Cutcliffe: 'We grew as a team'

The following are Coach David Cutcliffe's postgame press conference comments after the Rebels' 21-17 loss to Tennessee last Saturday night in Oxford.

Cutcliffe: I want to commend our players. I thought they played with great energy and great effort and fought hard all night long in every phase. We weren't perfect by any means, but I think we grew as a team. We played better defensively than we have all year. It was a tremendous effort on defense. We had a hard time (offensively) blocking them. They are a good defensive football team. This is a tough loss. We have to put it behind us. We have an open date that comes at a good time. We need some healing. We'll move forward from here.

Q: Is there disappointment that you came so close and lost?

Cutcliffe: The whole team feels that way. We had an opportunity. These are games in recent times we've been able to win. Down the stretch we didn't make the plays and they did. That was the difference.

Q: Was this a moral victory for your program?

Cutcliffe: I don't think anybody in our locker room is looking at anything as a moral victory. They know they played hard. They know they played a good football team. But we're trying to win football games.

Q: Were third down conversions a problem?

Cutcliffe: It is frustrating. We weren't real good on first down or second down either. But on third down and when you leave yourself with long yardage against a good defense like that, we had trouble protecting and we had trouble executing. It was always something. We'll just keep working to get better.

Q: It seemed like Tennessee was ready for your three quarterbacks.

Cutcliffe: I don't think it is that big a factor for the defense necessarily as it kinda boosts us. Again, we are evaluating quarterbacks on a week to week basis, how they handle practice and what we get a feel for what's going on in a ballgame. Whether we continue to do that or not, I don't know at this stage.

Q: It looked like physically your team and program matched Tennessee's out there tonight, and in years past (1980s and 1990s) that wasn't necessarily the case when Ole Miss and Tennessee played.

Cutcliffe: Well I think we are gaining ground physically when we're healthy. Obviously it's not enough still. Our goal is to become a physical football team that can match up physically with the best in the Southeastern Conference, which is a challenge.

Q: What happened when they faked a punt and got a first down early in the game?

Cutcliffe: We just had 10 men in the game. We had a player that should have stayed on the field. We didn't get to the official in time to get the timeout.

Q: Talk about your open date schedule.

Cutcliffe: We are going to go do some community service on Monday in town. We won't practice. We will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I plan to give them off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We'll come back with preparation for Auburn on Monday.

Q: You say you are continuing to evaluate quarterbacks on a week to week basis. Can you evaluate their play tonight?

Cutcliffe: I wouldn't evaluate their performance without seeing the tape. Obviously we didn't play good enough to win. I couldn't go into an individual evaluation of them without seeing the tape.

Q: Does any one of the three bring more to the table than any of the others in a game?

Cutcliffe: Not necessarily. All have their strengths. All have their weaknesses. I'm not going to get into that publicly. We're coaching them hard and trying to get them there. I have some feelings about it right now, but until I look at the tape, I'm not sure which direction we're going to go.

Q: Can you talk about the thought process of not using Robert Lane as much in the second half as you did the first half?

Cutcliffe: There wasn't any major thought process behind it. Again, I am letting Kurt Roper make the call when we're using a quarterback unless I want one particularly. We got into a game that was more of a throwing game, and right now Ethan has kinda been No. 1 in that type of ballgame. That's why he played most of the game. Our inability to run – it was tough to block them – that hurt us, I thought.

Q: Can you expand on that?

Cutcliffe: We just couldn't get them blocked. There was nothing magical about it. We just had a difficult time blocking them. We had I thought at times good schemes, good answers, and they'd seem to come off a block and make the play.

Q: Was it more physical or more scheme-wise?

Cutcliffe; Physically I believe we got whipped some. But I can't tell you until I look at the tape. It may not be that way. We may have blocked them better than I think. For me to say too much right now would be a mistake.

Q: What happened on Flatt's final pass that was intercepted?

Cutcliffe: Kerry Johnson got held up, and he didn't see it. He threw the ball down the middle of the field, and their safety made a nice play on it.

Q: Talk about the atmosphere tonight.

Cutcliffe: I thought the atmosphere was phenomenal. The Grove Walk, through pregame warm-ups and the ballgame, we're really appreciative to our fans. It was the second largest crowd in the history of the stadium. It makes a difference. Hopefully they'll be back here for the Auburn game.

OM Spirit Top Stories