The Josh Heupel era got off to a winning start in Knoxville, as the Volunteers dispatched Bowling Green 38-6. Heupel’s offense performed at hyper-speed at times; however, there were some struggles.

Nonetheless, Tennessee had to get off to a winning start in 2021, and Heupel and Vols fans had to be relieved to pull out the win.

Following the win over Bowling Green, Heupel spoke to the media:

Opening Statement
“Great night. First of all I just want to start by saying what an awesome experience for our players and our staff. Some of them, it was the first time they experienced being able to go through the Vol Walk, run through the T. Fan support tonight, on a Thursday night, was fantastic. Student section, you could feel their energy from the very beginning on the kickoff. Appreciate that and we’ll continue to need that here in the future.

“This morning I thought it was a unique opportunity to honor the trailblazers that have come through this program. Got a chance to see a bunch of VFLs that were back. Got a chance to meet some of them an re-interact with some of them that have been by campus for a practice before. So it was a great day.

“Excited about the win. We have a ton of ways that we can and are going to need to improve out of this football game. I thought defensively we played with passion, played with effort, played with energy. Tackled relatively well in space. Did a really good job for most of the night. Offensively there were times where we were clicking. Played efficiently. And other times, some of the things that we can control where we didn’t operate as efficiently as we can. Going to need to continue to clean those things up as we continue to move deeper into the season.

“But for us, seven months of work that goes into getting to this point. Building something from scratch. And I’m talking about relationships, who we are, what’s the standard, what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer football player. Really proud of getting to this point, playing with effort and passion and energy. Being able to celebrate a win. And obviously we’ll get back on Saturday and have an opportunity to watch the video and get a whole lot better from there.”

What he saw from the offense in the game vs. what he saw in fall camp
“I thought the run game operated relatively efficiently. A couple times we weren’t on the right hat. But I thought the pass game was really hit and miss for us tonight. Some of that was quarterback decision-making, being accurate with the football. Some of it is wide receivers being on the same page. Couple opportunities to catch it and we don’t. We’re going to have to be a whole lot more efficient in the pass game then we were tonight.”

On Joe Milton starting the game strong but struggling after the first quarter
“Some of it was what (Bowling Green) was doing, where we felt like we had an opportunity in some drop-eight coverages. There were some times I didn’t like his decision-making. There were some things that were open, open down the middle of the football field that he doesn’t recognize. There are some things that we have to clean up. Offensively we’re going to have to clean up some things too. At the same time, there were some positives coming out of it as well.”

On the offensive efficiency
“There are some things that we can definitely clean up and operate. I think that’s part of the passing game at times. There is some decision-making. Some of our RPO game can be a whole lot better. The adjustments to what you prepare for to what you ultimately see, to be able to be cleaner in that during the course of a ball game. There are a lot of ways we’ll get better. Players, coaches, all of us together. It’s Week 1, Year 1. We got a win, enjoy it tonight. Told the team you have to, man. It’s a hard game. At the same time, we’ll come back on Saturday after the coaches get back off the road and have an opportunity to get a whole lot better.”

On the pace of play and whether it met expectation
“We don’t have a set number of plays that we want to run during the course of a ballgame. Every game unfolds differently. Seeing how you handle those situations is extremely important. I thought when we played with tempo our kids operated relatively efficiently. You didn’t see a bunch of pre-snap penalties. There are things that, once the ball is snapped, we’ve got to clean up for us to operate as efficiently as we possibly can. A bunch of that you guys will see in the pass game.”

What he liked from QB Joe Milton
“Up until the fumble, I thought he did a good job taking care of the football. There were opportunities where you could see it, a couple times, using his feet, there are things open down the middle of the football field that he doesn’t have to get out of it. I think early in the football game he operated really efficiently with what we were doing. Some things on third down that we’ve got to clean up.”

On Ollie Lane
“I mean, inside I thought they did a good job (on the offensive line). Communication, with Cooper going out and Jerome (Carvin) getting everybody in sync and on the same page, in our run game we were pretty much hatting them up the way we wanted to. The right way. That part of it was really good to see from Jerome.”

On the strong defensive play only giving up 6 points
“I thought we played vertically, disrupted and changed the line of scrimmage really pretty consistently throughout the night. The second quarter you saw them have a couple drives, extend some things, hit some plays. A couple plays with three-level passes that we’ve got to clean up. But for most of the night I thought first, second and third level operated pretty clean, efficiently, hatted things up the right way. Communicated really well. And as much as anything played with great effort and strain.”

On Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small both rushing for 116 yards
“I thought they pressed the line of scrimmage for most of the night. Did a really good job with getting vertical. Front-wise, they were a little different than what we had planned for. They adjusted to it, handled it, delivered blockers. I thought they took care of the football really well tonight. Overall really pleased with their performance.”

On the wide receivers
“I thought there were some positives. We as a passing unit — quarterback and wide receivers — didn’t perform the way that we’re capable of. And the way that we’re going to need to moving forward. There were some positives early. We can be a whole lot better as the night went on. We’re going to be.”

On wide receiver Jimmy Calloway
“Jimmy Calloway, we expect to have him back real soon.”

On Byron Young, who didn’t play
“Do expect him back. We’re working through NCAA eligibility process with a previous school that he attended after high school. So we’re working through that process.”

Josh Heupel getting his first game under his belt at Tennessee
“It got to the point, and I said it leading up to it, we had to go play a game. You find out a whole lot of good. You find out some things you have to get a whole lot better on. That’s on the field, that’s off. It’s all of us together. This is a 12-week journey, right? This is Week 1, Year 1. I told the guys enjoy it tonight. It’s been seven months of hard work.

“At the same time, we can be a whole lot better. And we typically do (improve). If you approach it the right way, coaches will say Week 1 to Week 2 is the opportunity for your biggest improvement, I don’t think that’s the only time you can make those strides. You certainly have an opportunity to deal with the reality of who you are and where you were deficient that night and where you can get a whole lot better. I believe our kids are going to come back in the building on Saturday and be excited about getting back to work and getting a whole lot better.”

You can watch Heupel’s full postgame press conference below: