Nov. 6, 2004
TENNESSEE LOCKER ROOM
Head Coach Phillip Fulmer
“We’re really disappointed in the loss. Our football team has laid it on the line for eight weeks now. We had really great practices all week, and I expected us to play really well. We had probably the best two practices we’ve had all year this week. Obviously, though, we didn’t get it done.”
“Our goals are not lost. We still want to win the Southeastern Conference. We have two games to win to get a chance to do that.”
“I don’t think we played really well up front. The credit goes to Notre Dame for that. I told our football team to walk away from this holding their head high. It’s kind of a kick in the stomach right now.”
On Erik Ainge’s injury
“Losing Erik was really disappointing to our team. But Rick came in and did a good job for us. Erik will be evaluated, and we’ll go from there. I told him to run a draw to run the clock out. I felt like we could get a good matchup and throw the deep ball on the last play. It was a low snap. (Center) Chuck Prugh has played a lot of football for us, but we also had a few problems with the snaps.”
On the final play of the first half
“We ran the draw on the first play. We had to be safe and get it out of our end zone a little. Ordinarily, we’d run it again. We decided to take a shot at it. It went through me, and I thought we could get the matchup we wanted. I take the accountability.”
On fourth-down conversions.
“I am really disappointed on the fourth-down plays. We have got to make some of those, especially the fourth-and-one play. They have one of the best kick rushers in the nation, and we thought we could make it.”
On Jesse Mahelona’s play “I wish I could say it like he says it. It’s an old Hawaiian word meaning he’s the best. He is the best. He loves football and loves Tennessee.”
OT Michael Munoz
“Obviously this was a tough game tonight. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Notre Dame. They were tough. We’ve got to play 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that today. They played tremendously hard. We needed to pick up blitzes, and we didn’t. They’re very physical. We needed to play better than we did. Going into the game we always try to play 60 minutes and never give up. We had hope until the last drive. Rick did a great job. He stepped up and made some plays. A lot of times they were getting penetration with three rushers and that’s unacceptable.”
DB Jason Allen
“We were prepared for the underneath routes. [Asked when the team knew defeat was a certainty] When the clock said 00:00. It’s not over until the fat lady sings they say. I feel like our offense and defense fought our butts off. We made some critical mistakes. Give credit to Notre Dame. They were the better team tonight.”
WR C.J. Fayton:
“We can still accomplish everything we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season … We’re going to rally around Rick (Clausen). We think he can lead us these next two games. We’ll come out and practice hard, get Rick some reps and get him some confidence”
On his incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter: “I felt like I came down with the football. I came down with it and handed it to the ref. I felt like we were going to down and score. We were confident in Rick. He plays well in practice, and he’s played before – here and at LSU. Rick did an excellent job. He gave us a little spark on offense.”
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham:
“I think it was important for our seniors to recognize that they had only three of four more opportunities to suit up in a Notre Dame uniform. They’ve always had focus. Winning has always been important. They’ve worked hard regardless of the circumstances. The seniors have listened to their coaches and never wavered. They’ve done what we’ve asked.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you come up short. The big play of the game was the fourth down stop. Hayte’s hit before the half changed their strategy and maybe made them a hair more conservative
“Goolsby’s interception was a huge play. We had a chance to gain control of the game. That play came off a three-man rush. Our success on run defense came from good coaching, good play and a team focus. We came with the blitz because we wanted to change the tempo. We had focused on coverage, but it was timely to change the tempo.
“I thought we had a couple of miscues in the first half that stopped us. There were dropped passes where we could have converted. We hurt ourselves more than they did.
“Tuck’s play on the screen pass was one of the game’s big plays. We had been burned by the screen on the first half. He was able to rush and peel back. It was a great athletic play. He’s a man you talk about not just as a football player, but as the type of man we want to produce at Notre Dame. He’s an outstanding young man, who has an impact on others and on the community. He sets an example for our team.
“Every win against a top team is big. I wouldn’t know where to rank this one, but it’s right there with Michigan and Florida State.
“There is no better time than right now. We felt a sense of urgency. We had to get it done right now. We can start to establish the level of our bowl game.
“It’s always human nature to want to prove people wrong, to do something they don’t expect. I hope we have the ability to go with the grain as well as against it. Don’t think we haven’t played well this year. We have played hard enough to win every game. We have to learn to be consistent.”
Bob Morton OG
“This is the biggest win in my eyes since I have been here. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but this is definitely the greatest win, because at the beginning of the game it did not sound like 107,000 people but all of a sudden in that third quarter it sounded like a lot more than that.”
“Mahelona was one of the greatest competitors I have ever gone up against. He was just a great classy guy. If you got him on a play he would tell you that ‘hey you got me,’ and then help him up, but if he got you he would help you up.”
Brady Quinn QB
“We won because we played great defense. They played really well. Mike (Goolsby) really came up with a big play there, and they kept making big stops the whole game.”
“We just wanted to take care of the football and not make mistakes. That was the thing I really tried to focus on. As an offense we just wanted to finish the game. Against B.C. we didn’t finish the way we needed to and we did not want that tonight. For us being able to control the clock and keep our defense off of the field was a plus. With a defense like our that has played stellar all season, it was big for us to give them some time to rest and they played well.”
Dwight Ellick CB
“Shutting down their running game was the main thing we wanted to do. When you shut down a team’s rushing abilities you make them one-dimensional. It is easier to guard a team when they are one-dimensional because you know what is coming. We wanted to come in here and dominate the line of scrimmage and shut down the run, and we feel like we did that.”
“We were able to keep things underneath us tonight, and we were able to gang up when they made the completions. A team will not keep hitting hitches all day long when they play like that. A team will not do things when they are getting just three and four yards a pop and then you are making the tackle. We made most of the tackles when we needed to, and when they did try and go over the top we were there for the most part. We only gave up that one real big play which they scored on.”