You have worked a lot on what you guys have done. Are you now more focused on Vanderbilt?
We have. Once we finished final exams last week we kind of shifted gears. We had two practices, good-on-good, to get our timing back and work on fundamentals. We gave them Saturday off with the state championship here, and then from Sunday on it's been all Vanderbilt preparation.
Just balancing getting things in, cleaning up the packages we want to run, and let them get their legs where we want them because we have to play fast. It's something we were able to do in the games down the stretch, and we want to finish that way.
How much does this help you with a headstart on 2017?
We can finish winning three of the last four, and beating a SEC team. We haven't beat a SEC team in 15 years so to get that done would be great momentum. Obviously we open next season with a SEC team so to have that going into it, there's a lot to play for.
It's a chance to have our third straight winning season, so the guys know what it is. We're playing a really good team that doesn't beat itself and plays physical ball. It's going to be a great game.
Anytime you go into it... just like the bowl, when you come off a win against your rival, you have a pep in your step.
It's different from a player's perspective... these games have meaning, right? You don't want to finish 6-7.
No one does. I don't ever want to lose a game, and these guys don't either. I want to finish strong, and you always remember the last game you play. Whether you're a senior, junior, freshman, sophomore... you're going to remember the last game of the season. It's the most recent thing you've done.
The ultimate goal is to walk off the field with a win.
What sticks out about Vanderbilt?
They are +6 in turnover margin. They are balanced on offense. They give you a lot of eye candy, window dressing. Defensively, they are multiple. They aren't a big pressure team, but they give you a lot of looks. They don't give up many big plays, they make you earn it.
They are resilient. They didn't start the season well, but they've won four of six. They are feeling real good right now with the way they've finished.
Does the win over Carolina, carry-over... help?
It does. For us to win two of our last three, and get to go into a bowl. Understanding what it takes to win, it helps a lot. The mentality of the guys is different.
Ryan Finley had a headstart with the offense coming from Boise. Were you impressed with how Joe Scelfo came in and was able to pick things up and be a leader for you?
When we found out he was interested and had his release, you start doing your homework on what Joe's all about... he's played so much college football, doesn't miss snaps, and when you turn the film on he's playing so hard.
You find out his dad's background, he's a coach's kid, and what kind of a person his father is... Joe's a mirror image of him and wants to be a coach. It doesn't surprise you when you learn all these things about a player like him... that he can be what he is.
He's a football junkie. The kid goes to bed at 9 PM every night so he can get up early and study extra film. He doesn't act like a college kid. He acts like a guy that's in the pros. He takes it that serious. Whenever it's over for him he'll be a great coach.
He said he used to go to games like your son does for you. Has he talked to you about that?
I went into a high school during the recruiting period, I was at Broughton High School actually, and the head coach played at Tulane, was a quarterback for Scelfo's dad. He didn't know Joe was playing here. We were small talk... asked him where he played, he said Tulane. Who's your head coach, and he said Chris Scelfo. I told him his son's our center, and he said, "No way. He was the waterboy when I was there... a little red-headed kid running around."
That's what you remember. Coach's kids don't have their dad home a lot but they have some pretty neat life experiences when they get to go to practice.
Coach Amato was in here today. What was that like?
He was. It was great to see him. I've stayed in touch with coach and knew coach when I was at Wisconsin. He was at Florida State and we played each other and recruited against each other in Florida. I have great respect for him.
He's always been... obviously he's played here, he loves this university. He's always been a great supporter. Every year when we play Carolina he calls me and wishes us luck. It matters to him. He loves this university. It was great to have him in the building with us today.
Do you feel the practices went well and you're all set?
We're not done. We have work to do still. I'm happy about the practices we've had, to answer your question, but the hay's not in the barn. We have a lot of work to do still.
I told them there's a difference in wanting to play in a bowl game and wanting to win a bowl game. It's all about your actions. You have to make great choices. There are fun things you can do and you can easily get distracted in a new town with all these different things going on outside the building.
We have to handle our business the right way, finish up preparation, and play fast.