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Everything Josh Heupel Said After Tennessee’s Shutout Win Over TTU

Tennessee Josh Heupel
Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel. Photo by Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.

After Tennessee defeated Tennessee Tech by a score of 56-0 on Saturday, Vols’ head coach Josh Heupel took to the podium for his postgame press conference.

The Vols cruised to a victory on Saturday, closing out their last of three non-conference games before SEC play officially starts. The Vols were dominant in the win, shutting out Tennessee Tech 56-0.

All in all, the Vols played a great game on Saturday but did leave some room for improvement this week. The Vols ground game couldn’t seem to, well, get off the ground, so to speak. However, with running back Jabari Small inactive for the game and a banged-up offensive line, there’s were some excuses in play.

Nonetheless, Tennessee’s defense had a tremendous game, accounting for their first four turnovers on the season. All were interceptions, and one was even taken to the house for a touchdown. The Tennessee defense also held their opponent out of the endzone on Saturday. In addition, that is the second time for the team to accomplish that goal in three games this season. Following their victory on Saturday, some of the Tennessee defenders, including Solon Page III, who scored the pick-six, spoke to the media after the game.

Heupel talked about all of these things to one degree or another. Below is the full transcript for Tennessee coach Josh Heupel in his postgame press conference. In addition, you can also find the full video of the press conference here.

Josh Heupel Tennessee
Tennessee DB Jaylen McCollough after the Vols win against Tennessee Tech. Photo by Tennessee Athletics.

Opening statement…

“First of all, I thought the fans were fantastic today. Third straight home game, noon ball game, the Vol Walk was energetic, it was awesome. The environment for our players running out today, I thought the people that showed up were into the football game early and did a great job, so we appreciate that. I thought the team did a lot of the things we were asking them from the previous week, but still played with great effort and energy. In particular, the defense and special teams. I thought we played cleaner, way fewer penalties. I thought we handled that the right way. Then, we were able to take care of the football for the most part during the football game, and defensively were able to force four. Did a great job there. I thought we took some positive steps. There’s a bunch of plays out there offensively that at some point we will need to take advantage of. Obviously, the level of competition is going to step up next week. Our players are excited about that opportunity, a big challenge for us as a program. But we have to make some strides this next week.”

On going 4-for-5 on fourth down conversions…

“I’m glad that we converted in those situations. Some of it was what we were playing and the situation. There were some setup plays that I didn’t think we did a very good job on third down. Would have liked to convert on some of the passes and a couple of runs that we didn’t pick up what we should have in those situations. At the end of the day, I’m glad that we converted on four out of the five and have to find a way to convert on that one too.”

On Hendon Hooker’s performance…

“Some real positives. (He was) decisive, accurate at times, did a good job using his feet at times, but the turnovers can’t happen. There were some plays in the pass game from in the pocket with wide receivers behind the secondary and not connecting on those. You have to, at some point, make those plays.”

On getting a lot of guys playing time…

“Talked about it as a staff on Thursday before the staff went out recruiting and in the afternoon on Friday. Just having a plan that if the game unfolds in a way where we get the opportunity, want to reward the guys and get some young players some meaningful snaps and reward everyone on our roster. I thought in all three phases, we had an opportunity to let some young guys get some opportunities out there, which I think is important.”

On if he was looking for certain things to see this week on offense and defense…

“I talked about it last week. The first thing is our lead-up and the process we go through before kickoff. I’m talking about Monday through Friday. But certainly, I felt like in the last 48 hours of last week, we weren’t as good as we needed to be in our mental approach and how we did everything. I thought we took some strides there, not where we need to be as a football team. On the field, creating turnovers, taking care of the football on offense, obviously, the penalties were a huge issue a week ago. Those were two big factors that we recognized after the ball game with our team. More points of emphasis coming into this one, some positives as far as growth in this football game.”

On if he knows what the identity of this team is yet…

“I think we are playing with great effort and energy in all three phases of the game. We’re not quite clean enough on the offensive side of the ball, some positive things we’ve done defensively. Creating negative plays, getting after the quarterback, and I think you continue evolve as your personnel changes. Your matchups, you have to be able to protect the guys you need to protect as you go through a football game based on who you’re seeing and be able to take advantage of matchups.”

On feeling good about drawing up the right plays…

“At the end of the day, it’s about 11 guys playing together as one. We are at a point where we should be able to execute those things at a higher level than we did in the first three games. Week 1 was an anomaly and a little bit of a different structure than what we were going to see week 1 in our offense. Week 2, we just didn’t connect in the way we are capable of. We got to grow out of that. You guys have heard me say it. Our players have too.”

On Joe Milton III’s current status…

“He had some opportunity to work with us during the middle part of the week. At the end of the week, he just did not feel like he was going to be ready. I think the next couple of days will be big in his rehab, and we will see where he is at when we get on the field on Tuesday.”

On the quarterbacks’ reps at practice…

“Hendon took the majority of them, probably all of them. Harrison took a bunch of reps too. There might have been a drive or two, where they swapped but for the most part, Hendon took them all.”

On what he meant about the team not being ready for Pitt…

“Our mental approach. Keeping what’s important from our players’ perspective. That’s as detailed as I am going to get right now.”

On holding today’s win to a high standard…

“I think it is really important for our players to enjoy every win. Coaches too. It is a hard game to play by competitiveness, and if you play it 10 times, it is going to unfold differently every time so absolutely enjoy the win. For me, I am going to transition to the following week pretty quick, and our players need to do that too. There are still controllables out there that we need to be better at as a football program.”

On Velus Jones Jr.’s performance…

“I think he did a great job with the ball in his hands. As a returner, he had big plays and I think he housed one and it got called back. It might have been the first one of the ball game for us. I thought he was pretty sound as a decisionmaker back there as a returner on punt return as well. Close to coming out of a couple more. At wide receiver, he had a huge play where he went in down the sideline, and he is the guy that just one has the ability to make plays for us. His experience is helpful for us, and that is when he is playing outside or in the slot offensively. He just has to clean up a couple of things, and I say that having said that to him this past week and in the locker room today too. To continue to clean up the operations so he can play as fast and as clean as he possibly can to help us be the best offense we can.”

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