[Premium Article] MSU players Justin Griffith, Kyle York, Kevin Fant, Brent Smith, T. J. Mawhinney, and Michael Gholar talk about the 35-17 loss to Tennessee."> [Premium Article] MSU players Justin Griffith, Kyle York, Kevin Fant, Brent Smith, T. J. Mawhinney, and Michael Gholar talk about the 35-17 loss to Tennessee.">

MSU Players Talk About 35-17 Loss to Tenn.

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2003/griffithj.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="159"> [Premium Article] MSU players Justin Griffith, Kyle York, Kevin Fant, Brent Smith, T. J. Mawhinney, and Michael Gholar talk about the 35-17 loss to Tennessee.

Justin Griffith

Talk about your long run.
"It was wide open, so I just took off running. It was a great call and we executed it well."

Did you think you might go all the way at one point?
"I didn't think I would go all the way because the guys they had back there in the secondary were real fast. I'm surprised that I got 56 yards. I'm surprised that I got that far."

What do you think this team needs to do to get back on the winning track?
"I know that we have a lot of rebuilding to do. I know coach Sherrill, with his offseason program will help the team a lot. I also know that we have to keep our head up. We have two games remaining against Arkansas and Ole Miss. I know we want to win our last home game and then go up to Ole Miss and have a great ballgame up there."

What impressed you about Tennessee's defense?
"The speed. They have a lot of guys who can run. The linebackers and secondary are all guys who can run. That was surprising. I think that was a shock to everybody. Until you get on the field, you don't realize how fast they are. The front guys are real physical guys. I think their front and our front kind of matched up well. I think late in the third quarter our front got tired."

Is Tennessee a better team than what their records shows. They came in with four losses.
"I really can't say they are a better team. From watching the film of Alabama and Tennessee, I know that Alabama was a way better team than Tennessee. The way we went over to Alabama, I knew this was going to be a good ballgame but I didn't know Tennessee was going to be this good."

Brent Smith

How good did you hit the 53-yard field goal?
"I really didn't. Sometimes you catch a break and take the lucky ones. But I didn't, I didn't hit it too well."

How much was the wind a factor?
"Oh man, it was awful. It wasn't straight or across. It was constantly changing, so we had to change some stuff up heading back into the wind, such as sky-kick and kick around it.

"The field was (also) rough today. Jared (Cook) did a great job of putting it in front of me so that I could just come up and kick."

The kickoffs were an adventure for both kickers today.
"Yeah, you had to pull everything out today."

What was the emotion after you kicked the long field goal to get your team a little closer?
"It was a pretty good high for a few minutes. It brought us back close and everybody was really up. I thought it could be a turning point, but it didn't happen."

What do you play for now since you can't have a winning season or go to a bowl?
"First off, we play for the seniors. There are a lot of guys who have laid a lot on the line like Justin Griffith, especially. He has all the respect that I have. Anything I can do to help win the last two games for a guy like that, I'll do it. Plus, we have next year to build on. Ending the season with two wins would be a great way to go (out), then get going for next year."

How frustrating is it for this team because it really seemed like you guys could have won the game, but you had turnovers that really hurt because they took advantage of them?
"I think that is the thing, they take advantage of them. It seems like we haven't been able to sneak any buy this year. Anytime we have done something wrong, they capitalized immediately. It's not always like that, but it has happened that way for us this year. It seems like we can't get by with anything."

Kevin Fant

What happened on that sack when you were blindsided?
"Which one?"

The one where you got hurt on.
"It was just a play action to the weak side, kind of a curl flat. I went to my second read and honestly didn't see him coming. Somebody caught me from behind and he kind of stood me up and another guy just fell on my ankle. All of his weight went on my bad ankle. I had a brace on it, so that kind of helped me out."

How frustrating is it to see so many of the turnovers turned into scores by the opposing team. Does it almost seem like the team is snake bit this season?
"You could say that. But good football teams take advantage of what we have given them. I think we need to do more of that. There have been times that we have had those chances, but we haven't come through. You can't give good football teams like Tennessee the ball."

Was the problem their defensive line or your offensive line?
"I can't comment on that. We will watch the film later and see what our problems are. I know what I did wrong and I can tell you that, but I can't tell you what happened on the front. I do know that they have a tough defensive line. They are good at pass rushing."

What is it going to take to turn it around for the last two games?
"We are going to try to practice hard and correct our mistakes. The last two games we have had our chances to tie ballgames and go ahead. But we haven't been playing four quarters."

T. J. Mawhinney

Was the MSU fumble on the kickoff after you had gotten within 4 the turning point in the game?
"Yeah, that was probably the biggest point of the game in momentum change. We had the momentum, then that kind of shell shocked us. But give credit to Tennessee, they played good all game."

Are you proud of the fact that the defense is still playing with a lot of heart and aggression?
"Yeah, we always play hard every game. We didn't have anybody out there today quit. We were playing with sprain ankles, banged up shoulders...everybody is playing hard. The defensive line stepped up big today. They were taking on a lot of double teams, helping me and Mario get free. It was probably the best game that they have played all year."

Does it seem like this team has now developed the personality where it turns the ball over and the opposing team almost always seems to take advantage of them by scoring?
"Good teams do take advantage of turnovers. Every week we play a good team. We have Arkansas next week; they are good."

Why were they still able to run the ball even though you were expecting that?
"Tennessee's offensive line is very good. And they are loaded with backs. They get a first down or two and they put in fresh legs in the backfield. They just keep on coming, coming and coming. 20 (Derrick Tinsley) was real good. 21 (Cedric Houston). 34 (Jabari Davis) was a load to bring down too. Sometimes we stopped them, sometimes we didn't."

Michael Gholar

You played them good for three quarters, then gave up the three big plays and that was pretty much it.
"That is something that has really been killing us. We play so good for so long, then we give up big plays that hurt us."

Talk about the screen play.
"Number 17 caught the ball on a little out screen and ran it down to the goal line. We were blitzing and they just called the right play at the right time."

Kyle York

How do you think you played?
"We were able to run the ball well while I was in the game and that really took a lot of pressure off of me. Towards the end of the game I struggled a little more trying to make things happen because we were down by 18 points. I was trying to get out and get the ball in the guys hands quick and let them make plays."

Was the results of the game what Tennessee did?
"You have to give credit to Tennessee. Brent (Smith) made that great field goal and we had a lot of momentum. But Tennessee came back and took the momentum back. That is a credit to them. That is what good teams do and they are a good team. You look at the four teams they have lost to; they are all outstanding. I think all of them are in the top 15. You can't take a lot away from us. We were playing a good team. We were capable of winning the game, but they just kept us from winning."

How big was the personal foul penalty after the defense had just came up with the sack?
"It is tough to say. If you remember, we got the ball on our own two and then Cokie made a great run and got us out of that. It was a matter of one of our guys being physical and trying to intimidate a guy in front of him. I don't think it hurts us."

How down is this team right now?
"We aren't down. I think it is pretty obvious when we play as hard as we played against Alabama and Tennessee we make strides every week regardless of what your record is. We have made strides and we have a lot of pride on this football team. We play with a lot of heart. I appreciate the guys that I have around me. We are going to come out against Arkansas and Ole Miss playing with that same type of pride trying to win the last two games."

Do you think about the mistakes that were made by your receivers such as not catching the ball after a loss?
"You can chalk it up to a lot of different things. If you look at every play and break it down, there is probably somebody making a mistake somewhere. Sometimes those mistakes effect the play directly, sometimes they don't. If you look at everyone of my plays, fundamentally I make a mistake everytime I step on the field. There is no doubt about that. We make mistakes as football players. Sometimes those mistakes go unnoticed and sometimes they are blown out of proportion. What we have to concentrate on is remaining confident despite what has happened."

Do you feel like you are pushing Kevin for the starting job now?
"Not at all, no sir. I don't see any reason why Kevin shouldn't start these last two games. He has been outstanding at times. He has provided the leadership that we need to be successful. He made a lot of good plays today. He has made great plays this year that has kept us in games. Last week, against Alabama, he played about the best half of football in the first half that I have seen. That showed what he is capable of. Definitely, if he is healthy, he is going to go."

This team seems to always be close to getting over the hump, but then shoot themselves in the foot. What do you attribute that to?
"It is hard because we have a team full of winners. We want to win. When you don't win, you can ask a lot of questions and point a lot of fingers. The fact of the matter is we are a much closer team than we were a year ago. In the two years that I have been here, we have suffered a lot of hard losses. But in actuality, we love to play football and we love to play for Mississippi State. Sooner or later that is going to result in victories. I really believe that. I don't think it is a lack of talent or lack of coaching ability. I just think it is a matter of not getting over that hump. It is hard to say what it is, but we know it is a sour taste, a bitter taste."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at swindoll@genespage.com

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