Nutt: 'I'm really proud of our team'

The following is Coach Houston Nutt's postgame press conference after the Rebels beat the Volunteers 42-17.

Nutt: I'm really proud of our team. First and foremost I'm really proud of our trainers. Friday we had Kentrell Lockett with 103 degree temperature. Patrick Trahan was fine and had a good week of practice. He comes to the training room Friday after he goes to class and he can't walk. We have to put him on crutches. We didn't know what it was with him. We knew he had ankle problems. They ruled out gout and all these other different things. Just couldn't figure out what it was. Ankles have been a problem with the linebackers the entire year. The heart of this defense was just awesome today. Look at Poew and their enthusiasm. Lockett playing with probably 102 degree temperature. But you couldn't keep him off. Marcus Tillman, Teddy Laurent, Lawon Scott, Lamark Armour, Patrick, Allen, Brumfield, Joel Kight, those guys were good. And we just have one group of secondary. We don't have any backups. Marcus Temple and Jeremy McGee come in from the corners a little bit in nickel and dime. But those safeties had to stay out there, because Fon has been injured. I was just really proud. And then offensively I thought we got off on the right track, the right start today. We mixed up some formations. We moved in there Bobby Massie next to John Jerry, which was really good for us. Two three-hundred pound plus guys in there moving that pile back. And then you've got Dexter who can get in there behind those guys. Our goal was to get him to the second level. If we could get Dexter to the second level, we felt like he could make things happen. As y'all know, he's fun to watch. And then we had to mix up some throws. Shay Hodge made some very good catches to keep the first down sticks going and keep the clock going. The only disappointment to me was the three points or the seven points we should have had right before halftime. That scared me. Special teams was good, and there's nothing like a celebrated locker room. Nothing like it.

Q: What is it about McCluster's size that allows him to be so effective?

Nutt: I wish you could have heard him talk to our team last night before we put them to bed. He is a special guy. He loves his teammates. He's unselfish. If we told him to go play wideout, he would. If we told him to go play free safety, he would. If we told him to go line up and right tackle, which we wouldn't, he would. For 174 pounds or whatever he is, he is special. He is special. He can make the first one miss. He has game-breaking speed. He won't just run out of bounds. He'll cut back against the grain. He'll go separate and get in the end zone. He has such great hands. You can throw it to him out of the backfield. You can hand it to him. What makes him special No. 1 is his heart because he's tough. He's unselfish and he has speed, quickness and suddenness.

Q: What did he say last night?

Nutt: He said he felt there were some games we'd given away this year. He challenged them, especially the seniors. I've been talking to them that there is an average of 72 plays of six or seven second wars. There are going to be four or five plays that make the difference. He challenged everybody to play every play as hard as you can possibly play. He really challenged them. It was good, but you had to be there.

Q: After you didn't score at the end of the half and when they went down and got a field goal in the third quarter, how did your team get the momentum back?

Nutt: Our first score (after that). Our first long drive. I don't know how many yards it was. Those 13 plays. When we don't hurt ourselves. When we don't throw interceptions. When we don't have illegal procedures, we're a good offense. When we stop ourselves and one guy jumps or a guy fumbles, like anybody, you're making it too hard on your defense. Our offense is good when that chemistry is right and we're moving. The "Rebel" came back today. We just felt like today was the day. Felt like this was going to be the day we could use it.

Q: Is this the best job Jevan's done managing a game this season?

Nutt: It is. That was my fault on that clock down there. I could have sworn we had 40 seconds and it looked like they put it at 25 on the goalline. But he did an awesome job. Once he turned his ankle pretty good, we were getting ready to put Nathan in, because we didn't think he could bootleg, waggle or move. But he said I gotta stay in here. I'm OK. He did a good job today. I wish we could have gotten that touchdown right before the half. He threw that ball right.

Q: Your thoughts on Dexter's 71-yard run?

Nutt: That play's designed to go four yards. So when he got four, I was excited. Then I got real excited when he got lost behind that 323-pound tackle, or guard, John Jerry, and they can't find him. I love Dexter against a free safety. He's usually going to make them miss. He's probably the quickest guy I've ever been around just from here to the back of that wall. But that was fun to watch.

Q: Do you watch the replays?

Nutt: Absolutely. I want to see who's blocking and who's doing what. That's a good scoreboard.

Q: On that 71-yard run were you thinking great coaching?

Nutt: Oh no. That wasn't any coaching. But the thing about it is, you're going to get some blame when things don't go right, so hey. Come on. Come on. (Laughter from the press and Nutt.) Dexter was a difference maker right there. Most backs would have gotten four or five years on that run. That kinda turned the game.

Q: Your defense was so key on a few possession plays that made it tough on the UT offense.

Nutt: You're exactly right. Jerrell Powe. Teddy Laurent. The guys in the trenches over the centers and the guards really got push, really created another line of scrimmage, played in their backfield. They got two or three big loss plays and instead of third and two it's third and eight, third and nine. So it's the front.

Q: Didn't you mix it up or spread it out a little more on offense?

Nutt: We mixed up a few more formations. Moving John in helped because of size. It seemed like everything was clicking. Quick screens, swings, play action, and when you're running the ball it just makes everything so much easier. We did add a few formations.

Q: Do you think the changes in the line helped your run game?

Nutt: That's long arms, and mass. Hopefully they'll stay physical. John was physical and John was doing a lot of coaching. He was coaching Massie up throughout the game. His leadership was awesome. Brandon's been a fighter for us, so don't take anything away from Brandon Green. He's done a good job. And when Bobby got that illegal procedure, we were about ready to take him out. We told him we can't have those. But he got in there and got situated and did much better. That gives us some guys that can move the pile back.

Q: Talk about being bowl eligible and what this team can still accomplish.

Nutt: This gives us a big lift. I can motivate them Monday about going to school, turn in all your homework, practice is going to be much better after being in that celebrated locker room. There's nothing like winning. It solves a lot of problems. I'l l bet there are a lot of guys sore, but there will be fewer guys in the training room. It just lifts you up. Now we've got a chance to go to a good bowl, and we're excited about that. That's the best motivator right there.

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