Vanderbilt Football Head Coach Bobby Johnson
Weekly Press Conference
September 9, 2002

Opening Statement
“We were very pleased with our football team this past weekend. They came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and played hard. Obviously, we executed a lot better than we did against Georgia Tech and took care of the football a lot better. Overall, we had a pretty good game.”

It was an emotional game for a lot of people, and I was proud of the way our guys and staff handled it.”

Q: How was it to see some of the coaches you previously worked with?
A: “It was fun to see them before the game. I saw a lot of guys I knew, and I spoke to them. I got that out of the way, and then we just played the game after that.”

Q: How big of a setback is it to have lost tailback (Ronald) Hatcher?
A: “I think a pretty big one. Even in the game the other night, he made a huge run for a first down. I thought it was a very important run. He got hit about five yards before the marker and made it for a crucial first down allowing us to get away from our goal line and kept the drive alive. We actually scored on that drive. We’re not deep enough in any position to be able to lose people like we are losing them right now. Those are two unusual injuries those two guys (Hatcher and OG Jordan Pettit) have had in the last two weeks. Our doctors were telling me we haven’t had those types of injuries here in the last 12 years, much less two of them.”

“It’s pretty tough for Ronald. He was starting to play very well. He came back determined to help us at tailback, and he was doing it.”

Q: Is your plan to move Norval McKenzie and Kwane Doster up with the loss of Hatcher?
A: “I think both of those two are very capable. Kwane is only going to get better and better as he plays, and we will also have Matthew Tant available to play tailback if needed.”

Q: Can you talk about Jay’s (Cutler) running ability?
A: “He’s a good athlete and has great range. Even in practice, it looked like he was going to get run down, and he would pull away from some of our guys. We knew he had that capability. We’ve been talking all along that both Jay and Benji (Walker) were very well suited for our offense. We do run the option some. It is an equalizer and makes people work to defend it a whole bunch. We were working against Furman’s option all last week, and even though they didn’t run it a whole bunch it makes defensive coaches work on it a lot. It’s important that we have that in our offense, and both of them can do it very well. I still have a lot of confidence in Benji. If he needs to come in here and do it, I think he can do it with no trouble. Jay is one of those guys who is an exceptional athlete at quarterback, and that helps you.”

Q: What’s your plan for stopping (Auburn running back ) Carnell Williams?
A: “They do a great job of getting him the ball. We’re just going have to try to get off blocks and get a bunch of people to the ball because he does such a good job of breaking tackles and making big plays. We are going to try to contain him.”

Q: Why do you think Jay was able to settle down from the first to the second game?
A: “I think Georgia Tech had a lot to do with that and the situations and circumstances. Jay and our team worked real hard last week, and it started the Sunday after the Georgia Tech game. We had a good practice Sunday evening and kept it up Tuesday and Wednesday. They expected to be better, and I told them this week we will need to improve that much more to play with Auburn. I was confident that Jay would come back and make that kind of adjustment. Obviously, success early in the game helped. We hit the big play on the very first play, and he made a great throw and Dan (Stricker) ran a great route. Then, we were able to get the 97-yard drive for another score. That really boosted the confidence and Jay and the team.”

Q: Following the Furman game and the success Jay had passing the football, do you think he is confident to continue to throw?
A: “Jay has never lacked the confidence just the execution in the first game. Confidence is never the problem. At Georgia Tech, execution was the problem. Jay sometimes has too much confidence in his arm. He tried to throw one off his back foot against Furman, which he thought he could get it out there and they made an interception in the end zone. I think he can throw, we have to make sure he makes the proper throw and read and doesn’t get us in trouble. That’s what happened against Georgia Tech. We followed one mistake after another, which put some pressure on our defense which is bad.”

Q: What part of Auburn’s game do you feel is vulnerable?
A: “After looking at the film, I’m not sure any part of their game is that vulnerable. I think for us to cause them problems, we are going to have to have everything working.”

Q: What are your emotions heading into the Auburn game, knowing that it’s your first SEC game?
A: “The reason that is a tough house is because they have a tough football team. That’s usually the case. Bad teams usually don’t have big crowds following them. We’re playing in a tough place against a tough team. We are going to be focus on getting getting our team ready to play their team and to not worry about the surroundings. Obviously, with 80,000 people screaming at you, it is going to be factor and a factor when calling our plays and getting any audibles checked off.”

Q: Can you discuss the performance of the defense against Furman?
A: “We put some pressure on their quarterback and hit him a bunch. I was pretty amazed he (Billy Napier) got up a couple of times. He is pretty tough guy. I was a little disappointed in the second half that we didn’t put that knockout punch on them before we did. I think it took the offense getting a couple of big scores in the second half to put the final knockout punch on them, and the defense should have delivered that earlier.”

Q: Can you discuss the mentality of bouncing back after an opponent score?
A: “It would be nice to answer every time somebody scores against you. That’s what we did when they got it to 35-18. We came back and got a big play from Norval on the option to make it 42. I was glad to get some younger guys in on the last touchdown.



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