Josh Heupel's postgame comments following Tennessee's loss to Pitt
The Tennessee Volunteers were beat at home Saturday by Pittsburgh 41-34.
It was a rough game for the Vols, especially the quarterbacks. Joe Milton struggled early before getting hurt, and Hendon Hooker didn’t fare too much better, although the offense was flowing better with Hooker.
Below is everything Josh Heupel said Saturday:
“I appreciate the Majors family being here. It was a good opportunity to celebrate everything he’s meant to this football program. It was an awesome way to notice him and his time here as a player and a coach.
“Told the players in the locker room (we’re) obviously disappointed in the outcome. Ton of things that had an opportunity to change the football game. From communication side to turnovers to opportunities in the red zone that we didn’t take advantage of. All those things are true. But also told them this, that this defines today, it doesn’t define the journey this football team is on. I think it’s really important that they understand that. It’s just who we are in Week 2 against Pitt. There are a lot of things that are controllables, that we have an opportunity to get a whole lot better at. If we do, we can take better advantage of the opportunities we have in the future in the games that we have.
“Wanted them to understand. We talked about it all week long. Understanding who Pitt is as a football team and where they’re at as a program, we didn’t want to look at the scoreboard until it ticked to zero. We’re going compete to the very last tick. I am proud of our football team. I think they did that. They weren’t perfect in how we competed. But we did compete.
“Got a bunch of guys banged up. I’m sure there will be a lot of questions about injuries. You guys saw that unfold with guys that weren’t able to compete from Week 1 or weren’t on the field. I don’t have an update on everybody. As we go through this weekend, obviously we’ll be able to learn more about guys … if they’ll be ready to play next week.”
Joe Milton too injured to return to the game?
“He was (injured). Couldn’t come back. Hendon did a great job. Coming off the bench, competing, giving us a chance. Made some plays with his feet, made some plays with the ball in his hands. Yeah, there are things he would want to do better, do differently. Obviously the last play, he’s got an opportunity where we turn it over. But I thought the team rallied around him, they believed in him. He went out there and competed extremely hard, gave us a chance in the second half.”
On the 13 penalties for 134 yards
“It’s not who we’ve been. Taking our helmet off for a celebration early, changing the field position a little bit. Showed them things that happened across the country during our Monday meeting. First-and-7 on the goal line, not going in. Had a couple things transpire and kick the field goal. Had a bunch of things that we’ve got to be better at as competitors. Better composure. We talked about it before the game. Obviously we were not good in those moments. Personal fouls. Occasionally there is going to be a playing penalty, from the snap the whistle. We played hard. Occasionally those things are going to happen. You don’t want them to as a coach or a player. The things that you can control, though, you can’t do. It changes the way the game is played. You add up all those little things, there are a lot of opportunities that change the scoreboard on both sides of it, offensively and defensively an special teams too. It’s disappointing we didn’t take advantage of some of those opportunities.”
Off-setting penalties resulting in a replay of the down
“I don’t know what the right rule is or what it should be. I don’t know if we (blocked in the back) or not at the beginning of the return. I just saw the end of it, thought it was clean. Obviously had an opportunity to be a big play in the game, change the momentum. It didn’t. Then offensively with that drive we didn’t get going. Throughout the course of it, early in the first quarter, defensively they were playing really well. Didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities we had on offense. The second quarter, the turnovers, hurt you, the way the game was played for the defense. Three phases of the game playing together. Simple communication stuff in the fourth quarter, where you end up burning a couple timeouts late in the third quarter, the beginning of the fourth quarter. You know you’re going to need those in the fourth quarter, trying to get a stop and give yourself one more chance.”
Is Hendon Hooker the starting QB?
“We’re going to go back and watch the tape and evaluate everybody. We’ll evaluate the quarterback position as well. Evaluate everybody and how they played. Some of that may mean more opportunities for other guys. Some of it may be just cleaning up some things they can control and be better at.”
On Tyler Baron
“He was nicked up with a couple different things during the course of the game today, specifically. I talked to the trainer multiple times about him.”
Surprised by the lack of turnovers?
“Defensively we emphasize (forcing turnovers). It’s how we start every practice. Any skill guys, always catching balls pre-practice and post-practice. Getting the opportunity to get your hands on it, make that play. We’ve done everything we could. At this point we haven’t been able to create a game-changing play on that side of it. I don’t think it’s lack of effort or practice. Maybe just the ball bouncing the right way.”
Is the QB decision game-by-game?
“It’s game-by-game evaluations. It’s true for everybody. We’re on this 12-game journey. That’s all we get guaranteed, right? You take it one week at a time. That’s the message. It always. When you win a big one and when you lose one. I think it’s important our players buy into the process of what it takes to become a high-level football program. It’s little things in who we are and how we conduct ourselves that ultimately show up and are part of how you play. We have to keep growing as a football team.”
Shot-gun in short yard situations?
“That’s not all that we do. There are things we’ve done from under center. Felt like we had a good plan. Didn’t execute that plan, for sure.”
Did he look at the 3rd down that was rules short of the marker?
“I did feel like he got to the yard to gain on his run. Was in communication with the side judge, making sure they were reviewing the spots. Those are tough situations. Don’t want to burn a timeout in those situations. But you’re trying to make sure those things are being reviewed.”
Did Hendon Hooker have the option to audible on failed 4th down?
“He didn’t have an option off of that. Communication up front with what we were doing, how we’re blocking it, reading things, didn’t transpire the way we needed it to.”
On not getting any points after being stuffed on 4th down, then an INT
“You want to finish. We talk about finishing in the fourth quarter, emphasize it. How we practice, just how the practice unfolds, we have a fourth-quarter period. Making sure we’re going to play the right way. We did a lot of good things in the fourth quarter; not enough in those crucial moments on the offensive side of the football. Fourth and short, got a chance to go punch it in. Great field position. Defense goes out and gets a stop. We go after them, they shank the punt. Got really good field position. And we don’t close it out. We have to grow up fast. Good teams on the schedule. We’re capable of being a whole lot better than we were today. Got to take ownership of that as an individual and collectively as a team.”
On Joe Milton’s struggles throwing the deep ball
“Man, we didn’t connect on them. You saw the same things that we did. We had some guys that were running free and weren’t able to finish the play. The early one to Jalin (Hyatt). He ends up being banged up after the play. We’ve got a chance for a big play early in the ballgame. Had another one with Cedric (Tillman) running down the field open. Didn’t convert on them at the end of the day. I don’t care how you do it, you’ve got to convert those things and create some big plays. Those are some of the things I was talking about early in the ball game, with how we were playing. Defensively and special teams, pinning them deep in their own territory. Had a chance to change the game with the way it was played early and didn’t take advantage of it offensively.”