Views from the locker room

VandyMania talked with head coach Bobby Johnson, sophomore defensive end Jovan Haye, sophomore quarterback Jay Cutler, and freshman kicker Tolga Ertugrul shortly after Vanderbilt's 30-14 loss to Texas Christian.



Q: You started Norval McKenzie today over Kwane Doster. How would you assess his play? And any opinions on where you'll go from here?

A: It looked like to me he did fine. I think he'll stay the starter. We're going to have to watch the film and find out, but we'll use both of them. We're going to have to use both of them all year, and we'll have to use Ronald Hatcher in there some too.

Q: How do you keep this season from spinning out of control at this point?

A: We just go to practice and try to get better every day. This was a pretty good football team we played out here today, at their place. We're going to have to stay in there and keep doing what we're doing. We're going to demand a lot of our players. We're going to demand a lot of our coaches. We won't quit.

Q: What did you think of their quarterback, who started his first game today?

A: They did a good job. They got him out on bootlegs, and things like that. The option... he's a very slippery athlete. They did a good job of preparing him for his first start. I thought they had an excellent game plan for him to be successful. I knew they would have good players. We were defending the system. It didn't matter who was in there. If we've got three tailbacks, I'm sure they've got three tailbacks.

Q: Talk about Jovan Haye's play tonight.

A: He made some plays. It's hard for me to say whether one person played well or didn't play well. Jovan goes hard every play, and tries to give his very best. If we had some more Jovan Hayes, we'd be in pretty good shape.

Q: You had a freshman playing at right tackle [Brian Stamper]. It seemed like he played pretty well.

A: For a freshman right tackle, he did fairly well. We'll have to look. He was struggling there at the end. They knew we had to pass, and they were just teeing off. Of course, they've got some great defensive ends, and it was just hard for us to block them.

Q: You had a guy hurt again on the [kickoff return team] wedge again this week. Does that make you think about changing that, or are you still committed to it?

A: No. We're not changing it.

Q: Any positives you can take from tonight?

A: Well, defensively I thought we played extremely hard most of the night. We gave them some big plays. We would have them in third-and-long, and let them run a screen or option or something and let them off the hook. But we were playing pretty well on first and second downs, but we've got to do better on third. They had some awfully big plays on third down, and we should have been off the field. But our defense is making some plays, playing with a little more spunk and spirit.

Sophomore defensive end JOVAN HAYE:

Q: This was a tough loss, but do you take any comfort in the fact you made quite a few big plays tonight? A lot of hits on the quarterback, and a big interception?

A: Yeah, I knew sooner or later I was going to have to step up, and I can't wait until my senior year to step up. Fortunately it happened tonight. I knew exactly what my job was coming in here. I was well prepared, so I just went out there and played.

Q: With them running a lot of option, was it important for you to penetrate and cause trouble?

A: Yeah, at first it was real important. Then we changed up the game plan in the second half. We changed responsibilities to kind of slow-play the option and make the quarterback hold it up a little more.

Q: You were even in pass coverage a few times.

A: Yeah, we have a couple of plays where the defensive ends drop back into coverage. We try to give them a lot of different looks.

Q: This was your best performance by far. Was anything different in your approach? Or did you just go out there and for some reason the plays just happened tonight?

A: Coach Turner, our D-line coach, sat me down earlier in the week and told me, being a captain, it looked like I was trying to kind of force the issue and making other people play, instead of going out there and relaxing and playing. I took his advice. I just played Jovan Haye ball.

Q: How good was this team, especially compared to Auburn the week before?

A: They're good. They give you a lot of looks. But we just didn't play our game tonight. At times we did, but at times we just didn't look like Vanderbilt.

Sophomore quarterback JAY CUTLER:

Q: Could you kind of assess your performance tonight, and that of the offense as a whole?

A: The offense, we struggled. I struggled-- I didn't get the job done today. We had a good game plan. We just killed ourselves. Two picks... fumbles... we were just doing stupid stuff out there, bringing us back. We just can't win doing that.

Q: Any certain thing they did tonight that bothered you more than usual?

A: No. They just sat back there and did exactly what we thought they were going to do. We just didn't execute.

Q: You're now at the point in the season where you could find things going backwards. You've been through that before. As a captain, what do you say to the team to bring the team out of this funk they're in?

A: We can't give up. We still have a lot of season left. We have the rest of our SEC games left. We've got Homecoming coming up. Me and Jungle [Jovan Haye] and Geis [Justin Geisinger] have just got to keep everyone up in practice. We're not going to panic though.

Freshman placekicker TOLGA ERTUGRUL:

Q: You missed your only field goal tonight, but you've really kicked confidently on extra points, and you've made a lot of improvement on your long kicks. Talk about the progress you've made.

A: Basically I'm still kind of disappointed in my efforts so far. I'm getting used to everything. I'm not nervous any more. I'm really happy though. I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I think I've kicked well. I'm happy Coach Johnson has believed in me and given me the opportunities he has. I've been kicking pretty well in practice. I'm not sure what happened on the one I missed tonight. I felt like I hit it pretty well.

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