Views from the locker room, part I

Head coach Bobby Johnson and freshman wide receiver Earl Bennett talked in the press room following Vanderbilt's 35-28 loss to South Carolina.

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Head coach Bobby Johnson:

Q: Bobby, when South Carolina came back to go up 35-28, was it a case of them doing something differently offensively, or was the defense just worn out at that point?

A: I don't know, to tell you the truth. They had plenty of time, which was a problem. They could run it or pass it, and they went play-action pass. We bit up on the fake one time and they hit one across the middle. I think they had about 3:38, 3:40 or something left when that drive started. That puts you in a fairly tough position, especially when they've been running the football fairly well. We felt like we had to stop that in order not to give them an easy field goal, and they threw the ball effectively. They did a good job on that drive.

Q: You didn't know where Syvelle Newton would line up all week. Could you talk about your strategy in trying to stop him?

A: We knew he would have a chance to play quarterback, tailback and receiver. It really wasn't where he was [lined up], it was more being able to tackle him. We didn't do a very good job a couple of times. But we expected all that to happen.

Q: Earl Bennett had a monster game, obviously. Could you talk about his game, and touch on the reasons why he had so many opportunities tonight?

A: Earl had a fantastic game. He's a very fine player. We have a lot of confidence throwing the football. Marlon White ended up getting hurt and wasn't playing. Erik Davis has a sore Achilles heel, and he just went out there basically as a decoy. We had to throw it to [Bennett]. We didn't have anybody else, basically. George Smith I think caught some balls... three... Dustin Dunning... but basically Earl was it. We were down to nothing in the wide receiver position.

Q: When you got down by 14 points in the fourth quarter, last year your team might have had problems. Was there anything different this time?

A: We weren't hanging our heads or anything, I know that. We feel like we can get in a rally situation and throw the ball extremely well. It paid off for us. We did a good job [coming back from 14 down]. Earl made a good catch to get us fired up a little bit. Then we got the ball back and scored again. I think our guys expect to do that. We were disappointed we didn't get it done in the end.

Q: Could you talk about your offensive line's protection on that last drive?

A: Well, [South Carolina's defense] had a little bit of an advantage on that last drive, knowing that we had to pass. They're going to tee off. I thought we had pretty good protection right there, to tell you the truth. They didn't really come close to sacking us. I may be wrong, but I thought the protection was pretty good.

Q: Jay Cutler's game... was it a situation where you thought Jay tried to do more than he should?

A: No, I don't think Jay thinks that. He just wants to get out there and have a chance to execute. He just wants to get enough protection to throw the football, and sometimes it breaks down, and Jay will sometimes throw a bad pass, off his back foot. But he also made some great throws off his back foot, because people were coming at him. So sometimes it works... most of the time it works. Sometimes it's an interception.


Freshman receiver Earl Bennett: 16 catches, 204 yards, 1 touchdown

Q: Earl, you had an outstanding day catching the football.

A: Yeah, last game I thought I had a bad game, and we really worked through it this week. We came out confident and playing hard.

Q: During the week did you guys see something in [South Carolina's] defense that you thought you'd be able to exploit?

A: Yes sir. We kind of looked at the different coverages that they like to run. We just kind of ran the plays that we thought would work.

Q: Did you ever catch 16 balls in a game before?

A: No sir.

Q: I mean, it didn't look like anybody ever covered you very closely.

A: Well, the coaches were calling great plays to get me open, and we were just running them, and executing.

Q: They took that 28-14 lead, but you guys didn't back down from anything like that. That's when you and Jay kind of got going again. Did you guys think you would have the ability to come back?

A: Yes sir. Our whole team just played hard. That's our main motto, play like a champion. Always play, and don't ever give up on a game until the game is over with.

Q: You had a pretty good game on returns as well. Are you happy with what you've been doing on kickoff returns and punt returns? Were you happy with the returns you had today?

A: I was pretty happy with the returns I had, but I just wish our team could have pulled this one out.

Q: What did Coach Johnson say to the team in the locker room afterwards?

A: Coach just told us to keep battling. We have three games left, and we need to win each of them to go to a bowl game.

Q: Did you guys talk any this week about the bowl implications of this game, or did you sort of leave that alone?

A: Not really. We didn't talk about it that much. We just came in trying to win the game, and just tried to play hard.

Q: You've got Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Now you've kind of put yourself in a position where you've got to win two of those in order to get that bowl eligibility. Can you talk about what that means for you?

A: It would mean a lot, especially for the seniors on this team. We really need to win at least two more. We'll just come out playing hard week after next when we play Florida.

Q: Is this one of the louder crowds you've played before? The loudest?

A: It was probably a tie between this crowd and Arkansas.


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