KNOXVILLE — First-year University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley had several interesting things to say Sunday night after analyzing film of Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Florida, and our newspaper only has so much space.
But, as Homer Simpson learned not too long ago, they have the Internet on computers now.
Problem solved. Disaster averted. Riddle unriddled.
Here is the full transcript from Dooley’s weekly Sunday teleconference ahead of this Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. home game against UAB.
Q: Your offense made some big plays down the field against Florida’s secondary. Were you encouraged by that?
DOOLEY: “We were real inconsistent. We did hit some plays down the field, but we also left a ton out there. When you look at the film, you just get sick looking at it. We left a lot of passing yards out there just from poor execution in a lot of ways. That part was disappointing, but there are signs that we can get better.”
Q: But looking forward, is it encouraging to see the ability to make those big plays?
DOOLEY: “Well, it is. But like I said, it’s discouraging that we couldn’t have taken advantage of it Saturday night. What I was probably most disappointed in offensively was we did a lot of things out there that we didn’t do in practice — meaning, I felt like we were probably trying too hard to do something special instead of just executing the offense and doing what you’re coached to do. And that’s at all positions, and it showed.”
Q: Do you think your team got better from the Oregon game to the Florida game?
DOOLEY: “I think we have in some areas. And in some areas, we didn’t do as well. I just think it’s something you evaluate week to week and see what you’re not doing well, and try to improve in the next week. And then over three or four weeks, you try to settle in and see where you are and make some adjustments. That’s all we’re trying to do.”
Q: In most years, the talent gap between UT and a Conference USA program like UAB is clearly noticeable. Is that gap a little closer, considering this program’s current situation?
DOOLEY: “I don’t want to really compare our players to their players, because I won’t really know until I see them in person. I do know we’re short on depth, and there’s been no mistake about that. We’re very thin at every position, and we’re young at a lot of positions. And those two things are great equalizers no matter who you play.”
Q: You’ve probably heard news that Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack after the Spartans’ victory over Notre Dame on Saturday night. How do you manage the stress as the head coach of such a high-profile program?
DOOLEY: “You have to (manage stress) in this profession. It is stressful, because you feel such a responsibility. I think the stress comes from a lot of areas. Number 1, you feel such a responsibility to the fans and to the program to do a good job and to do your part, and that can weigh on you. And you feel such a responsibility to the kids that you coach, to put them in a good position. Those two things alone, the responsibility you feel is enough. And then add to it the day to day scrutiny that you get publicly, and that certainly weighs on you. And then add to it the patience, or lack thereof, of universities with their coaches.
“Certainly, it’s a high-stress job. But to counter that, we get paid a lot of money. When there’s one thing, there’s always the other to balance it. And every coach needs to find a way to manage the stress. I’ve found some ways, but it’s not easy. But certainly, spending time with your family and keeping things in perspective are very important to me. That’s the big word, is perspective and balance.”
Q: Has managing that stress become even more difficult with the new pressures associated with this modern era?
DOOLEY: “I think coaches have always put a lot of stress (on themselves) because of the first two things I said — the responsibility you feel to the fans, and the responsibility you feel to the team. But I do think that given the scrutiny level, I think two things have changed. One is the level of scrutiny, and two, with that, is you’re on the hot seat the minute you lose a game — publicly, at least. And you can’t deny that that doesn’t weigh on people.”
Q: You talked all last week about your team’s inability to play without thinking about the score. It seemed like your guys improved drastically in that area against Florida. Was that a moral victory?
DOOLEY: “I think what you feel good about is that you did do what I think is just a baseline standard for every game, and that’s how you compete. It’s like I told the team afterward, I’m proud of them for doing that, but that should be the standard. And then once you do that, what it proves is that you have a chance to win the football game. It doesn’t say you’re going to win a football game when you compete like that, but it tells you that you have a chance. And then it comes down to the execution and all those things we talk about on our day to day goals, relative to turnovers and red area and third down, running the ball, passing the ball, all those critical statistics that define winning and losing.
“I was pleased with how we competed (compared to) a week ago. We were down 14 in both games, and (against Florida) we were sitting there with 11 minutes to go down one score with a chance to put some heat on them and tie it up, and we didn’t get it done. It came down to a lot of breakdowns in a lot of areas.”
Q: Compared to the Oregon game, did you see more positives than negatives from an execution standpoint against Florida?
DOOLEY: “No. It really was a lot more negatives. You come out there feeling like we competed pretty good, and then you just see all the lost opportunities, and it just makes you sick. And we had so many of them. I was real disappointed in our execution up front, and I think the inexperience ... I think in some ways, we were more starry-eyed this game than the Oregon game on offense. It was like a reverse. The defense was a little more starry-eyed at Oregon, but they were a little more settled in this game. We played with a nice calm early on against Oregon, especially. But this game, for whatever reason, our young kids, they were not doing things that they did during the normal course of the week, and that they did during the last two games.”
Q: In that case, is it at least a positive sign going forward that your team made all those mistakes and still had a decent chance to beat a top-10 team?
DOOLEY: “Yeah, I think so. There’s some positives, because you see some young guys playing a little better. Matt (Simms) played a little better the second half, so you see that sometimes he does some good things. And then sometimes, he does some things that aren’t so good. I guess that’s better than not ever doing good things. Luke (Stocker) played better. That was a positive. We stopped the run pretty good against Florida, for the most part. That was a positive.”
Q: With so many young guys playing significant roles on this team, do you worry about positive reinforcement after two consecutive losses? Do you try to find a way to make them feel good? Or would you rather them feel badly after the game?
DOOLEY: “I don’t know if it’s about feeling (good or bad). What I want them to do is watch the film and analyze it, and try to figure out why that happened and correct it, and so it’s really less emotional as far as feeling good or feeling bad. It’s more analytical. That’s what I want them to do, is acknowledge that they didn’t play to their capacity, see why, and let’s fix it. When you do that, you tend to get better. I try to take a little bit of the emotion out of it.”
Q: Do you approach those situations differently with younger and older guys?
DOOLEY: “Yeah. I think there’s a little more patience with a freshman, certainly. And I think one of the problems were having up front is nobody has started more than four or five games in their whole career, and so there’s nobody to lean on out there. It’s like five individuals, and it’s hard to work together when you’ve got nobody who can kind of rally the troops. We don’t have a bell cow, if you will. And it’s been tough on them.”
Q: Missed tackles were a major problem against Oregon, particularly in the second half, but there didn’t seem to be many missed tackles against Florida. Do you agree with that assessment?
DOOLEY: “That was a little improvement, and that was good. But we need to do that. We need to be a good tackling football team. I don’t care if you’re talented or not talented; that’s one of the basic fundamentals. We did better in that, and Demps is a good runner. He’s fast and elusive, so he was a good guy to do it against.”
Q: Do you have injury updates on redshirt freshman guard JerQuari Schofield and junior center Cody Pope? Will either be able to play Saturday?
DOOLEY: “It looks like JerQuari’s out for a while. We’ll know more tomorrow, officially. But I don’t think he’s doing too good on his foot. It’s a foot. (Pope) is still out. I’m not sure if he’ll play this week or not. We won’t know until later in the week.”
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