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What Josh Heupel Said To Put A Bow On Florida, Open UTSA Week

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel met with the media Monday afternoon to put a bow on the Vols’ SEC opening loss at Florida and open UTSA week.

The Vols struck first in Gainesville before Florida scored 26 straight first half points and coasted to a marquee victory.

Heupel discussed the offense’s execution issues, the defensive breakdowns on third down, UTSA’s program and much more. Here’s everything Heupel said after the win.

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Opening statement

“General Neyland probably said it best, the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. We did obviously not play to that standard on Saturday. Everybody in the building is disappointed. I could sense it from the players today— the disappointment and hurt. Lot of lessons for us to learn and we better learn them quick. At the same time, those lessons have to carry forward but we have to wash this one too. We have a really good opponent coming into Neyland this Saturday. This is a football team that’s won a bunch of games over the last couple of years. Experienced. Have playmakers, are big and physical on the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball, too. Be a really good test.”

On if the players disappointment stems from the self inflicted mistakes

“You look at offensively, in particular, we total self inflicted wounds— that can be penalties, that can be unforced errors, it can be communication— our percentage is way too high. It was on Saturday and it really was the week before too. So that’s why you move the ball at times but don’t have very many points. We have to clean that up. You can’t beat yourself.”

On what they can do in practice to try and prevent self inflicted wounds

“I do think you can’t let one play affect another and that certainly happened in the course of the first half in particular. The communication of things can’t transpire that way. That’s us coaches being better. That’s players being better. That’s better up front. At the end of the day we have to find the solution to it. I told the players this today too, it’s not the big things. And those are big things, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the subtle details in everything we’re doing. Everybody can’t take their turn of being off. We’ve got to become a unit that plays 11 together all of the time. Defensively too particularly in the first half. We’re fully capable and we need to take a step forward quickly.”

On if Gerald Mincey not playing on offense was punishment for his simple possession citation

“We just decided not to play him on the offensive side of the ball.”

On why Mincey played on special teams

“We just made that decision.”

On if Mincey will be available this week

“We have a long week here. We’ll go through the week.”

On if Dylan Sampson was available to play against Florida

“He was. He’s been a little nicked up but he was available. We had plans of having him in the rotation and I think on both sides of the football the flow of the game, in particular in the first half, probably we didn’t rotate the way we anticipated going into the football game and probably as much as we needed to too.”

On how he’d asses the offensive line play after watching the tape

“At the end of the day, just not as consistent as we needed them to be. And that’s really the entire offensive unit. I thought the wide receivers took a step in the right direction from how they had performed the previous weeks but collectively as a group just not as consistent as we need to be to go on the road to play a good team and be able to move the football and ultimately score points. The self inflicted wounds, that goes into how you’re scoring in the red zone too. It’s not a game of unlimited opportunities. You have to maximize them. You can’t put yourself in first-and-20 and try to play ball.”

On what led to Florida’s success on third down

“We had them in some third-and-long situations, too. Our games, he was able to get outside of the pocket to where we don’t put contain on it. We don’t match things on the backend, give up two routes on the sideline. When we’re sitting on a hard corner, we should be all over that. So, a little bit of the run fits. Guys are not completely out of their gap, but their eyes are caught in the wrong spot for a split-second. They’re a step, step and a half behind and you give up a vertical seam.”

On how he assessed Joe Milton’s performance after watching the tape

“There’s some real positives. The efficiency, the communication, handling all that. We have to be better. He’s got to be better. And the guys up front got to be better, too. And some of the skill guys as well.”

On if the issues through three weeks have been constant or if they are changing

“The needle has moved on some of it. Some of it from week two to week three, didn’t get cleaned up. We’ve gotta grow and go. For our football team — and I said this. Everyone sees the big picture of the small details is where this game has to be won and played. We have to get better at that.”

On how important it is in Heupel’s offense for the quarterback to improvise and make plays

“Extended plays are a big part of any offense in today’s game because of what you’re facing up front, the pressure packages that you’re inevitably going to see. Being able to move, make plays with your feet, is a part of the game. That can be tucking it and running it. It can also be extending plays outside of the pocket where you’re throwing the football down the field.”

On what they do to prepare for crowd noise

“We’ve done a lot of things. Need to ramp it up I guess. And when I say I guess, meaning only intensify it. We’ve got to be able to function better than we did. Part of that is the noise. Part of that is being able to reset from one play to the next. That’s the hardest part to replicate during practice.”

On where Milton is in terms of operating the offense

“He did some really good things the other night. The pick, we can’t just throw it up. Would like to have that one back. We’ve got to be better in protection, too, in that situation. The decision-making, where he’s going with the football — I said it before the game. I’ll say it after the game, too. He was in the right spots. Accuracy, wide receivers being exact in their routes — all those things gotta continue to improve for us to be as efficient as we need to be.”

On what’s gone wrong offensively in third and fourth and short situations

“Some of those scenarios are different as far as what happens. A lot of it, internally — we have to execute what we’re doing. That’s where we’re targeting, how we’re targeting them, the fundamentals of it. We have to execute better in some of those situations. Some of those things we probably practice those exact looks. At the end of the day, coaches and players, we need to get to where we need to be. You have to execute on third down. Third-and-short should be a situation where you’re picking it up 90 percent of the time.”

On what he sees from UTSA and how the Roadrunners are different on offense when quarterback Frank Harris plays and when he doesn’t

“I haven’t studied a ton of them on the offensive side of the football. Have watched them in recent history. The quarterback that is their starting quarterback is a special player. It’s a football team that’s won back-to-back conference championships. They’ve won 10-plus games the last two years. They’ve lost a couple of close ones this year, but they’re a really good football team. They play extremely hard. They play with really good fundamentals. They make you beat them. This is a really good football team that’s coming into Neyland on Saturday.”

On Tennessee’s offense struggling to finish drives

“The efficiency in the red zone, the lack of it – and it’s been a huge part of our success since we’ve gotten here – directly correlates to the self-inflicted wounds that I was talking about. Like you can’t beat yourself. You’re playing a good opponent. In a boxing match, they’re going to hit you once in a while. You’ve got to hit back, but you can’t just give them free reign and when you put yourself in those types of situations, man, it’s really difficult to overcome. That’s true in the open field, but it’s really difficult when the field starts restricting. We’re capable of being better than we are. We’ve got to get there quickly.”

On freshman cornerback Rickey Gibson III playing meaningful snaps on defense against Florida

“Rickey went in the ball game. He’s somebody that is continuing to gain trust from our coaching staff. He’s athletic. He’s done a good job on special teams. Got an opportunity to play some on Saturday night on defense. I said it to him today, we need him to grow quickly.”

On if he’s seen a sense of urgency from his team after the loss

“We’re just getting going in this week. The first thing is it better hurt and it better matter. You could see that from our players yesterday and today. I think I said it earlier, at the same time, all those lessons have got to move forward, but you’ve also got to wash this one clean, you know what I mean? When our players come back later today, we’ve got to move on to the next one. That’ll be really important for us as a staff and as a program.”

On the missed tackles on defense against Florida

“Yeah, defensively there were a couple of times where we got out of our gap. And when I say out of our gap, not that we were completely missing our gap – just we’re behind. And so a linebacker being a step behind allows that double-team (by the offensive line) to be thicker, then they climb up on the second level and you create a vertical seam. And when I talk about the game being played in margins, those are the subtle details that I’m talking about that happen on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side of the ball. It’s not a complete wholesale change. We just have to be more efficient in what we’re doing. The tackling issues, in particular in the first half, some poor fundamentals and a couple of times where the effort’s not very good.”

On how the staff assesses their own communications from booth to field within games

“Man, for us, like the efficiency of our tempo, we don’t ever put a stopwatch to it. It’s just how the bodies are moving, our ability to communicate, get lined up, get our cleats in the ground, identify who we’re targeting and all 11 guys operate in sync. You’ve got to be able to do that. We didn’t do it well enough, obviously, on Saturday night.”

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