The view from the locker room

VandyMania talked with head coach Bobby Johnson, running back Norval McKenzie, safety Justin Giboney, and quarterback Jay Cutler in the locker room after Saturday night's opening loss to Georgia Tech.


Q: How far away is this team from where you thought they were?

A: Obviously we're a long way from where we thought we were. You get confidence in your guys, and you work with them. We're trying to be a team. We're trying to stay together. They're the players we've got right now, and we're going to keep working with them. But we're certainly not pleased with the way we played. We started off well, did some good things, but we didn't react when adversity came.

Q: How would you evaluate Jay Cutler's performance?

A: I'm sure when we look at the film we're going to find that Jay can do better than that, and Jay'd be the first to tell you that. But a lot of times you find out on the film that there are a lot of things that aren't the quarterback's fault. He was under pressure. Sometimes we ran the wrong routes. You can't blame everything on the quarterback. Jay also showed that he was athletic enough to avoid the rush and get outside and make some plays for us. He ran the option for us a couple of times very well. So we still feel good about both quarterbacks. Benji [Walker] came in and did some good things. We just didn't do enough of them linked together.

Q: Will you change the way you alternate the quarterbacks? Some people may have thought it was going to be more 50/50, but Cutler played a whole lot more tonight.

A: I never said it was going to be 50/50. We planned to bring Benji in about the second quarter and see what he could do. We were hoping there would be a situation where we would have some success, and we would figure out what they were doing, and figure out what we were doing well. The next thing you know, we're backed up, and they had the ball on our side of the 50 for the whole second quarter. Jay's going to be a good player. This is going to be a long season. We're not going to panic. There are so many things that we can improve on. The list is going to be long, obviously. Some things are just mental. We probably weren't a good match for Georgia Tech tonight. But we can do a lot of things better mentally and make ourselves a better football team.

Q: How much difference did you think there was between the two teams in terms of athleticism?

A: A couple of times you could see it was pretty significant. They just outran us a couple of times to the corners and things like that. It's hard to say. I'd say they had more good athletes than we did.


Sophomore running back NORVAL McKENZIE was Vandy's leading ground gainer with 5 carries for 28 yards, and one reception for six yards. It was his first start.

Q: Did you think there was a big talent difference between Vandy and Georgia Tech?

A: Honestly I don't feel like there was any talent difference. I just thought Georgia Tech played better. They made the plays when it counted, and we didn't.

Q: How did it feel to have the starting role for the first time and be depended upon more than you have been?

A: It didn't really feel any different. I came in here focused. I wasn't nervous or anything. I was just trying to get the job done. I was at home, playing in front of my home crowd, so I felt comfortable.


Senior free safety JUSTIN GIBONEY was Vandy's leading tackler with 17 (6 solo, 11 assisted).

Q: What made Georgia Tech so tough to stop tonight, especially in that second quarter when they scored 31 points?

A: Their running game really got us. Nothing specific. We just weren't tackling like we were supposed to be. We didn't execute the way we were supposed to. The score doesn't show it, but it wasn't about what they did. It was about what we did. They had a lot of speed. People weren't always where they were supposed to be.

Q: With this loss, will the team suffer a blow to their confidence? And what do you as a senior do to keep that from happening?

A: It can definitely be a factor, but we've got to get these young guys thinking about the next game. We've got to let this go. We can't change the score. There's no use harping on it.

Q: A lot of guys on defense saw their first action tonight. Were there any that you thought played well?

A: Yeah, a lot of guys. Jovan Haye played really well. He played the whole game and executed the way he was supposed to. I think he played great. Cheron Thompson, Dominique Morris, I can't think of them all. But several of them did really well.


Freshman quarterback JAY CUTLER completed 10 of 23 passes for 73 yards with two interceptions, and picked up 26 additional yards on the ground.

Q: Could you capsule your thoughts on the whole team's performance tonight?

A: Their defense did a great job. Our defense was on the field way too long tonight. I don't know the time of possession, but I'm sure it was ridiculous. We now have a lot of film to look at. Hopefully we'll execute a little better on Saturday.

Q: It seemed like it took a little while for you guys to go to a passing attack. Was that by design?

A: I don't know. I think they wanted to try to get me comfortable, so we ran the ball to try to be safe, to see what defenses they ran to see if our scouting report was right. For the most part they didn't throw anything different at us. I don't know if they wanted to wait until the second quarter to start throwing, but it went down like that, and we have to live with it.

Q: Did it work to make you more comfortable?

A: Oh, yeah.

Q: ...or would you have rather come out throwing a little more.

A: I was comfortable after the first series. I got hit on the first play. That got the butterflies out, and I was fine after that. We could have come out throwing earlier, but we didn't, and we didn't execute anyway.

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