Vanderbilt-Tennessee Postgame Quotes

Nov. 26, 2016

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Vanderbilt — Tennessee Postgame Notes
Nov. 26, 2016
Vanderbilt Stadium

Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason
Opening statement:
“That was spectacular. Incredible. What can I say? We talked about that in order to do something unbelievable, you have to play unforgettable in the second half. That’s what this group did. It was amazing to watch them play.

“[Tennessee quarterback] Josh Dobbs was 31-for-34. He had a really good game. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve known him since he was 15 years old. He’s a tremendous competitor.

“Our tackling was atrocious. We struggled to make a tackle tonight, but our offense did a good job of keeping us in the game. Then, our defense did a good job of clamping down and putting pressure on Tennessee.

“We gave up six or seven pass plays of 20-plus yards, which is unacceptable.

“It was a career game for [Vanderbilt quarterback] Kyle Shurmur. He was the first Vanderbilt quarterback to throw for 400 yards since 2006. That’s amazing.

“Ralph [Webb] did well running the ball for us and set a school record. He’s a warrior. He’s a Vanderbilt man through and through.

“This was the most points in an SEC game for us since 1971. Everyone talks about how we couldn’t score and couldn’t move the ball and all we’ve done is put up points against quality competition. These guys played spectacularly… We had over 600 yards of offense, which is the most for us since 2006.”

“We played well in the red zone… When you win third down and win in the red zone, you win games.

“[Vanderbilt linebacker] Zach Cunningham had 10 tackles tonight. He did that for the seventh time this season. He’s pretty good.

“You have to feel the V – Vanderbilt is back.”

On getting to six wins and officially being bowl-eligible:
“It feels good to get it done. We came out tonight fully wanting to win and fully expecting to win knowing that getting a win would make us bowl-eligible.”

On QB Kyle Shurmur:
“I put a challenge to this group. We put on a mix of Kobe Bryant’s Muse and Vanderbilt. Kobe had to find that inner nastiness, that inner drive, that inner hunger to get him over the threshold of being just a player. I challenged our group to find their inner superhero. Kyle has played as good of football as you can play.”

On LB Zach Cunningham:
“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a tremendously focused player. When you look at turnovers, he’s tied for second in the nation in recovered fumbles. It says a lot about what type of player he is. We need him.”

On Vanderbilt’s fans:
“They were there when we needed them tonight. They showed up big. We needed energy at the end of the third quarter going into the fourth and our fans were unbelievable. They showed up and showed out. I don’t care how much orange there was in the stands, our fans – they drowned it out.”

On being down 14 points early:
“This group has been confident. We talked about getting back to the middle… Our offense was adamant about what they could do. Defensively, we needed to match Tennessee’s intensity. Our offense challenged our defense. For most of the season, it’s been the other way around. We’re a team.”

On taking shots down field:
“Everyone thinks we’re going to come out and run the football. We knew at the end of the day that the way to win was to have explosive plays.”

LB Zach Cunningham
On what it feels like to head to a bowl game at the end of the season:
“Overly satisfied and overly grateful. Going into the season, you never know what to expect. Everybody thinks that you will be a bowl contending team, so to actually end the season by going to a bowl game, it is an amazing feeling.”

On the defense’s improvement in the second half:
“Everybody rallied around each other. We held each other accountable. Coming out with that energy and that fire is what really made the difference.”

DT Adam Butler:
On what it mean to the senior class to be in a bowl game:
“It is an indescribable feeling. The past three years we didn’t know we would be in this spot, but we’ve worked extremely hard to climb out of that spot, and it feels great.”

On Zach Cunningham’s case for SEC Player of the Year:
“It should be unanimous. In all of my years here, I have never seen anything like him. Having a player like that is unbelievable. There is no argument; he is undoubtedly the best player.”

S LaDarius Wiley
On bouncing back as a defense in the second half:
“We rally around each other. The big thing is uplifting one another and telling each other, ‘we’re alright, we got this,’ it was nothing big. All we have to do is wrap, tackle and run through, and I think that’s what we did.”

On what it means to get Coach Mason bowl-eligible:
“It’s all about that. We care about our coach and we love our coach dearly. This win culminated how we felt about Coach. Winning this game was for him and for the state of Tennessee. It brings joy to all of the players, because he does a lot for us. He is fully invested and with him being fully committed, it makes our job (as players) a whole lot easier. You want to go through a brick wall for a guy like Coach Mason.”

QB Kyle Shurmur
On the growth of the offense throughout the season and the differences seen in game one and today:
“We’ve grown throughout the season. It was great to put it all together. I think we have shown progress throughout the year and it was great to put our best performance on offense out there tonight.”

On the amount of deep balls throughout the game:
“Yeah, we had some great schemes. Coach Ludwig was awesome and guys were making plays. Trent was making plays, Caleb was making plays, everyone was making plays. It was great execution. Execution was our biggest thing. We’ve seen flashes of it throughout the year doing well. Finally, it was great to see us put everything together and do well.”

On his 400 passing yards:
“It’s all about getting back to work every week and progression. You’ve seen us grown throughout the year on offense.”

On when during the game he got the feeling that this was his night:
“We just try to take it one play at a time whenever our numbers are called. We go hard every play and give our one hundred percent. We just take it one play at a time. We worry about all that other stuff at the end of the game.”

On his team making tough catches for him and how it effects his confidence:
“It’s awesome. Like you saw, Trent catches and runs. Caleb will dive and catch. Those are sideline changers, everyone gets excited. You can never underestimate momentum and energy in games. Everyone gets into it and it’s awesome.”

On the review of the fumble at the end of the third quarter and starting with the ball in the fourth:
“It was a huge moment. Any turnover is a huge part of the game. That was great and then we went down and scored after that so it was huge.”

On the feeling of the season not being over and getting to practice for another month for one more game:
“Can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome. I get another month with these guys and it’s going to be great.”

RB Ralph Webb
On the Vanderbilt bowling ball sitting in front of him on the press conference table:
“Oh, we are going bowling. That’s all that needs to be said right here.”

On the importance of getting to six wins versus having five and a good academic record:
“It’s very important to show people that we are just not going to be in because of the APR (academic progress rate). We actually play football and we are a good football team. To finish the season 6-6 is amazing. It was a great performance from my team and a great performance from my coaches. And it feels real good.”

On the ownership of the ball:
“It’s the team ball. It’s Vanderbilt’s.”

On the origins of the ball and if it’s been around all season:
“I don’t know where it came from but it showed up tonight after we got a W. It just popped up.”

On the records he’s broken this year and this win:
“I couldn’t ask to do it a better way with a better group of guys. This feels real good to celebrate my teammates, to celebrate my family. Being able to be a part of Vanderbilt’s history is something I am always going to cherish. I got to give credit to the coaches for putting me in the position to do what I did. It wasn’t just me, it was a team effort. I am just excited to celebrate with these guys.”

On being carried off the field:
“It was special. That is going to be something I take with me for the rest of my life. That moment was earned. We weren’t given anything, everything we’ve earned. And it was just great to finally see it payoff. The respect those guys have for me and all the trust they put in me and I put in them is amazing. I just try to stay true to myself. I was nominated captain and I try to do my job of leading these guys out there on the field and tonight we were successful.”

On the chant of “One More Year” in the locker room and who it is for:
“Nope, no idea. I’m just excited to get this win tonight.”

On the importance of breaking another record tonight:
“It’s a true testament to God and it means I get to give Him all the glory. It means being persistent and consistent at my craft. It shows that working hard with my teammates and all that grinding over the summer months and hard workouts with Coach Dobson has paid off with those guys up front leading the way. They got the job done, we got the job done.”

WR Trent Sherfield
On the origin’s of the offense’s great statistics from the past couple of weeks:
“Its no surprise to us and I think they [the teammates sitting next to him] would agree with that too. That is what we have been doing in practice every single week. On the point of where it came from, I think that was just the execution. We needed to execute and when we did, we got right back to the middle. And we knew we had to do more, we had to finish.”

On the big pass play early on in the game:
“It was no surprise. When I caught the ball and was trying to score, it felt good. It felt good to be able to give back and show what I know I can do and what I know the offense can do.”

On the criticism of the team and Mason at the beginning of the year and the feeling now:
“Like we always say, we just got to get back to the middle. We knew what type of team we were in the beginning of the season and we knew things weren’t going our way. But we did know that wins are definitely going to come. And to the testament of Coach Mason, he’s going to keep swinging at that boulder until it becomes rocks. That’s one thing I really respect about him. He’s got a bunch of staff around him and a bunch of guys that are going to fight for him as well.”

On his successes in the last couple of weeks compared to the rest of the season:
“Coach Ludwig is a genius when it comes to the offense and coming up with schemes and being able to put me in a position to make those kind of plays. And Shurmur, it takes a lot to complete a pass. And then we have the O-line protecting him and Ralph chipping at the block, and Shurmur delivering the ball.”

Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones
Opening Statement:
“First of all, credit Vanderbilt. We got outscored in the second half 21-3. We turned the football over in the second half and you cannot do that. We couldn’t get off the field on third down. Defensively, we didn’t do a very good job of playing the ball in the air and they made more plays at the end of the day. So, I give them a lot of credit.”

On what Vanderbilt’s defense did in the second half to disrupt Tennessee’s offense:
“Same thing. They just out executed us. We had some big plays in the first half. We were never able to get those plays. I thought they were able to apply pressure and Josh (Dobbs) had to escape the pocket but pretty much the same stuff we saw in the first half.”

On why the Pass Defense struggled today for Tennessee:
“You know, there was a number of times we were right there in position we just didn’t play the ball in the air whether it was a wrong hand, slipping, falling down, sometimes trying to get pressure on the quarterback. I think it was a combination of all those things.”

On how suprised he was of Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmer’s passing day:
“Well, he’s gained a lot of confidence the last couple of weeks and they’ve done a good job of throwing the football. When they got down a little bit I knew they would start throwing the ball a little bit more but again give them credit. Again, fundamentals and details they were lacking.”

On how he evaluates where his defense is at this point in the season:
“I’ll start it when we get home tonight and see what we need to do to get better. Again, I love our players and they’re giving everything that they have. Again, I’ll address it like I have but I have some time now and coupled with recruiting, but I’ll constantly evaluate it.”

On if it is a lack of depth and the injuries that are responsible for poor defensive effort:
“I will never use injuries as an excuse because football is a game of that. It’s next man in. But when you are down three defensive tackles, your down your best linebacker, your down your best two linebackers in our conference, but again it is an opportunity for other individuals. To give up 600 yards and 40+ points that’s unacceptable at Tennessee. That’s not going to be tolerated.”

On if he was ever afraid of his offense stalling late in the season:
“It just comes down to execution. In the second half, they out executed us and we didn’t do a good job of sustaining drives and again you can’t turn the football over. We need to be able to answer sudden changes as well.”

On if he thought about kicking a field goal down 11 late in the fourth quarter:
“I did, but I just felt like we needed at that point and time to be able to score and go for two and then try an onside kick.”

On what the mood was like in the locker room losing your chance to play in the Sugar Bowl:
“You know, our goal never changes to be 1-0. So, that wasn’t even our thought process. It was about Vanderbilt and obviously that locker room is a very disappointed locker room and you would expect that.

On his evaluation of QB Josh Dobbs play tonight:
“You know, I thought he did some very good things. I thought, he got us some plays with his legs. I thought he did some good things as well I thought Josh Malone did some good things in the throw game as well.”

QB Josh Dobbs
On the offense in the second half:
“We just didn’t score in the red zone several times. We missed a field goal, and we also settled for a field goal. Coming into the game, we knew we had to score in the red zone to be effective. We did a good job of that in the first half but not in the second half.”

On the pressure of having to score every possession:
“We just embrace it. We just try to take advantage of the opportunities that we have, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”

On the feeling of the team after the game:
“It’s upsetting any time you lose, so it definitely doesn’t feel good. But we still have another game, so we still have to regroup and retouch on our leadership with our seniors, and finish out the season strong with our final game.”

On being so close to playing in the SEC Championship game and then losing that opportunity:
“I mean, the opportunities were there, we just didn’t take advantage of them. It’s upsetting.”

On the controversial call on the fumble:
“I thought it was down, but you know, that’s on me. It was poor ball security; the ball came out. We just had to answer after that, but we weren’t able to.”

On the Vanderbilt defense in the second half:
“We were progressing the ball in the second half, we just weren’t scoring in the red zone.”

On what the leaders of the team said to each other after the game:
“We just talked within the guys that we need to keep our heads up, and we have to get back to work and finish the season strong.”

DE Derek BarnettOn losing to Vanderbilt:
“It’s unacceptable. It was a tough loss. I mean, right now where we’re at we just got to come together Sunday and get ready for our bowl game. But it’s unacceptable, and I’m embarrassed.”

On tying the record but not getting the win:
“I play to win. Records are records, you know what I’m saying? I don’t play this game to get records. I play this game to get victories for my teammates. That’s why I play the game.”

On the frustration of losing this game after having several successes throughout the season:
“It’s very frustrating. Like I said though, we’ve got a bowl game. We can’t dwell on this. We have the 24-hour rule. We’re going to look at the film, get this corrected, and we’ve got to move on. Football is a humbling game, so you just have to keep going. You can’t dwell on it too long.”

On their message to the team:
“We’ve got to come together. Because if we give up, we’re not going to the bowl game with the right mind set, or we can’t finish the year off right, and it won’t send off the seniors in the right way.”

On the factor of injuries on their loss:
“We can’t blame it on injuries. We just didn’t play good enough. There were a lot of bootlegs and play action. We need to play better upfront and get more pressure on the quarterback to help that. We didn’t play good enough. We can’t blame it on the injuries, because we’ve got 11 guys on the field playing defense, and they’ve got 11 on offense.”

OL Brett Kendrick
On the loss:
“I don’t know what else to say besides it’s embarrassing; it’s unacceptable. We should never lose a game like this, so that’s about the only words I can use.”

On beating Florida and Georgia, and then having the season end like this:
“It’s frustrating, and like I said it’s unacceptable. To beat Florida and Georgia in the same year and not go to the SEC Championship, to lose two other games in the East, I mean it’s bad.”