Middle Tennessee Football Press Conference - Vanderbilt Week

Sep 05, 2016 at 05:47 pm by bryan

Coach Rick Stockstill and a couple of players talk about this past week's win over Alabama A&M and the upcoming battle with Vanderbilt on Saturday.



Opening Statement...
"I appreciate you guys being here. It means a lot to me. I'm pleased with how we played last week. We did a lot of good things in that game, but also did some things that you cannot do against a better opponent. We have to get some things corrected. We started that yesterday. I was proud of how we competed, how hard we played and how efficiently we played offensively in the first half, and then defensively I thought we played well the whole game. We have Vandy this week. They have had a couple extra days since they played last Thursday night. It's going to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical football game. They have good players. Their offensive line is big. They have two really good running backs (Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame). Their quarterback (Kyle Shurmur), I think they have settled in on him. I think they are a lot better in that position than they were last year, and that's no disrespect to the guys they had last year. They have their receiver back C.J. (Duncan) who they lost last year. They have very good players on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, everybody knows how good they are. They did a really remarkable job against South Carolina last week, and they good job against us and the entire SEC last year. They are very well coached. They are very sound in the kicking game. We are expecting a really tough, hard-nosed, physical football game."

On preparing for Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb...
"We faced Derrick Henry at Alabama last year, the LA Tech back, we faced good backs all year and we'll face them again this year. Any time you face a running back as strong as Webb, you have to do a good job of your fundamentals. You have to tackle well and you have to get extra hats to the ball. He's going to break arm tackles, so you can't do that. You have to do a good job fundamentally and be in a good football position. You have to come to balance when you tackle. You have to be physical in how you tackle as well."

On younger receiver facing experience Vanderbilt defensive backs...
"We have a lot of new faces in our skill position right now, especially at wide receiver. We have to continue to work and improve each day. They have good players. Their defense was one of the best in the country last year. When you face good people, you have to rely on fundamentals. You can't freelance and say 'I'm going to try this, or I'm going to try that.' You have to do your job and do what you have been coached to do for the last five weeks. When you have an opportunity to make a play on the ball you have to come through and make it."

On Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason's usage of quarterbacks...
"I've only seen one game, and to me there wasn't anything unpredictable. I'm sure they planned as a coaching staff to play two quarterbacks. That happens a lot. Alabama played three. I watched a little bit of Texas and Notre Dame last night, and Texas put different quarterbacks in during certain situations. I'm sure Coach Mason and his staff had a plan for what they were going to do, so I didn't see anything unpredictable about it. They ran the same plays against South Carolina as they did when they had their other guy in there. There are going to be a lot of substitutions. There will be some receivers, running backs, linemen - everybody comes in. You play the game. You don't worry about who is at quarterback or who is in at wide receiver. I don't see anything unusual about what he did."

On offensive efficiency and Brent Stockstill's 22 consecutive completions to start the game...
"I didn't realize that until (Associate AD of Athletic Communications) Mark (Owens) told me after the game. There was a point where I thought, 'Geez, we have completed a bunch of balls here in a row.' I didn't know the number, but I knew it was a lot. I thought we were pitching and catching pretty good. You don't sit over there counting, it was pretty incredible. To complete 22 balls in a row, there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to work together for that to happen. Brent was accurate, our receivers ran good routes and made good catches, and our offensive line gave him time to go through his reads and make good throws. To put up 500 yards and 45 points in the first half is pretty remarkable. You go back and, to me, your practice habits carry over to your games. Those guys were good this week throwing and catching with different drills. I thought we threw and caught the ball well during practice and it led over into the game."

On Isiah Upton starting at wide receiver...
"There is no starter there. Someone had to be first, and we are a long way from naming a starter there at that position. But he is learning and getting better every day Saturday was the first time he played in a college football game, and the first time he played a real game, high school or anything, as a wide receiver. He's learning. He has a wonderful attitude. He works. He's going to be a good player for us. He caught a couple balls Saturday. He's a good player and he wants to do good. He wants to help this team, and he's going to get more opportunities as the season progresses because of the injuries we've had now especially."

On the way the defense played against Alabama A&M...
"I think the big thing, and I told them at halftime, you always worry in a game like that at halftime, for all intents and purposes, it was basically over. I knew if we didn't screw it up we were going to win the game. I told them 'don't relax, continue to play it like it was the beginning of the game.' I thought we did that. I thought our mental intensity was good. I thought our concentration was good. We didn't give up big plays. Big plays in a game like that are usually from relaxing and not doing your job. We gave up a 36-yard run there at the end of the game. We had a guy get out of place. We did a good job of not giving up big plays in the game, and especially the second half. I thought we tackled pretty good for the first game. We didn't have a lot of guys out of place. We didn't have a lot of missed assignments. I thought we harassed the quarterback pretty good. I was pleased with how they played."

On staying focused and grounded after a win...
"We haven't done anything yet. We don't deserve a big head. We had a good game and guys played good, but we have a long way to go. It's one game. It's coach-clich. We say it every week and you get bored hearing it, but that's what it is. It's a one-week season. You don't ever get too big for your britches. You don't think since you did this that it will carry over to the next week. We went to work yesterday and put Alabama A&M away. Our focus this week is on Vandy. We're getting ready to play an SEC team. They have some good players. It's going to be a tough game."

On if the outcome of the Vanderbilt game will set the tone for the rest of the season...
"It didn't last year, and it's not going to this year. We don't put our eggs in one game. It's not 'Hey man, we've got to beat Vandy, and if we don't beat Vandy we have to forfeit the rest of the season.' It's irrelevant. You played one game. You have Vandy this week and we haven't played a conference game yet. It's not going to determine anything. We're just trying to be the best team we can be this week. Our focus is on Vanderbilt, and next week it will be on Bowling Green. This game doesn't have anything to do with games 3-12."

On Vanderbilt defensive schemes and linebacker Zach Cunningham...
"For a quarterback, when you're there scanning the defense and getting your pre-snap read, it's hard to pick up some things they are going to do. A lot of times you start with the safeties, then you work to the corners and then go inside to get an indication of what kind of coverage or defense you're going to get on that particular play. They do a good job of disguising their coverages. They move people around late. They play to their strengths. They do a lot of things right before the snap of the ball to try to confuse you and your offensive line up front. They have a really good defense. A lot of people in the SEC and the team they've played struggled against them because they do a really good job. Zach Cunningham is big and he can run. He is 6'4 and he's physical. He was first-team All SEC last year. He's a good tackler. He is the leader of the defense watching him on film. He's a really special player."

On how playing Vanderbilt last year may help in preparation for this year...
"It might help a little bit, but every team is different. They lost some players off that defense last year and offensively. Same with us. We have lost some people. Every team is different. We competed well last year. We didn't finish it out. We had a chance but didn't finish it out. I don't know how much playing against them last year will help schematically. We have just one game this year to evaluate them. I know our players will be confident going into that stadium."

On being able to watch Vanderbilt on Thursday night...
"We got an idea of them. It was the first game. I don't know if it helped or not to be honest with you. I don't know how to work that TiVo stuff, so I couldn't go back and forth like I can now when I watch it. I was a fan watching the game and getting to see their personnel. At that time was more worried about Alabama A&M to be honest with you."

On preparing for local matchups and having some players knowing each other...
"I don't say one thing to them. Every fan I've met expects you to win every game, whether it's local or 1,000 miles away. I don't talk about it. It's an important game because it's this game. When you start emphasizing that one game is more important than another, to me, that's when players say 'Well, we don't have to prepare as hard this game, or practice as hard this game because this game isn't as important as that game.' Every game, to me, is the same. Fans may get into all that stuff, but as a coach and a player, you don't emphasize that one game is more important than another. When you do that, players are going to react to you and respond to how coaches emphasize something. I emphasized that Alabama A&M game last week as the most important game on our schedule. Now, Vanderbilt is the most important game on our schedule. That's how we will approach it. You aren't going to go out to practice and be a different coach than you were last week. Players see that. You can't be that coach that is up and down all the time. You have to remain consistent. I truly believe that players want to know what they will get from their coaches on a daily basis because players react to that. This is the most important game on our schedule right now, and that's how we are going to approach it this week. Our players know some of their players. We had some players who know some of the Alabama A&M players. It may be the same next week where we have some players who know players at Bowling Green. Let's win today. That's all I talk about. Let's win and be the best we can be today."

QB Brent Stockstill


On facing Vanderbilt's defense last year: They're very well coached. Coach (Derek) Mason does an outstanding job teaching those guys where to be. They play extremely hard, and it's going to be even more of a challenge this year, so we're looking forward to it. You can't win games when you rush for only 30 yards, so I think we can run it a little better with I'Tavius [Mathers] and those other guys, and our offensive line will do a great job. Hopefully we can move the ball and put some more points on the board.

On preparing the receivers for Saturday: I don't think I have to tell them anything. They'll internally get themselves ready to go. They know they have a tough task. Vanderbilt has a tough secondary, but our receivers are looking forward to the challenge.

On keeping teammates focused on the game: Like [Coach Stockstill] said, it's the next game on our schedule. It'll be a tough challenge in a good environment going down the road to play those guys. We're going to be just as excited for this one as we will be the next one. We're definitely looking forward to the challenge.

On connecting with young receivers: First, I hate it for those guys that have gone down. Of course you hate to see anybody go down, especially if they're seniors. We'll definitely be praying for those guys, but like Coach Franklin says, it's next man up. We've had some young guys and transfers step up for us. It's my job to connect with them quickly and for them to pick up on what we're doing. They've done a great job buying in and coming to work every day. Those guys are ready and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do.

On experience from last year vs. Vanderbilt helping for this matchup: Just from a comfort standpoint and knowing what they do schematically, it'll help a little bit. Knowing what their plan will be definitely helps, and that's a good thing for me to have in my back pocket is definitely good.

On last year's game vs. Vanderbilt: With a new offensive coordinator, we haven't really talked about last year's game much, but I think our guys know in order to win, we have to finish. We turned the ball over in the red zone a couple of times and didn't run very effectively. We moved it okay. You can move it all you want, but if you don't put the ball in the end zone, it's not going to matter.

LB DJ Sanders


On Vanderbilt's offense: First, everything starts with our eyes. We have to put our eyes in the right place. Vanderbilt tries to confuse you before the play starts, so we have to play with our eyes and read our keys first.

On difference from last season: I see improvement in tackling this year. We didn't give up many explosive plays, and that's a great improvement from what we did the last time we were out.

On Vanderbilt's quarterback play style: I don't think it's much of a difference from last year, because last year he only ran the ball if he had to when the play broke down. I don't think it'll be much of a big deal.

On going against RB Ralph Webb: It'll be a challenge. We just have to tackle well and gang tackle. We have to swarm to the ball. If he gets the ball, we have to have a lot of guys coming to tackle.

On moving forward from last year's game: We have a little extra confidence going into this game. It has the potential to be a revenge game for us, but it's the next game on our schedule. We'll be just as hype about this game as we were about the last game. It's just another chance to go out there and play, so we're going to be real excited.