Mississippi State Post-Game Coach Quotes

COACH SYLVESTER CROOM: "I was pleased with our guys, with the effort they showed and the way they fought during the game. We had chances to make plays. What I told them was I was proud of them before we got here, the way they prepared; and I'm still proud of them as we leave the game. Disappointed that we lost, because we had opportunities."

"We were so close on a couple of plays in the first half and just didn't make them. Then we had two critical turnovers. And a talented team like Tennessee, anybody in our conference for that matter but a talented team like them and especially on the road you can't turn the ball over for points and expect to win."

"Until the second interception I thought we had a chance to win and our kids did as well. We had I think three plays in the first half, three throws that were just so close. We thought we could go deep on them and that was a lot of the gameplan; was to run the ball and run play-action pass and go up on top. We had the chance to make them and didn't make them."

"I'm disappointed for our players especially though because the final score does not indicate how hard and how well they played in the game. But I'm proud of them. There are days like this in this conference."

How much did the first drive, and Tyson Lee getting hurt, affect things? "There's no question about that, he's hurt and the rhythm of it changed. He was playing extremely well at that point, our confidence was high…and he gets hurt and we have to adjust some things we do with Wes (Carroll). And we moved the ball while Wes was in there for a while. But a lot of the deep passes, a lot of the things we wanted to throw, those are the things we wanted Tyson to do."

"Even on the first interception, if he lets it go just a hair quicker it's going to be a huge play. But no question it shook him up a little bit. We thought we'd lost him. He showed a lot of courage coming back."

Q: Can you assess your offensive line's play? "I'd have to look at it on film. I thought we did some good things in there. They brought a couple of things on us which you normally don't see, some unusual things. Bringing two people in one gap against one of our protections, we normally don't see that kind of thing. I don't know if it was an accident or whatever. But they brought some pressure, they were blitzing on second-and-long. We had to play a little cat-and-mouse game, try to mix the run and pass on first down and on second-and-long we went to some different kinds of things. They were blitzing us heavy on second-and-long and on third downs. There for a stretch, particularly in the second half we came out and we weren't getting very much on first down. We were still trying to keep the running game in there so they couldn't tee-off on us all the time. In second-and-long we knew they were going to pressure us, that's when we tried to throw some quick-game and runs some draws and screens. We had a big screen we over-threw (Anthony) Dixon that was going to go a long way. We hurt them with the screen to (Arnil) Stallworth early in the game. All those were kinds of things we were trying to do to help our offensive line. They have a very talented defensive front, I'd have to look at the film to definitely say but I thought we did OK. But there were a couple of times he got some pressure."

Q: Were the sacks a result of the pressure or coverage or both? "A little bit of both. They played what we call Tampa-two. And when they were mixing it in we couldn't get a pattern on exactly when he was doing it, we knew they liked to mix it in. And they were bringing a lot of just wholesale blitzes, mixing it up and playing cover-two. It was a guessing game and they do a good job, people who play those coverages sometimes you can't get a bead on them. Based on our stats he was about half-and-half and alternating. When they play that coverage and play deep it's pretty difficult. Particularly after the first time we did a play-action pass and sent the post on them, they really started backing up on deep on us. We had our chances to get some big plays and we missed them early."

Q: Was there any common theme to the missed opportunities? "When I say missed, the pass was just a little bit off. The first one we threw to B-Mac (Brandon McRae) he was open, the pass was slightly overthrown. We had another one to Jamayel Smith over on the sideline, just a little bit off. Tyson throws those things very well, I have to think the hit affected him some. We had to put him in a knee brace so he could continue to play, and that's difficult."

Q: Will he play next week? "We'll just have to see. A large part of the reason I took him out late in the game, and I told him it wasn't because of the last interception. I thought our chances of coming back at that time were a little distant and I wasn't going to take a chance on him getting another hit."

Q: Were you surprised by the strength of Tennessee's defense? "Not at all. It's a talented football team. I think this team is more talented than the one last year, I really do, particularly the defensive front. And the first half I thought we had them…it should have been a 6-6 game and if we tackled we should be ahead 6-3 or 6-0. But I thought if we went into the half close or even we had an excellent chance to win the game. But that first drive they came out and took it down the field and put it in the end zone. I felt if we could have stopped them there it would have been different. Had we made those plays early in the game."

"And we talked about that all week, that we were going to take shots. Our players knew that. We just didn't make them."

Q: They seemed to do a good job mixing the running backs. "They did. We didn't tackle well at times. At times we did. But again they have two very talented backs and a big, strong offensive line. Our defense did well in the first half, the second half opening drive I thought that wore us down. I think that's where a change started to come. There were a couple of times early we missed tackles on their quarterback, that kept them in the game. Third downs the screens they hit kept drives going and our defense didn't get off the field. But again, this is a talented Tennessee football team. I know in some areas they're not as strong as normal, in some areas I think they are better than normal. But the bottom line is we didn't make plays when we had opportunities to do so. It would have been a different ball game."

Q: What were the injuries to Brandon Cooper and Jasper O'Quinn. "I don't know yet exactly what it is with Jasper. (Note: officials reported later O'Quinn was not hurt.) Coop had a neck spasm, we were concerned when we first went out there that his legs were still moving but he kept complaining about his neck. Then the doctors told me it was just trapezoid spasms. I don't anticipate that would be any kind of long-term effect."

Q: Can you assess where your offense is right now? "If we'd hit those patterns early in the game we'd be sitting in here having a different conversation. I think we've gotten better because Tyson gives us some passing, some ability to throw the football we haven't had. That was what we felt going into this game, his ability to throw it deep was going to be an edge for us in this ball game. We were counting on that going into this game. We knew they were going to load up the box to try to stop Dixon from running the football, so the idea was to take some shots down the field. We had the flea-flicker late in the game, he did a good job of getting that one completed."

"But we missed on three patterns that we should have made."

Q: Can you comment on Eric Barry? "He's a great player. He's a big-time hitter, one of the best hitters at safety in the conference. I've got a lot of respect for him."

Q: At 1-3 in the SEC and struggling to score, what do you need to improve on for the next game? "Again, it always comes down to us executing the things that we're doing. We had things open, we have to hit those patterns. And we've still got to block and run the football. We've got to get better at the things we do. I don't see changing anything; when I say don't change anything people interpret that ‘you have to do something'. Hey, we get better at what we do. That's what we're going to do. We're going to keep getting better at the things we do. Because I know what we're doing is sound, it's no different than what anybody else is doing. We just have to do it well. You're talking about a very fine line; a yard here, a foot here, a completion, that's how tight it is. We make some plays when we had the opportunity, we'd be having a different conversation here."

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR WOODY McCORVEY: How much difference would hitting a couple of those early pass plays have made? "That was the one thing tonight we couldn't do. Early in the first half we had two guys running pretty much wide-open; one of them we missed, the other one we didn't see him. We had another one down there on a second down where we should have gone over to Brandon McRae, that's the one we threw in the end zone when we probably had opportunity."

"But Tennessee did a good job, they made some good adjustments particularly the second half. We got out of rhythm, weren't able to run the football so then we had to throw it. And that's not what our strong suit is right now. Once they got us behind in downs they were able to capitalize on it, brought pressure and put pressure on Tyson. The results is what we all saw."

Q: Could you tell any difference in Tyson after the injury? "Yeah. I talked to him on the phone, he said it was fine but most of them always say that because they want to go back in. The medical staff said he was fine, ready to go after they put a brace on him. But his mobility was limited. Even at that he was still able to move around some and to make some plays running the football. But we didn't make them in the passing game."

Q: Did the offensive line give some problems? "We had some problems there, not only there but problems every where. A lot of times when you look at protections, everybody looks at the line. But the backs and tight ends are involved in that also and that was one of the problems we had. Especially after we had to throw the football as much as we did that second half."

Q: Could you not use Dixon as you wanted once you got behind? "Not really, I mean we tried to get the ball to him throwing it to him out of the backfield. But his strong suit is running the football, and Tennessee did a good job adjusting to that and were able to take him away."

Q: What did you see in the interceptions? "Sometimes it was late. I mean, we had him initially open and could have gotten it out a little bit quicker. Two of them I can think off the top of my head that we were late on, the ball was behind, and most defenses that's what happens when a ball is thrown late. And it's tipped, that's where your interceptions come."

Q: Do you expect Lee to play next week? "He should be ready to go. I mean, that's one reason we wanted to get him out. So at least going into the week we'll have both of them ready to go."

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