Views from the locker room

Head coach Bobby Johnson, senior quarterback Jay Cutler, and freshman receiver Earl Bennett talked with the media in the press room Saturday in the wake of Vanderbilt's 48-43 loss to Kentucky.

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Head Coach Bobby Johnson:

Opening statement: I think it was just an extremely, extremely poor first half by our whole football team, which is obviously my fault. I needed to get them in here and get them ready to play, but we had execution mistakes, mistakes on special teams, turnovers... when you get that far behind, it's just awfully hard to come back. I'm proud of the way our guys did play in the second half. We still did not play hard enough to overcome the mistakes we made in the first half. They give up 365 yards and score 48 points. You're just giving them too many opportunities and just not doing all the things you need to do to win.

Q: You had a time out waiting there to stop the clock. Were the earlier time outs that were called bad time outs?

A: Well, at that point in time we're trying to make adjustments and make sure we got the right play, because every play at that point is critical. If you allow a bad play to be run, it's worse than using a time out. You've got a chance for a turnover or lost yardage. It would be wonderful if we never had to call time out, we had every play called correctly, and we get out of the huddle correctly, but that's not the way it goes.

Q: How do you account for the fact you guys were so flat in the first 30 minutes?

A: Well, I don't know, to tell you the truth. I thought our guys practiced really well this week. I don't know. Maybe the tide turned when they returned that blocked field goal, and we just sort of deflated then. I thought we were playing hard at first. We got a turnover, got a field goal, had some positive things happen early, but we couldn't follow through with it.

Q: That play could have made it 14-6. Considering what happened in the MTSU game, do you find it disheartening that a special teams play like that can be so key?

A: Well, that was one of them. There were several other special teams plays that were poor. We allowed another punt return that set up another touchdown. They're very good at it, but we helped them too much. It probably was... I would think the blocked field goal was the deflating moment.

Q: Is it any consolation that you guys went down swinging?

A: Sure. Sure. I've been with some teams, some good teams, who have been in that situation and have not been able to come back. Our guys hung in there, and we got it back to where we had a chance to get the ball back on an onside kick attempt. We had a chance to get the ball back with two minutes to go. If we had gotten it back I think we could have gotten it in the end zone.

Q: This loss puts an end to the possibility of going to a bowl. How does your team approach the game against Tennessee now? What do you tell them to get them fired up?

A: Well, we need to get better, that's the main thing. We've got to get better than we were today, and we'll take that to Tennessee. Tennessee's not going to be part of the equation. It's going to be all about Vanderbilt this week, and we're going to try to improve our football team.


Quarterback Jay Cutler: 39-of-66 for 395 yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions:

Q: Jay, how did you guys think you were going to be able to dig out of that hole you had dug yourselves into?

A: It was a helluva hole. We dug it pretty deep that first half for ourselves. It's just unfortunate. I think we were the better team out there. We killed ourselves. Special teams, turnovers. We dug a hole we couldn't get out of.

Q: You got a little frustrated in the first half. What were they doing?

A: Well, we had some problems. We were trying to figure out exactly what they were doing. We were doing some no-huddle. I kind of wanted to pick up the pace a little bit, because I thought we were flat. It was a mixture of things. We didn't play very well on any sides of the ball.

Q: How do you account for the fact you guys were so flat?

A: You tell me. There's a lot of reasons... practice, pre-game, 1:00 game, senior day... we've got to get focused. It's a football game, and we've got to be ready to play at the kickoff.

Q: Does this sort of symblolize your stay here with this team? You guys come close...

A: Yeah, slow start, come close at the end. It's disappointing. I mean, the seniors on this team, we gave a lot. It would have meant a lot to this program to go to a bowl game. All the guys who came back for a fifth year, and all the guys who gave up a redshirt year. It's disappointing, but there's nothing we can do now.

Q: This was not how you wanted to go out, but how do you salvage this year?

A: Win against Tennessee. We've got one more left. We need to have a good week of practice and see what happens. That's all we can do. A bowl is out of the picture. We blew that today. We've got to try to get it back together and get everyone focused for one more.

Q: You talked a lot earlier in the year about how the crowds helped you guys get through some of these early games. Conversely it would seem to me that a small crowd would have kind of a lulling factor. Were you surprised when you walked out there? And they were taken out of the game very early.

A: It was, a little bit. I thought we would have a little better draw, especially after our performance in Florida. But we can't control that. We just have to go out and play football, and we obviously weren't ready.


Freshman receiver Earl Bennett: 13 catches, 99 yards, 5 touchdowns:

Q: You guys fell behind early, but then came from behind in the second half and made a game of it.

A: We just couldn't finish the game off. We had a great second half. We should have had a better first half.

Q: You had a pretty good game. Do you look at numbers?

A: I don't really look at numbers. I just try to help my team win.

Q: How tired are you after a game like this? You're out there on punt returns, kick returns, out there in the offense...

A: I'm a little winded, but not too much.

Q: What kind of adjustments did you guys make in the second half to get the offense going?

A: We changed the scheme a little bit. We tried to spread the ball out to everybody.

Q: The players were saying, we came out flat. Why would that happen when there's so much on the line?

A: I don't know. I thought everybody came out ready to play. We just made too many mental mistakes in the first half.

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