Tennessee football bounced back from their Week 3 Florida loss on Saturday night with a dominant 45-14 win over UTSA.
The Vols got off to a hot start with an 81-yard Joe Milton touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, and they ultimately carried a 31-0 lead into halftime.
A rocky third quarter ensued, but Tennessee shut down any thought of a comeback bid for the Roadrunners by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
Tennessee players Joe Milton, Dylan Sampson and Kaleb Webb all played a big part in the win, accounting for all six of Tennessee’s offensive touchdowns.
The three met with the media, along with defensive lineman Omari Thomas and linebacker Elijah Herring, to share their thoughts after the win.
What the five of them said is below.
LB Elijah Herring
On seeing his brother Caleb Herring’s first collegiate sack:
“That’s something that we’re going to remember forever. I know they’re going to remember it more than my first sack, but it was great to see. I was one of the first ones to meet him. It was a dream come true.”
On how long this past week was after the loss against Florida:
“It felt like a minute. It felt like we hadn’t touched a win in a couple of games. You’ve just got to keep going with that game mentality. You can’t let that affect you coming into the next opponent. You’ve just got to keep your mind on them and be ready to go.”
On success from having his eyes in the right place:
“I’m most definitely trying to keep my eyes on my keys. He’s speaking the right stuff. If I keep my eyes on my keys, they’re going to take you right to the ball. You’ve just got to keep doing that and keep developing.”
QB Joe Milton III
On importance for offense to start fast:
“That’s been our motto since the season started. That’s always been our motto since Coach Heupel got here. We want to start fast so you can understand the flow of the game and understand the tempo that you guys can bring and what you guys can do and execute and how can you execute. I feel like that’s been the motto since Coach Heupel got here that he kind of led into us. We always had that same energy to start fast and get things going. We find out the mojo of the team.”
On what he thinks he’s doing best in the pass game and what he still has to improve:
“The main goal is to give your all for Tennessee. I give my all for Tennessee no matter what game it is. The whole purpose of connecting in the pass game, just being able to connect. I feel like there’s still more out there for us to do, but that’s why we practice every day. We go back and watch film and learn from it and understand what we’re doing as an offense. How can we help it? How can we connect and stay on the page?”
On what he learned about himself and the team after the last week:
“No matter what, we just got to stay together. There’s a lot going on in the world. We all have different mindsets; we all have different things we have interests in as a person. We all came from different families. At the same time, it’s about how bad do you really want it, how bad do you want to stay together, how bad that sweat and tears that you put in the summer, how bad do you want it to pay off? That’s how you look at it.”
RB Dylan Sampson
On his mindset this week after not playing in last week’s game:
“Nothing really changed. I was not frustrated, I understood the situation, and how the game went, and it is just my competitive spirit. I understand we are deep in the running back room, and my mindset is every time, I never know how many touches I am going to get. Like I have said many times, I am willing to do everything I need to do to help this team, so my mindset is always just make the most I can with my touches.”
On how he is so effective with the ball in his hands:
“I think it is just the will to compete. There is a difference between hard work and competing, and I think it is just the intention I take, the mindset of when I have the ball in my hands, I want to be the best person. I want to be a playmaker, and that comes along with preparation and hard work in the week, but it is just something different that your mindset has to click on Saturdays. It is another level of competitiveness. I do not want to be tackled, not by the first person or second person. I want to score. Sometimes, that might be my fault, because I have to understand that every play is not a home run play, but it is just the eagerness to get the ball when they call the play that I know can hit. I trust in my o-line [and] receivers blocking. We all collectively do this thing, and it is great thing to be a part of.”
On if the running backs helped him through the week:
“Definitely; they gave me words. I was in a good mindset, but that is what they are there for. They gave me words of wisdom, but that next practice, I did nothing different. I came in the facility, I was talking in practice, because it was not personal, and I know that. It is just my competitive spirit. It was nothing personal about that, so my mindset did not change. It was not as if they disrespected me in any kind of way. Like I said before, I love being on this team with my brothers [and] in this running back room. It is the best room in the nation.”
DL Omari Thomas
On how to enjoy success while also not being satisfied and wanting more:
“We really just come in, understand that winning is hard no matter who you play. When you get a win, it’s always good to get a room. You got to celebrate your win as a team. At the end of the day, you got to know that we already flipped the page, we’re on to the next already. You can’t get satisfied; you can’t be complacent. You just really got to be able to come in ready to work every day to get better. We’ll celebrate this win as a team, we’ll be happy for it, but it’s time to flip the page already.”
On what he learned about himself and the team after the last week:
“Honestly, I feel like the team just learning, I feel like we showed a lot of maturity just in the way we approached this week. Guys, it wasn’t too much talking, but you could tell how much guys really care about what we’re going to do as a team and what we needed to do to get back out there and win this football game today. I really feel like I really saw how dedicated our team is to winning and to being the best on the field, the best team on the field every Saturday.”
On how he would assess the run defense and cleaning up missed tackles:
“It’s just really focusing on that. We pride ourselves on being a defense that we don’t allow teams to run the ball on us. Last week, that was what happened. We approached this week just getting back our edge. That was we as a d-line, as a defense, we just want to play with that edge. I feel like when we come out and play with an edge it’s hard for teams to mess with us, honestly. Just everyone, who we are, just the leadership we have on our team and different things like that. As far as being in the run game, we pride ourselves on don’t allow teams to run the ball on us. We took great effort, we really focused on that this week. As far as drills, extra film, we made sure that nobody is running the ball on us. We want to just continue to grow in that, because that’s what we pride ourselves on as a defense.”
WR Kaleb Webb
On getting his first career touchdown grab and how he got to that moment:
“I would just say the hard work and preparation. I feel like I’m in the facility nonstop every week to prepare myself for any moment that may come. Bru (McCoy) was tired, and I had a chance to come in. My mindset as soon as I got into the game was just to try and make a play and give them a reason to play me a little bit more. Joe (Milton III) has done a good job throughout camp and throughout the season so far of keeping me ready by saying, ‘There’s going to be a time where we’re going to need you. Execute, because that’s what you’ve been doing since you got here.’”
On the play that he scored a touchdown on and how much work they put into that:
“That’s not something we rep often. We’ll do it occasionally in practice, just in case we need it. It was like a face screen, and I had to figure out where the safety was and turn my angle. Joe (Milton III) waited and put the ball on me.”
On the story behind him giving a handshake to every player on offense after he scored his first touchdown:
“I would just say, for me personally, that I have handshakes with everybody on offense. Once they make a play or get in the endzone, I’m one of the first people to run up to them and do the handshake. I think it looks pretty cool, and it also shows the bond and connection we have within our locker room, especially on the offensive side.”