Courtesy of Vanderbilt Media Relations
Well, the ship hasn't sunk completely. It is treading water. We are looking forward to redeem ourselves and play Alabama. Alabama is a very talented football team that has a new coach. They played UCLA Saturday night very well. They had a chance to win the game, and I think UCLA is one of the top ten teams in the country. Alabama didn't win, but they played very well. They will be a very tough opponent when they walk in here, there is no question about it.
Our team, right now, is really hurting over that ballgame, against Middle Tennessee. I liked to see that because it shows it was important to them. I wanted it to hurt them when you lose like that. Very briefly, I will touch on that game and then I am done with that game and will never talk about it again. We felt to beat those guys we had to outscore them. We had a chance to do that as we went through the first half. We ran into some dropped balls in the second half that really negated some big drives for us. I think if those balls were caught it would have been quite a game for the fans, I think we would have come out on top. Not taking anything away from Middle, they played very well and I knew they were going to score a lot of points. I thought in the second half we did play a little bit better on defense. We gave up that one touchdown up until the end of the ballgame. And we went for it on fourth and one or fourth and two and just missed it.
Of course that really deflates you because now your defense has to come back out and they have great field position and they throw the ball down and end up scoring at the end of the ballgame to give them that lead at the end. We did have our opportunities in the fourth quarters. We had a dropped pass on the goal line that would have made it 35-30 and then we got back down there and muffed a field goal that would have made it 31-30. So we had our opportunities and one loss does not make a season.
We are looking forward to playing Alabama. Alabama came in and they are a completely different football team. Against UCLA they really got into a lot of option stuff, out of the shotgun and with the quarterback underneath the center. So it looks like to me that Franchione is really trying to make it look like they are going to open it up with the quarterback in the shotgun, but what they did out of the shotgun was run a lot of natural plays, a lot of options, a lot of bootlegs and spread outs. What they are going to do is give you a variety of formations you have to prepare for, but basically run the same stuff out of them.
Again, like I said, our team is looking forward to playing Alabama. The only way you can redeem yourself after a loss is lining up, and playing, and winning. We started off with a really good practice, yesterday on Sunday afternoon. The players were into it and the tempo was good. It was a good practice.
1) What are the differences in the running styles of Rodney Williams and Lew Thomas?
We always felt that when we signed Lew Thomas, he was one of the most talented players we ever signed. For one reason or another, he just hasn't blossomed. He has come in with a great attitude his senior year. Has worked hard in camp and also did a good job on special teams in that ballgame. Lew is a guy that can be reckoned with. He has strength and balance and speed. With him and Rodney in there it is a pretty good attack.
2) Does it make your job easier knowing you will primarily face Tyler Watts at quarterback for Alabama?
It all comes down to that we have to defense their offensive scheme. They are going to run the same scheme whether it is Tyler Watts or Zow. Both quarterbacks have a lot of experience and I thought going into the ballgame
against UCLA that they would probably play both a lot. Tyler was doing a pretty good job so he stayed with him and then he got a little banged up so he put Zow in and he got banged up. So, I guess we are going to see Tyler.
3) How has Zolman reacted to the dropped passes and how the MTSU game went?
Greg is a team guy and is of course upset about the loss. He is not one to point a finger or anything. He is encouraging guys and leading by example. I see our whole team bouncing back.
4) What about the amount of unsportsmanlike penalties against MTSU?
Well, I think there was some frustration out there. We worked hard in the offseason on leadership and discipline. A couple of those penalties were (47) . We don't condone them and you can't do that. You have to keep your poise and not get involved in anything like that.
5) Are you disappointed in the amount of yards the defense gave up vs. MTSU?
Well, I expected to give up some yardage. What I didn't want to do was go out there and give up some big plays. I am not sure if they got a play over 25 or 30 yards. I knew their quarterback was good, but I didn't really think he would play that good. He didn't make one mistake in 88 snaps. That's pretty good. We played a little too soft at times probably and could have made some adjustments to take away the hitches and things like that. But they did a nice job of spreading us out and because we concerned about the running game we tried to keep as many in the box as we could which opened up our secondary more than we normally would and we exposed out there with the hitches. If you tackle guys, those are five and six yard gains and you really don't think some one will have that patience to stay with that. They did that and I have to give them credit. Counts made every play he could make and made every read he could make and had an incredible game in making decisions and protecting the ball.
6) Will it be easier to put a defensive package together vs. Alabama than MTSU?
I don't think anything is easy. We worked against Middle all year. I personally didn't underestimate them and I don't think the football team did either. I didn't they would have the patience and make the good decisions. I thought we could outscore them and I thought there would be some turnovers. Some forced balls and things like that. But that didn't occur. We had one turnover on a strip after a catch after a run and that was it.
7) Are you coaching the secondary to go after the ball like that?
Well, what you don't want to end up doing is reaching and grabbing and not tackling anybody, which it looked like we were doing at times. They have really good athletes at the skill positions. Dwone Hicks showed what kind of player he is. He is a terrific football player. I might, if we played them again, do it a little bit differently.
8) How do you coach the secondary from now on?
I am going to be a whole lot more involved with the defense. I have talked to you about this before, I was involved in the background because of working with the coaches in the evenings. I am not disappointed with our defensive staff because I knew all about our scheme when it was put in, I was part of that. My strongest area is decisions on the sideline and defense. I am going to be involved in that.
9) Is there a future for a rivalry against Middle Tennessee?
I imagine there is now. With either team winning it is going to create a rivalry. I think that it filled the stadium, and if we went down there it would fill that stadium too. I foresee a created rivalry there.
10) Are you going to make som