May 26, 2024

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel shared his thoughts after the Volunteers dropped Saturday’s game to Alabama.
WILL MILLERUPDATED:OCT 22, 2023 1:29 AM EDTORIGINAL:OCT 21, 2023

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— In the wake of Tennessee’s failed bid to repeat as winners of the Third Saturday in October rivalry game, Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel shared his thoughts on the result.

Opening Statement:
“Credit to Alabama. In particular in the second half, they played extremely well. Second half, we just weren’t good enough. From me, to our coaches, to our players, gotta be able to play for 60 minutes against a good football team, and on the road. Extremely disappointed with the outcome. I told the guys in the locker room. They compete, man. They do. We don’t play smart enough at times, but they compete, and I’d go with these guys anywhere.”

On fourth down aggression in the third quarter?
“[We] had been punting it, fourth and less than one. Giving up a score on the previous one. Felt like we had an opportunity to pick it up. Obviously, we didn’t. Gave them a short field and they took advantage of it. I think they got three out of that one, might have been seven.”

On momentum and letting it get away as compared to Florida loss?
“They didn’t feel the same. Did not. We just, not the entire time, not all 11, just weren’t good enough in the second half.”

On how things changed in the third quarter?
“They came out and hit one split zone on us and ended up getting seven. We get called for signaling fair catch on the front line on the sky kick, ball gets placed at the four. You’re in a tough situation coming out, don’t pick it up, they get an opportunity and go get some more points. At the end of the day, our guys didn’t stop competing. We weren’t smart enough. We weren’t good enough. Starting with me, in the second half. They continued to reset to play. The momentum did shift during that series of events, but our guys continued to compete.”

On first fourth down attempt that wasn’t a success?
“Just felt like with the scheme, the personnel that they had out there, that we had a good play.”

On why that play didn’t work?
“It was a read off the edge, felt like it was condensed, didn’t get it going around the edge.”

On whether momentum change in Q3 was more about Alabama or Tennessee?
“They hit us with the one split zone, the fair catch signal from the front line that placed the ball on the four, you’ve gotta give them credit too. There’s some things that we didn’t do well enough. You start backed up, it changes what you’re doing on your opening drive. Just situation football. End of the day, gotta reset, gotta keep coming, playing. We did, at times, offensively, [not] put it in when we get out there, seven or eight minutes left, got a chance to make it a game.”

On balance in officiating?
Following a pause lasting approximately 20 seconds: “Next question. Was that long enough silence?”

On failing to get the run game going?
“The second half, obviously, the fourth and short, you start the half backed up. So you’re a little bit different than what you planned on coming out. We weren’t efficient. Then it turns into a two-minute type mode. The change in the game happened quickly. At the end of the day, we gotta go be efficient in what we’re doing. We didn’t have the type of success, yards per carry that we were accustomed to rushing the football. Some of that’s them. They’re good. Some of that was us too. End of the day, gotta be better.”

More on second half troubles and locker room emergence?
“Well, we get off the field and they got the P.I. or holding call on one of our corners there. Got hit on a simple split zone early and they flipped the field position on the plus side of it. End of the day, we’ve just gotta settle in and be better than what we were. Me, assistant coaches, players, all of it. I didn’t think we started super fast in the third quarter, which is obvious in what happened. They drive the field and score, we end up on the four yard-line coming out after the sky kick. Gotta start faster.”

On Milton’s use as a runner?
“It was a part of the game. We used him last week too. He’s gotta be a part of it for us. Overall, I thought he did positive things. Started fast, was accurate with the football, was a good decision maker, did some solid things in the run game. End of the game, the way it’s playing out are some things that we have to be better at situationally, and that’s obviously a coach situation too.”

On Milton’s physicality?
“Situational football. Some of it is a little bit, you don’t want him to take every hit. He’s gonna have to take some hits. Third downs, you gotta go get it. It changes the way the game is played. So it’s a combination of that.”

On how to stop momentum slides in road games?
“I don’t know. The communication is the only thing that’s, in my opinion, more difficult. As long as you’re settled into your job and doing that when you’re out between the white lines. Today, that’s a good football team, talking about Alabama, and we didn’t reset, refocus, and make any plays in the second half. That’s the end result.”

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