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Everything Josh Heupel Said On SEC Coaches Teleconference

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Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel against Pittsburgh. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel answered questions from the regional media on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday.

The Vols’ head coach discussed the 50th anniversary of the first night game inside Neyland Stadium, what he wants to see from his team against Akron and more.

Here’s everything Heupel said ahead of the matchup with the Zips.

Heupel opening statement: We just finished up our Wednesday practice here. It’s been a good week of work. The challenge always is for us to continue to improve as we continue to go through the journey during the season. Practice habits have been good here this week and looking forward to the game here inside Neyland Stadium. Looking forward to competing with our guys this Saturday.

Question: Friday is the 50th anniversary of the first night game at Neyland Stadium. When you walked into Neyland for the Ole Miss game, what was your reaction?

Answer: You feel it when you get off the bus for the Vol Walk which is always, in my opinion, the best pregame experience I’ve had anywhere I’ve been. That is even heightened for a night game. Then being able to run out of the T. That night the place was checkerboarded. It’s special, man. It’s 100,000+ fans, the energy, the electricity, the anticipation. Our staff and our players can absolutely feel it. College football as good as it gets.

Q: What has lead to the development for you all to win a game at Pitt that you might have lose last season?

A: Really I was just talking about our habits and who we are individually and collectively. There’s a lot of things we didn’t do right in that football game and a part of that was certainly because Pitt is a good football team too. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that, but the ability to be composed for four quarters and overtime. To handle the ups-and-downs. Not getting emotionally off track, being able to focus on doing your job no matter what happened the previous play. Could have been on a different unit too. I think that competitiveness, that composure is something we’ve grown too. We aren’t, by any means, a finished product, but I did think that night showed some of the growth from our kids from when we first arrived to who we are today. The challenge for us is to continue to develop those things.

Q: What did you like about your defense against Pitt?

A: I think the ability to reset and play the next play independent. We gave up a couple fourth down plays but the look in their eyes, their demeanor, it didn’t change in any way. I thought we were relentless with our front seven in particular, some of our pressures with our corners and safeties too. I thought our energy, effort, strain, technique that we played with up front showed its head over the course of the football game. We were close early in the first quarter. We weren’t executing quite as well as we needed to on the back end. The quarterback was able to get rid of the football. We did a little bit better job on the back end as the game went on and those pressures started hitting and the guys up front started hitting and we were able to get to the quarterback. As much as anything, I just think the disruption of the run game and the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. I thought the line of scrimmage our guys did a great job.

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Q: What difference have you seen in Neyland in night games versus afternoon games?

A: The energy and atmosphere inside the stadium wasn’t a whole lot different. I do think there’s something different in the mystic, the pageantry of playing under the lights and it’s obviously different in our pregame preparation because you’re in the hotel for a larger stretch.

Q: Do you have any former relationship with former Mississippi State and now Akron head coach Joe Moorehead?

A: I do not. I don’t have any interaction with him.

Q: What are the areas of emphasis against Akron?

A: Some of our eyes and keys in the run game, the pass game and defensively. I think that’s something we can improve. The ability to be more efficient and effective in the run game during the course of the football game. Consistency, there’s some things we did on the offensive side of the football that I thought hurt us early and in the third quarter of the football game that we have to improve upon if we’re going to be what we’re capable of. Obviously the special teams errors have to be cleaned up.

Q: How do you keep your team focused on Akron and not looking ahead to Florida like fans?

A: Fans get to do whatever they want to, right? They get a chance on Saturday’s to enjoy the football game and in some ways they’re prognosticators. Get a chance to enjoy the buildup to everything. When you’re a competitor, man, you have to be really consistent in your habits. That’s something we’ve talked about with our football team. You don’t have to do anything other than look back at the scoreboard from last week in college football to understand that this game doesn’t care who you are or where you’re ranked, what conference you’re in. You better prepare the right way and be consistent in that and go play your best football on Saturday.

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