Vanderbilt Football Head Coach Bobby Johnson Weekly Press Conference
September 2, 2002

Coach Bobby Johnson's Opening Statement

We're certainly disappointed in the way the Georgia Tech game came out, but we're even more determined to try to get better as a football team. We had a good practice yesterday (Sunday). I think our guys are focusing on what we need to do. I think it was a situation where we were playing a pretty good football team and just did not react well enough to the adversity we faced in the second quarter. When you give up 31 points in a quarter, it is going to be hard to play with confidence in the second half. I was proud of the way they came back and did not quit. We're just trying to get better, and see if we can be a little more efficient when we play Furman.

Q: Can you discuss the Furman ties, especially head coach Bobby Lamb?
A: Bobby was a great quarterback at Furman University, and he was the son of a great high school coach in the state of Georgia, Ray Lamb. He has had football in his family and his blood for a long, long time. You could tell that when Bobby played that he understood the game and he knew what was going on. He stayed on right after he graduated as a graduate assistant and actually helped me coach the defense for a year and of course moved over to offense as soon as we could make that change. He was our passing-game coordinator ever since I was head coach. Obviously, I think they made a good choice when they chose him.

Q: Have you talked to the Furman staff since you got to Vanderbilt?
A: We talked a lot when we first made the change. We tried to help each other out. After the season started, we haven't talked.

Q: What do you think Jay (Cutler) learned from the Georgia Tech game?
A: Obviously, his (Jay's) first college game is a big step. After making the decision to have him start over a guy who is older, he was probably under a great deal of pressure. I think, for the most part, he did a pretty good job. Obviously, there were some errors that we've got to get corrected. That just takes experience. I talked to Jay after the game, and asked him what was the speed like? He said it was a lot quicker than in practice. I said, did you see everything, did you see the reads, and the things we were asking you to look for? He said yes, I could do that. He did make some good checks and got us in the right place a couple of times. He missed some open receivers, but it is pretty typical for a first start for a quarterback.

Q: Did you have any thoughts after the game of changing quarterbacks?
A: He (Jay) is still the starter.

Q: How did Benji (Walker) do?
A: Benji did well. Benji is athletic, came in and ran some options, and got us some good plays off the option fake. He made a good throw to Grant Brigham. Benji is going to be an important part of our offense, an important part of our team. He knows that.

Q: What are Furman's biggest strengths?
A: I think Furman's biggest strength is that they expect to win the football game. They expect to win, and they have been winning for years. I think since 1978, they have averaged eight wins a year. They expect to win no matter who they play. X's and O's, I think you start with their quarterback, Billy Napier. He's the son of a high school football coach. He's been around the game forever, and he stayed in our camp for years-and-years. When Billy got to Furman, he already knew our offense. He's a steady player, and will do the right things for you almost all the time. So, I think he is the leader of their offense. The running game is very sound. They have three good tailbacks who came in for Louis Ivory when he was injured last year and proved that they could play. They also have some good wide receivers. Bear Rinehart, Isaac West, Brian Bratton, James Thomas all have played in big games and made big plays.

Q: Will Furman be fired up, trying to beat their former coach?
A: They will be fired up. They want to beat us in the worst way. I don't think there is any animosity, they just want to prove they can beat a 1-A team. They are going to be convinced that they can beat us.

Q: During the Georgia Tech game, did you have any thoughts of why this was happening to us (team)?
A: I don't think it was 'here we go again' as much as 'why is this happening to us.' I don't think there was any finger pointing or blaming of anybody. They were looking at each other asking 'why is this happening.' There were a number of reasons and we can all figure it out. We weren't protecting the ball, weren't getting good field position. We were playing fairly well and we got some tough breaks. They catch the punt on the 1-yard-line, then get it on our 38-yard line. It takes them12 plays to get in after two great catches. That guy just made a great one-handed catch, but we were close to making some big plays ourselves, but we just didn't make them.

Q: Since you were the Furman head coach, will you feel as prepared for this game as any you have ever coached?
A: I know their personnel very well. Being prepared for a game doesn't always mean you know their personnel. It's getting your players ready, that's the key. We know what plays they run, and they know what plays we run. Being able to execute them and play against them is the key.

Q: Do you expect them to open up their offense?
A: "They may, but they have some good running backs. They're not going to be afraid to try and run the football. They have a good offensive line and running backs. After looking at the Georgia Tech film, I'm sure they think they can run it.

Q: How do think Furman compares to Vanderbilt talent wise?
A: Very close. In some positions, they are more athletic.

Q: Can you talk about the kicking positions for Vanderbilt?
A: Greg Johnson is our punter and averaged 42 yards even though the first two kicks were maybe below average. I think he is going to be a great punter for us. I made the decision to have Greg kick the field goals because Chuck (Folino) had kicked previously in a college game and I wanted to get Greg a chance to kick in front of people. I thought he made two good kicks. The second one was drilled from 37 yards and would have been good from 57 yards. He has a powerful leg, but he has to get more consistent.

Q: What are you going to do at right guard?
A: Everybody is going to have to learn two positions. They are going to have to play guard or tackle, and we are going to move up Steven Brent at center and Mack Pile to tackle. They are going to have to be ready to play. We played a bunch of players Saturday. We had five starters who were redshirt freshmen, and we took 11 true freshmen and played 10 of them.

Q: Do you think the players will have a special sense of urgency this week when they face Furman?
A: I hope we have a sense of urgency every week, no matter who we are playing. We need to win the next one we play. You have the SEC coming up, and you just don't look down that lineup and see a couple of sure wins. We want to win every game we play, and the only one we can win now right is the Furman game."

Q: Considering the lack of winning in Vanderbilt's history, how are you going to sell kids on coming to the university?
A: The past history of the program is really our only negative. We have a great school, great city and great conference. We have a chancellor that is committed to excellence. We're trying to convince guys that they can come here and help us early. So far we've had some success. There are a lot of guys who like what they at Vanderbilt. The trick is getting them here to Nashville. We feel like we have a lot to offer them. We have been encouraged and not discouraged at all.

Q: What will be your emphasis at practice this week?
A: Fundamentals, tackling and make sure we execute properly. We had a chance for some really big plays against Georgia Tech, and we just didn't execute. We've got to get everybody to do what they are suppose to do on the field, and doing it as hard and as fast as they can, and just see if we can get better.

Q: What was your feeling after the Georgia Tech outcome?
A: My first year at Furman, we went 3-8 and I didn't enjoy it at all. Even when we went 12-3, I didn't like the games we lost at all. I never like it. We're going to work as hard as we can possibly work, and fight as hard as we can possibly fight. That's all we can do.



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