Everything Josh Heupel Said After Florida Loss

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    Josh Heupel Tennessee

    The Tennessee Volunteers, led by head coach Josh Heupel, fell to the No. 11 Florida Gators on Saturday night by a score of 38-14.

    After the game, Heupel spoke to the media about the game and his team’s performance. While there were aspects of the game he was pleased with, such as the offense in the first half, Heupel was clearly disappointed with how the game played out. Tennessee went toe-to-toe with the Gators in the first half but fell apart in both phases over the course of the game.

    Hendon Hooker was the starting quarterback for Tennessee but did leave the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. However, beforehand, Hooker was 13-of-23 for 221 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he also added 23 yards on the ground. Tennessee had their two longest pass completions of the season behind the arm of Hooker against Florida. In the first quarter, Tennessee RB Tiyon Evans took a Hooker screen 47 yards to the house. Then, in the second quarter, Hooker and Vols WR JaVonta Payton found a connection on a 75-yard touchdown pass straight down the sideline.

    After finding two touchdown scores in the first half, Tennessee was unable to find the endzone in the second. Meanwhile, Florida was able to score 21 points in the second half, closing any hope of Tennessee finding itself a win in The Swamp.

    In addition, you can also find the full video of Josh Heupel’s press conference here.

    Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel – Florida Postgame Sept. 25, 2021

    Opening statement…

    “Obviously, extremely disappointing that the second half unfolded the way that it did. We competed and we responded extremely well in the first half all three phases of the game. I thought [there was an] opportunity in the second half, didn’t take advantage of certain opportunities and didn’t play smart football down the stretch. Not a question of wanting to as we came out of the tunnel for the second half, but obviously not good enough to cut it or smart enough competitors to go play the way that we needed to as a good football team”

    On penalties getting in the way…

    “Obviously the two on the special teams—disappointing, and the guy that’s catching the football early and unsportsmanlike conduct on the course of the play. Two things you just can’t do. Can’t take away from an effort of what everybody else on the football team is doing. Couple of penalties on offense that hurt you in situational football. Had some moving parts up front that played a little bit of a part of that. But, at the end of the day, playing at this level, you’ve got to go execute. Didn’t do a good job of that the second half.”

    On timeouts…

    “At the end of the situation, there was maybe 14 seconds on the clock there. Wanted to stay in tempo, that was just a choice by me. They got the ball spotted a little bit closer than I anticipated, but it felt like we had a chance to hit a shot and catch those guys out of position. Didn’t hit it. Felt like we had to go kick a field goal at the point we were at. Had a couple of issues with our snaps and that type of thing. We were right on the fringe of his range, and we decided to take the field goal at that point.”

    On Hendon Hooker’s game & status…

    “I really didn’t want to play Joe in this game just based off of the amount of work he got during the week and where we felt he was at the end of the week. I thought Hendon played hard, competed, made big times plays inside the pocket, used his feet, opportunistic. He had a play or two down the field that he didn’t connect on. I thought he handled the noise, the communication, for the most part in a really positive way during the course of the game. Handled the ups and downs and He continued to fight and compete and do it in a positive way there on the sideline in his demeanor, too. A ton of positives there. As far as his health. I don’t know where we’re at this point. We had a few guys that got banged up over the courses of the game, a little too early to tell where they’re at.”

    On how team is better than against Bowling Green…

    “I think we’re a better football team in our understanding of what we’re doing and, in some ways, execution. When you’re playing a really good football team like this, you lose opportunities, and those things arise. You’ve got to make those plays and today I didn’t feel like we did that.”

    On losing momentum in the second have after Jimmy Calloway’s drop…

    “The second half, just the flow of it, the clock is draining on everybody’s drives in the second half. There weren’t a ton of opportunities. You have to maximize every one of those drives and a couple situations we were in fourth down. You’ve got Calloway on a simple drag route. He’s got a chance to maybe pick up the first down and go the distance. We’re in fourth and short and it was a unique situation. Had to move centers and you have a delay of game there and you feel like you have to punt the football. Too many things that unfolded that you can’t do if you want to win against a really good football team like this. You just can’t do it as a program, so we’ve got to get better.”

    On running the game, Tiyon Evans performance and on the health of Jabari Small…

    “Jabari’s health, we will find out. I thought he fought and competed hard during the course of the game tonight. A lot of production out of him. Beginning of the second half, one of those drives, I thought we did a great job of consistently running the football and picking up nickels and more than that at times. I thought they ran with great pad level, restraint, and effort. I thought we moved the line of scrimmage in the second half. I don’t think we did it consistently enough in the first half, a couple of those drives where we didn’t get it started. We’ll go back and watch the video and see tomorrow.”

    On Elijah Simmons…

    “Just got hit on the knee as far as I know. That’s what they told me. I didn’t actually see it happen live. We’ll find out more as we finish tonight and get back to Knoxville.”

    On whether he was surprised to see dropped passes…

    “I didn’t anticipate that tonight based on what we see in practice.”

    On program closing the gap between other SEC teams…

    “It’s in everything that you do. There’s plenty of plays out there for us as coaches and players to close the gap tonight. We had a chance for it to be a tie-ball game going in. It’s who we are and how we continue to develop as we build this program. It’s in recruiting, too. We have to continue to grow or to race against ourselves. I said it last week, I said it the week before that. There are things for us to do that we can do better than what we showed in the second half, in particular tonight.”

    On slowing down offense with Hendon & quarterback finding read…

    “We hit a couple plays tonight, we missed a couple plays. The quarterback has to move in the pocket, and doesn’t hit it. We got some things underneath that are wide open too, that are big runs and catches afterwards that we don’t connect on, whether that’s the throw or the catcher. We just have to continue to get better. We’ve got to do it quicker.”

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.