Views from the locker room: VU-MTSU

Bobby Johnson (B. Wiseman)

Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson, senior quarterback Jay Cutler, and senior receiver Erik Davis each spoke in the press room Saturday after Vanderbilt's 17-15 loss to MTSU.

Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson:

Q: Fans may say, you overlooked [MTSU]. I know and you know that that's silly. But what would you say to the fans who said, oh, they just got too big a head? Do you buy into that?

A: I don't buy into it. This is football. They played great defense. They've played great defense all year. We were probably close on a couple of those other games, and the same thing happened... if we hadn't made plays at Wake Forest, if we hadn't made the plays at Arkansas, we wouldn't have won those games. We just didn't quite get it done tonight. We had a good drive. We started on what, the six-inch line? And got it down there and had a field goal opportunity. You know, I'll take those chances just about every time.

Q: Coach, I know you didn't want a loss, but is this something that you can take from, a little humbling of your team, so that you keep in focus?

A: No, I'd rather win and worry about keeping them from getting too high. But it may have had that effect.

Q: What did Middle throw at you defensively? You talked about things they did in the secondary...

A: They did a good job. They played us man-to-man with two-deep help, and did a good job. We shook them a couple of times and got some things going, but we would have a drop here or there, or pressure and not be able to get the ball off.

Q: Did they show you anything you hadn't seen from anybody else this year?

A: They changed up things a little bit, but it was nothing we couldn't have adjusted to.

Q: Could you talk about the emotions of those final moments? You go from your six-inch line... there's a timing issue, they get 12 men on the field... I thought the refs might stop the clock after what seemed to be a first down...

A: Everybody seemed to think it was a first down. He was past the marker over there. It was obviously a first down. The clock should have stopped. We wanted to save our timeout in case we wanted to go for the end zone and shoot the ball over the middle, and had to have a timeout to stop the clock to kick a field goal. I was shocked when I looked up and saw that the clock had run off, and there was no attempt to make it right.

Q: How has the incident with George Smith affected the morale of the team this past week in practice?

A: Not much. I don't think that was a factor. We were, you know, shocked at first, but George came back and kept working out, and I don't think it had any ill effect.

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Quarterback Jay Cutler: 26-of-44 passing for 245 yards, 1 touchdon, 1 INT; 21 rushing yards

Q: Talk about what you guys did with Chris Nickson at quarterback tonight.

A: We had him running the ball and split out wide for a couple of passes. At times it worked really well, and at other times it didn't. But it didn't affect me at all, not throwing the ball. I thought I was mostly on target today. I thought I was crisp. I thought I made good decisions, for the most part. We just killed ourselves.

Q: Did you guys have a little trouble getting started early in the game?

A: Yeah, I think so. We've had a little trouble in the past getting into rhythms, starting off a little slow. But once we get going, we're going. We've got a lot of confidence, especially offensively. It did take us a really long time to get going.

Q: Looking back at this week of practice, is there anything you can point to that was different, anything you should have done different?

A: No, definitely not. We did the same thing we've done the past three or four games. We prepared hard. We knew MTSU was going to come in here and play us a tough ball game. We knew it was going to be a fourth-quarter game, and we got it.

Q: Someone asked Coach this... fans are probably going to say, they overlooked MTSU. We both know it's a ludicrous question, but how would you answer that?

A: I'm not even going to answer it. This game is over and done with. We're going to LSU. We're not overlooking anybody. We came out here and played a tough ball game and didn't get it done offensively. It's time to move on.

Q: You were the holder on the blocked field goal. Could you relive that a little bit? Was there any kind of rushing it?

A: I mean, the clock was stopped. I think everyone was set. Brian said it felt great going off his foot. It was a good snap. I got it down as fast as possible.

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Senior receiver Erik Davis: (7 catches for 92 yards, 1 touchdown)

Q: Erik, could you comment on the drops tonight? Some of them came at crucial times.

A: Definitely. Some of those drops did come at crucial times, and we're still saying, we've got time, we've got time. When they come at crucial moments, it hurts a little bit more. But we bounced back from it.

Q: You could see Middle Tennessee was fired up. They played hard every snap today.

A: Absolutely. My hat goes off to their defense. Their defense probably had the most impact on us of any defense we've played against this year. Their defense definitely came to play.

Q: Coach Johnson said that despite the loss today, you guys still have a great opportunity. What do you think he means by that?

A: We're still undefeated in the SEC. We've got a couple of big-name opponents coming in here. This one was a war for state pride and all that. But we're still in a good position if we can just win.

Q: Do you think the losses will affect this team as much as they have in the past?

A: I think it will motivate us more not to feel that way. We've felt down in the past after losses, and we don't want to feel that way any more. I definitely want to bounce back.

Q: Did MTSU give you any different looks in their coverage that you hadn't seen before?

A: No, they didn't show us anything we hadn't seen before. It was just miscues that killed us. Their defense came to play, and our hats go off to them.

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