We get the opportunity to go against the largest stadium in the SEC, Neyland Stadium there in Knoxville. Always a huge game to play Tennessee, probably one of our big rivals, Georgia and Tennessee, in-state Clemson, of course. But it's always fun for our team to go to the largest stadium and play a team with the tradition of Tennessee. That's what we are doing this Saturday. Hopefully, our guys can keep improving a bit; we did play better last week against Arkansas. There is still a lot of room for improvement. We have had some good, gracious breaks, last week and the week before. I don't know if the gracious breaks are going to keep coming our way all the time - we are going to have to start earning a few of them and playing a little bit better at times.
Tennessee is a team that has lost to three really good teams: Florida, Georgia and Oregon. They've beat three teams that they were supposed to beat, so they are getting into the meat of their conference schedule, like all of us are. A huge game, (a) division game, (a) conference game. We should be ready to play. Injury-wise, I think Skai Moore, our freshman linebacker, should be full speed and ready to go. I don't know if Cody Waldrop will make it back or not - possibly. Chaz Elder actually had a concussion somewhere in that game last week, he did not practice last night - started at free safety, played pretty well back there. Overall we're very healthy at this time and hopefully, we can put together one of our best games this season, hopefully, we can keep improving - what all coaches hope to have their team do as they go through the season. Looking forward to the trip to Knoxville. We play at Noon again, we like the Noon game, of course, and the night game is okay also. But Noon game, you get up, have an early breakfast, get to the ballpark and go play! Not a lot of waiting around and so forth. So, I think we have been pretty fortunate with those games and hopefully, it will continue this Saturday.
On handling success
It's a challenge every week for our team, as you know, although statistically we're pretty good right now. I think we are like fourth in the conference in offense, third in defense. Defense has come a long way, so, nobody needs to get upset at our defense, it's third in the conference. We haven't given up a ton of yards, just haven't played that fourth quarter very well for about two or three weeks in a row. Our guys keep getting better, we think, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. We've not done enough to think we are hot stuff yet.
On senior offensive guard Ronald Patrick's game status
Ronald had his boot on all yesterday, I think he still has it on, I believe the (athletic) trainer, Clint Haggard, said he will look at it Wednesday or Thursday. Right now, I would guess that he would be doubtful for the game and I am not sure who is going to replace him at guard right now.
On wide receiving corps
I doubt if Shaq Roland will start, but Damiere Byrd has played well in there, Nicky Jones... they've all played well. But Shaq will be out getting some passes thrown at him. We play a lot of receivers, as you know, so there is some pretty good competition going on. Hopefully Bruce Ellington will be back - he had his foot in one of those boots yesterday, he sort of strained the top of his foot, I think when he caught that slant pass toward the end of the first half, so there's an injury I don't even know if we've reported yet. But we'd like to see how Bruce can run; he might be out this week.
On Connor Shaw
Connor is playing at a very high level. All you've got to do is look at the statistics. We were sitting in there talking today, the Houston Texans have thrown a pick-6 five straight weeks. I said, "Has Connor Shaw ever thrown one since he's been here?" No, no he hasn't.
On Connor Shaw's 10 TDs and no interceptions
That's pretty good. He's pretty careful with the ball, although last week he had one flat pass the guy just dropped it from Arkansas - another one of those gracious, good breaks. We've avoided some danger in a lot of games.
On the offensive line
It's been pretty good. We've had some really good holes against Arkansas last week. The O-line has played well, but then again they could play a little bit better, too. And they are going to be tested this week. Tennessee has the biggest defensive linemen, I think in the nation and it's hard to move those guys pretty far.
On Damiere Byrd's recent success
I attribute it to Damiere working on catching the ball through the summer, through preseason practice and so forth. Now getting opportunities, he's caught the ball very well, learning how to run routes a little bit better and this, that and the other. Some things he could do better, certainly, but opportunity, plus he had the Lasik eye surgery last March/April somewhere in there, around spring ball, so that's helped him see the ball better.
On the defense
We're still trying to correct some things that we didn't do very well last week. The first 3rd & 10 that Arkansas converted, gosh they only sent three guys out, we were covered with seven, our middle linebacker should have made the play, but he was looking somewhere else and the ball went right over his head, so there is a lot of areas we can get better.
On blowout win propelling team forward
We will find out, as we all know, as competitors, as any team, you have to have the ability to forget, forget the sad, bad games as well as good games. You've got to forget them and get ready for the next opponent or else you're setting yourself up to get clobbered in the next week.
On his first game as a college coach at Tennessee
I always think back about my first one, 1982 Duke vs. Tennessee. They had a defensive end by the name of Reggie White playing, Willie Gault, played for the Chicago Bears for a long time. Reggie had a bad ankle that night, was not that effective against us, but it was one of the most fun games I've ever coached. Duke, we won the game 25-24.
On the success of the deep ball
Good quarterback play, good receiver play. Connor throws it where he is supposed to and Dylan (Thompson) is pretty good at it also.
On how much it meant to win a road game
It was a big win. I think it was big to finish. Throughout the season, we have always had big starts, but I think the biggest emphasis this game was to finish.
On defense's focus
(We focused on) accountability, and just be ready, try to make ourselves as deep a team as possible - be ready to play when our number is called.
On how big it was to have Jadeveon Clowney back
Yeah, having (Clowney) back out there was big. He showed a lot of leadership in the locker room, at halftime and before the game. His presence was big and we had our whole team together.
On only caring about what goes on during the game
We don't really give much attention to what goes around outside the locker room. We just keep to us and we are pretty good about doing that.
On being a voice in the locker room
I try to be vocal as much as I can both on the field and off of the field. We have got four seniors who do that pretty well, so I think it isn't just me.
On the unfair criticism the defense has gotten
Yea I think they took too much of the blame. I can remember when I first took over this offense we where struggling to find our identity and our defense had our back. It is kind of flipped this time and our defense is finding it and they had a good game last week.
On going to Tennessee with a team who has never lost to them
Yea it is going to be an exciting game it is always fun going to Tennessee, they hold over 100,000. I'm sure Coach Spurrier mentioned this but he is from Tennessee so it is a big game for him as well and we are looking forward to the challenge.
On the passing game this year
I think it has been better than in the past. I think it goes back to all the hard work and the many hours we spent over the summer trying to get the connection down. Also we have our five guys up front who have been giving me great protection, so that has been a big advantage for us.
On moving back in the top-10
It really means nothing right now. We are still midway through the season and that stuff will take care of itself as long as we take care of ourselves.
On what the team needs to do to improve
We have to limit our careless mistakes. I had a careless turnover and there is always something that we can improve on and I think limiting mistakes in a crucial game is going to be key for us.
On having 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions
That is one thing that (quarterbacks coach) Coach Mangus harps on - protecting the ball. We have a chance as long as we don't turn the ball over so I just try to play smart and I have a lot of guys around me that really help me out.