Views from the locker room

After Vandy's emotional 24-20 win over Wake Forest on Thursday night, there was plenty to talk about. Head coach Bobby Johnson, tailback Jeff Jennings and cornerback Andrew Pace all spoke with VandyMania about the critical plays and turning points in the season opener.


Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson:

Q: On the last drive you threw the ball to a receiver (Earl Bennett) who had never caught a pass before. Could you comment on what you had to do when Erik Davis went out?

A: Obviously we would have loved to have had Erik in there, but we didn't want to take a chance putting him back in there. We've got many more games to play. We were confident with those other guys. Earl Bennett made a great run after a catch. Earl's been doing it in practice. He's made plays. He's probably scored more touchdowns in the preseason than any of our receivers. You've got to go with what you've got, and you've got to trust them. We trusted them, and Jay trusted them and Jay hit them.

Q: What did you know about Micah Andrews before the game?

A: We tried to recruit the heck out of him. We knew about him back when I was at Furman. We had our eye on him for a long, long time, and then went to Vanderbilt and had our eye on him. We knew he was good.

Q: Talk about Jay Cutler. Other than the one pick, he made good decisions all night.

A: He made good decisions, even running the ball sometimes. He got key yardage pulling the ball down and running it. Also he was very patient in the pocket. I thought we had very good protection most of the night. He was very patient waiting for certain people to come through. He also knew what was happening with the defense. He hit Dustin Dunning with some short passes for some first downs. Those were things you just learn from experience.

Q: Much was made about you guys throwing the ball around. Was it more that that was what you wanted to do, or was it some things you saw with them that dictated that?

A: A little of both. We obviously wanted to throw the ball with Jay. But you see things... they went to a three-man front, trying to make it a little bit harder to throw, so we had to run the football a little bit. It took us a while to adjust to some of the coverages they were doing in the three-man front. So it was a good night, a good night by our offensive coordinator Ted Cain. He made some great calls, and it put us in position where we could move the ball.

Sophomore tailback Jeff Jennings: (8 carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns in his first start)

Q: Jeff, you started at tailback, scored two touchdowns, and had two good runs on that last drive. Tell us about those two runs.

A: At the end we just knew we had to finish. The line really buckled down and blew them off the ball really well, and I was able to get loose.

Q: What's the mood in the locker room tonight? It's got to be just jubilation.

A: Everyone is really excited. We worked so hard for this. We had a lot of doubters, but we came over here and knew what we had. We were just ready to pull it out.

Q: It seemed as though it took the running game a little bit of time to get going tonight. How would you evaluate both yourself and the running game in general.

A: I think we ran the ball really well, but we can also improve a lot. As a team I feel we did really well.

Q: Vanderbilt started out last year with a disappointing loss, and the season sort of went downhill after that. Does winning this first game, on the road, open up some new possibilities for you season-wise?

A: We really thought even before the season that just about anything was possible. We came out here and knew that if we played all four quarters, it was going to be our game. So that was what we did.

Q: I hope you don't have to go to class Friday morning?

A: No, I have classes Monday through Thursday, so I don't have any classes tomorrow.

Senior cornerback Andrew Pace: (in first start at the corner position, led team in total tackles with 10)

Q: Andrew, you are having a hard time keeping from smiling tonight. What's it like in the locker room in there?

A: It's just a lot of excitement. It's so great to get a road victory. We haven't had that since I've been here. It's just awesome to experience this and do it in our first game. Everyone's excited, everyone's pumped up, ready to get back to Nashville and celebrate.

Q: This is your fourth year here... you haven't really had a season yet that got off to a great start. Do you think this opens the team's eyes to some loftier expectations?

A: I think it's a good start, but we still have ten games left in our season, and a lot of those games will be very tough. We're playing a lot of good teams, so we just have to keep our minds focused and celebrate when we win. This is a great win, and we're going to celebrate, but we've got to make sure we stay focused and get ready for Arkansas next week and all the games to follow.

Q: This was your first game to play cornerback in college. How would you evaluate your play and the secondary's play?

A: I thought we did very well. Yeah, there was a time or two when we gave up a big play that we shouldn't have, but then again, we had a lot of young guys playing. Overall they played great. Coach Jamie Bryant did a great job of preparing us. Coach Johnson and Coach Fowler also did a great job preparing us for their offense. We did well. I thought that I could have played better, but I'm always overly critical of myself. But I'm going to keep working hard, trying to do my best.

Q: You've probably seen tears of frustration before in your locker room... have you seen any tears of joy tonight?

A: Ralph McKenzie was crying tears of joy. I'm like, Ralph, we won, man! He was crying tears of joy, and I was so pumped, so emotionally charged, and just happy. I'm glad for all his hard work. They all did a great job.

Q: What went through your mind when they announced that the last play was being reviewed?

A: I was like, NOOOO! I was a little nervous, because as you know, we've had a string of bad luck in the past. I thought, if they overturn this, this could be really bad. But we got the call. It went in our favor, and when they announced that the play stands, I was jumping up and down hugging people.

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