Coach Dan Mullen Post-Game Comments

"I'm really pleased with coming out the way our team did. I know it's been a long time since they've been on the field and our guys were really excited to get back out there. I give credit to our assistant coaches, they did an unbelievable job to keep the team focused and preparing them for this game."

"The team themselves, you could just see all week the preparation they were putting in, the focus they had last night at all our walk-throughs, the focus they had sitting at the hotel all day. I was really pleased with that focus for us to come out and play a game. It's hard to win a Division I football game and to come out on top the way we did, I'm really pleased."

"I think we were a little sloppy in the first half. We played good in the first half but not great. Our guys really pulled together in the second half and did some good things. We had some great balance throughout the game. The defense shutting them out for 58 minutes and 29 seconds, it's great effort. I'm proud of our two new coaches (Manny Diaz, Chris Wilson) for their first game in the Southeastern Conference, for our defense to play the way they did."

"The running backs ran the ball well, we got the balance we wanted of splitting up between those two. The receiving corps, we still need a little bit more balance spreading the ball even though Brandon (Heavens) and Chad (Bumphis) and Leon (Berry) all had big games."

"We have some things we need to clean-up in the kicking game. Our kickers, our kickoffs, I wasn't pleased with how we were kicking-off the ball, we lost contain on a couple of coverages. So we have some things to clean up and we don't have a lot of time to do it with a short week. We're going to enjoy the win tonight and get ready to get back at it tomorrow."

Q: How much is this a good first step to having that balance? "It was good. I still think we're a young team. When you look at those skill players, all those guys touching the ball, Leon Berry and Brandon Henderson are the only seniors, the rest of the guys are still younger players. So there are a lot of guys that really got some first action today, and they responded. It was great to get that under their belts and hopefully they can continue to play with some confidence going into the SEC schedule."

Q: How do you evaluate what Tyler Russell did? "He did good. He managed the game. I thought both our quarterbacks did really well. It showed some maturity for Chris (Relf). You couldn't throw a worse interception to start off a game, I mean he hit him right in the numbers, just the wrong color. I went to get after him; he was like ‘Coach, relax, I'm fine, don't worry about it, it was a mistake.' It just showed some maturity for him."

"I felt Tyler was going to perform, I knew in the spring game he got the nervous jitters out of him so I thought he would come out and perform. He put up some pretty good numbers and was pretty confident out on the field tonight."

Q: Did you have a breakdown of plays for the quarterbacks, or just decide to stick with Tyler the second half? "What it was, going in we had a set plan for the first half; playing Chris two series, Tyler for two series, then Chris back in. And Chris got one series in the second half. At that point we were up, we felt comfortable, I felt it was just more important to get Tyler that experience, some different game situations and different things we did with him to get that under his belt. It's a situation Chris has been in before so we wanted to make sure Tyler got that experience."

Q: Can you speak to Tyler's composure, dropping the ball at the four-yard-line and picking it up and throwing for a first down? "Yeah, I've seen some other guys do that before in my career! They get a little nervous, and the first series in a college game your back is to the wall. But you know what, we're not going to change our plan; he knew that going in, he's got to be ready for those situations as the year goes on. It's good he got that experience, he managed the game for us pretty well, made the throws he needed to make."

Q: Does how both played make you feel better about the two-quarterback system? "Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable with both of them. When you do those sort of things, you look at those two guys, they work well together. I mean, they know their job is to run on the field and run off the field and listen to what the coaches are saying between series for when their number is called again. I don't think they've thought anything different besides that. Also, you get a decent perspective of some things. I think Tyler was able to make some big throws because he saw the defense from the sideline. He's been on the field, he gets to see what the defense is doing from the sideline without 300-pound guys trying to hit you. And he can see where the reads are going to come open. That's some great experience, to have that luxury."

Q: What are your thoughts on the three running backs? "Basically we got what we wanted. A couple of negative yard plays, we've got to get some things cleaned-up that I don't like with those negative yardage plays we had. But that's the balance we want to have. We get ten carries out of each of those guys, maybe a little bit more, that makes up for the 30 or whatever we gave to Anthony (Dixon) last year."

"I'm really happy coming out of the game that our guys performed the way we did. That was a talented team, and Larry (Porter) is starting a new program right there. They have some guys that have some play-making ability so I think for our guys to execute the way we did…they gave us some opportunities to make some plays down the field and we were able to do that throwing the football today. I'm really happy coming out of this game but we still have a long ways to go. We start SEC play in five days and that's a whole different ball game. Especially a solid opponent. I'm expecting a big-time atmosphere here with all our fans. And I thank all the fans, you saw tonight we set the opening-day record, the first sellout for a non-conference opponent. That's the kickoff. Our fans picked up right where they left off."

Q: What was Manny Diaz doing making the third-down defense so effective, holding Memphis to 2-of-15 conversions? "He does a great job coming at you from at you from a lot of different directions, bringing people from all over the place. When you're facing young quarterbacks—Cannon Smith sat out last year, Ryan Williams is a freshman for them—that is tough looks. Manny does a good job of trying to confuse those young quarterbacks and I think that's where it showed out, on third down."

Q: How much does the balance you showed will help in the next five days? "It's huge. We want to be a 50/50 team. We kind of had that. We've got to clean-up some things in the running game. The positive is we made some big plays in the throw game. Hopefully that's going to allow us to keep our 50/50 balance of run/pass. If people are going to try to stop the run on us, Memphis did a good job trying to load up the box and leave us some one-on-one opportunities, we were able to take advantage of those opportunities out there in the field."

"That is going to be key for us throughout the season. If people are going to try to load-up the box to stop the run, we've got to be able to take advantage of those one-on-one opportunities."

Q: How is K.J. Wright? "They said at halftime he had a slight ankle sprain. They thought if we loosen it up we might be able to get him going in the second half. The fact we have to play in five days, we decided to shut him down. They said it was a minor sprain. They came up to me and said if you need him we can get him back in the game in the second half. So I assume he's going to be fine for Thursday."

Q: Cowbells were utilized (legally) for the first time, what did you think of them? "(laughing) I think the fans were great! I don't notice all the time whether they're ringing the cowbells or not. I hear our fans just making a lot of noise out there. I think they (the fans) were definitely a factor in the game tonight, when you're facing two young quarterbacks on the field and put them in the atmosphere that we created, all the noise that we created on the field, that's a tough atmosphere to play in. So I give our fans a lot of credit for the way we played tonight. Filling the stadium, the emotion and passion they showed, they stuck around four quarters to help us. They had a major impact on us winning the game the way we did tonight."

Gene's Page Top Stories