Coach Fulmer's Comments On Florida Game
Vols Play Gators Saturday At 8 p.m. On CBS
Sept. 13, 2005
"Obviously first and foremost we're excited about this weekend and this weekend's game, but I've been asked several times about the LSU (game) time and travel plans to LSU, and things certainly aren't finalized at this point at all. But to be honest with you, any inconvenience that we might have to face or any changes that we might have to make are really nothing compared to the tragedy that has gone on in Louisiana - with all the displaced people - and we'll do what we need to do to get ourselves ready to play and to travel. But certainly our prayers continue go out to the folks who have been affected by the storm in Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi. I've been asked several times and I know it's something that (everyone) is interested in, and (I just wanted to go ahead and address it).
"Obviously the open week came at a very good time for us. Coming out of (preseason) camp we were a little banged up. And then in the UAB game we had two or three things going on (in terms of injuries), so kids who might not have been able to play (the weekend after the UAB game) are back and ready to play. So the open date happened at a very good time for us.
"We got an excellent start on Florida (preparations) as well as getting healthy. We got an excellent start on Florida and their styles on offense and defense. But this year you count your blessings that you have the open date. In some years you're playing well and really don't want to see that open date come up. But this year was really good.
"Florida is obviously a very good football team. As they've shown all ready, they're offensively very capable of the big play and very capable of running the football. They've kept the ball away from their opponents and had it minutes more than their opponents. They've been effective in their drives, and there are a lot of "big-play" people on the field. Chris Leak does a great job as their quarterback of running the offense, and in particular, throwing the football. They have as good a group of receivers as we've seen at Tennessee in a long time. As a whole I've just been very impressed with them. And last week they got the running game going (against Louisiana Tech). They're really a complete offensive team. They do a good job of spreading you out all over the field and running the option or reverses or shuffle pass or the screen, and it really makes you have to play hard and play well. They put athletes in space and anytime you've got athletes in space, you've got concerns about making the tackle. So we have to do that.
"Defensively, what I've been most impressed with Florida is that they've improved on the defensive side a lot. They're active and an aggressive defensive football team. And then the same thing in their kicking game; they're a good-looking, solid kicking team.
"We have had a lot of improvement all ready - back during the preseason, during the game against UAB and obviously during this week. Our kids have handled it well. Being able to communicate is going to be a very important part of this football game. Our teams have handled the road pretty well in the past - and the hostile environments. I would expect that we will this week as well, but we have to have focus to do that. This game is always a physical football game. We certainly expect that to be the same. In recent history, the team that's run the ball the best has been the likely winner of the game. So obviously we've got to be able to run the football some to win this ballgame.
"We did some good things against UAB, but we didn't finish our drives and our runs like we would have hoped to. So this is a real challenge for our team. Obviously we'll find a lot out about ourselves in the next couple of weeks with our schedule as it is - starting this week down there (in Gainesville).
"Another thing I feel is important in games like this is field position - that we take care of the football well, that we get some turnovers and takeaways, and that we're able to stop their run to some degree. Obviously always in a game like this the kicking game is big. I think James Wilhoit and Britton Colquitt will have a lot to say about that in this ballgame, because I think those kids really have the ability to be the difference in this game. Obviously our protections and coverages are going to be important.
"On the defensive side, I mentioned preventing the big plays and trying to get Florida's (offense) off the field. Those are things that are going to be real important in this ballgame. It never changes when you play teams like this - with the intensity and the degree of the rivalry - that we keep our emotions in check to the point that we don't get out of character in any way and that we stay focused on why we're going down there. And that's to play well and win the game."