to run so we ran them and that was it.”

On if he was frustrated that the chemistry he had developed with his receivers over the summer didn’t translate in the game:
“All of us as a group are pretty frustrated. We’re not disappointed we are just frustrated about this because we know we are a lot better. As an offense, as a team, as a whole we know we are a lot better than what we showed. We are not necessarily disappointed we are frustrated, but we are going to move on to MTSU when we wake up tomorrow morning.”

RB Ralph Webb
On Khari Blasingame’s game tonight and being able to get a breather every now and then:
“I think Khari did great. It was his debut at running back looking to transition from linebacker. He looked pretty good out there and it’s nice to have more depth. We still have a lot more guys who can play, but Khari is definitely going to be great for us this season.”

On if the last drive on offense felt like it was going in for the touchdown or setting up for the field goal:
“We were trying to score by any means possible. The coaches know the game plan. We just go out there and execute.”

On what they were doing to slow the offense down and the run game in the second half:
“It’s always going to be tough the first game. You just have to keep pounding and keep at it. They had a few guys in the box, brought the safety down sometimes, but we’ve just got to find a way to make it happen.”

On what was the difference between moving the ball and finishing drives:
“We’ve just got to find a way to execute. We’ve just got to complete drives and be consistent. We were pretty inconsistent tonight on offense. We’ve just got to make sure we go out to practice this week and be consistent.”

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp
Opening Statement:
“I’m extremely proud of our players. Really a gutsy performance, it didn’t start pretty. We have prepped a situation to stay in the end zone on the opening kickoff. Because of ball security, we went with Deebo [Samuel] in the punt return. It’s the first time he’s done it; we’ll get it straightened out. We had a naked call early in the game, we had a lineman in one of our base calls who was eight yards down the field – it was his first start, so there was a lot of firsts for this football team, but if you want to talk about guts and laying your body out on the barbed wire, and making plays when you had to make plays, and making catches and doing things that good teams do. On the road and against a very good defensive football team, I can’t tell you how proud I am of our staff and our entire strength staff in our preparation for the first game, and how our guys responded in a hostile situation, and it didn’t go well early. I’ll be as honest as I can be: it is one of the things I told our staff, I said, ‘I’m really worried if it doesn’t go well early. How will we respond? I have no idea.’ [The team] responded the way you [are supposed to] respond. We will build on this and there are so many things to correct. Thank goodness we have the weekend to work and we’ll work every minute of it to get prepared and get it right to go to Mississippi State next weekend. It was a great win, so proud of our guys. We got banged around a little in the run game on defense, we got displaced in some gaps, we’ll get that corrected. Just some really gutsy plays offensively and defensively as the game wore on and I’m extremely proud of this football team and I’m proud to be the head coach of South Carolina.”

You said you were confident in Elliott [Fry] up to 52 yards in camp, what made you confident from 55 [yards] tonight?
“We felt in pregame, because the wind was blowing that way, [special teams coach] Coleman Hutzler felt he was good from 38 and in, meaning a 55-yard field goal, so we felt good from that range because of the wind. We did not feel as good going the other way. In pregame, we go through and talk in terms of where Fry feels good and kicking into the scoreboard, because there was more wind there, he felt good from the 32 or 33. Given the situation on 3rd-and-6, I thought they’d call a timeout to save some time at the end of the game, but they didn’t and we were able to milk the time down and got exactly the look we wanted knowing that we would go out there with [Vanderbilt] having one timeout remaining with about 38 to 42 seconds in the game to play. I had total confidence that he was going to hit the thing. [Fry] is really good, he has been a good kicker for a long time. We’re going to have to win some games like this. That is kind of our m.o. right now.”

What was the plan for quarterbacks tonight?
“We wanted to see how things went with Perry [Orth] and we wanted to play Brandon [McIlwain] during the first quarter and give him an opportunity, he deserves to play. He deserves to start too, but it is just the fact that if you look at our offense, [offensive lineman] Mason Zandi is the only player who has double digit starts. I think we had a combined six starts with the rest of the offense. As you saw from the opening kickoff, that is just something that young players go through. I did not want to put Brandon in that situation. I don’t think it is good to put a young quarterback in that situation and for him to lose confidence, because we’re going to need Brandon McIlwain to play well for us this year and I didn’t think that would be fair to him. Perry has been to Knoxville, Baton Rouge and a lot of places, so he understands what it takes in those situations and obviously made some really nice throws when we needed it.”

Can you just speak about how it feels walking off the field 1-0?
“At the end of the day, I will watch the film on Saturday and we will be going recruiting tomorrow. We’ll evaluate what we need to do moving forward and just from sitting on the sidelines, there is a lot to work on. We have the time to do it, we have a little extra time as a staff to prepare our team for Mississippi State. You can’t coach guts, you can’t coach toughness, you can’t coach relentless attitude and that is what our guys have. We’ll continue to build off of that.”

QB Perry Orth
In the first half, it seemed like you all struggled to get into a rhythm. Do you think it was Vanderbilt’s defense or something self inflicted?
“They [Vanderbilt] had shown us somethings that we weren’t expecting. And yeah, probably some self-inflicted stuff like first game jitters. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I’m glad that we were able to start moving the ball. We got stopped a few times, but we showed over the course of the game that we were capable of moving the ball. There are a lot of things we can build on.”

Were you more comfortable in the second half?
“Absolutely. Once you hit your first decent completion, you start to get a better feel of the game and things start to come to you. Coach was able to put together a good plan for us and I just went out there and tried to do what he said.

How did those last two drives feel when y’all really started getting momentum after the first three quarters?
“It was how we felt when we played during camp. It was good to feel that in a real game. It was relieving because in your first game, you don’t understand and you don’t know how you’re going to be offensively. It was good to show we are capable of moving the ball.”

On that last drive, were you confident when you walked off the feel and Elliot Fry had to go kick?
“Absolutely. I’ve seen him make those in practice and he’s made a few clutch kicks in previous games. I knew if we got the ball close to the 35, then we would have a chance.”

You talked about the importance of winning and keeping momentum. When you walk off the field, how does it feel to know you won?
“It’s huge. Being 1-0 you have a completely different outlook going on to the next game. Confidence is high. We struggled a lot last year during the closing moments of the game so it was good to see us pull through and come out and win.”

Did you know about the quarterback lineup change beforehand?
“Me and Brandon knew for about a week how the rotation was going to go. I knew I was going to start the game off but Brandon was going to play. And he deserves it, y’all saw him play tonight. He showed some signs where he is going to be a big-time player for us and he is going to go out and play throughout the course of the season.”

OL Mason Zandi
What did you see from Bryan today that makes you think you are going to be successful this season?
“I think we have a whole host of talented guys. I think we are a little undiscovered right now but as you can see, we got tons of talented guys and we can compete in this conference.”

After the long first three quarters, how nice was it putting it all together there at the end of the game?
“It was a big relief. To piggy-back off of what Perry was saying, we have been doing these things in camp. We were able to run these plays effectively in camp and to be able to put it all together in a game setting is a great feeling and great momentum going forward.”

There were some problems and rough penalties early on, what did Shawn Elliot say to you guys?
“Yeah, there was a false start and two holding penalties in the first couple of drives. We told the guys to calm down, and play the game we know how to play. We are a confident group upfront and we had each other’s back.”

Overall, do you think you handle Vanderbilt’s defense well?
“I think we were well prepared coming into this game. We knew what kind of fronts they were going to show us and how they were going to shift. Our preparation was outstanding.”

LB T.J. Holloman
How did you feel about how the defense played, especially going up against Ralph Webb?
“We played pretty well today. Everyone ran to the ball and tackled. We did our assignments and we took the game plan from the coach and put it on the field.”

Tackling was an issue last year, what did you do to address that?
“We did a lot of tackling drills. They even had the kickers and the tight ends tackling us, they had all the guys try and tackle us. So as a team, we had been working really hard on tackling.”

In the past, the defense has taken a lot of blame, how does it feel to get win number one?
“Any win on the road is hard. The SEC is a hard conference. Getting our first win as a defense and shutting them down and giving them only 10 points was a great feat for us today.”