53rd Autozone Liberty Bowl
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
On how defense had 14 interceptions in first four games to set the tone for the season: "The seniors gave us credibility, buying into what we were doing as a staff. Getting off to 3-0 start, our guys developed a confidence. They thrived, and brought some younger guys along with them. I thought we maximized our potential on defense, except for the first half of the Florida game.
"Our defensive front is very aware that Cincinnati leads the country in sacks, tackles for loss and where they are in turnover margin."
On Cincinnati having different offensive packages for different quarterbacks: "Yes, there will be some different plays that fit to their strengths, but not different packages. (Zach) Collaros is a winner. He just makes plays and makes people around him better. Out of the pocket, he’s a tremendous thrower. Munchie (Legaux) is a tremendous athlete, and you can see his improvement from game-to-game when he became a starter. The Cincinnati package starts with Isaiah Pead running the ball. They spread you out all over the field 1-on-1. They throw Pead lot of screens. He reminds me of Jerious Norwood, who used to play at Mississippi State. He’s really fast, makes good cuts. He has good vision. We got to get a lot of guys to the ball."
Linebacker Chris Marve
On Cincinnati’s offense: "We haven’t seen an offense like their offense in the SEC. They’re going to spread us out and have that zone read scheme which is difficult for any defense to bottle up. It will be a challenge for us, because they have so many plays and so many variations of the same play, different formations. We’ve had a month to prepare for them.
On being his final game: "I’ve always been a guy that focuses on things that need to be focused on. I know this weekend is huge for us as a team as a program and the city of Nashville.
Defensive end Tim Fugger
On Cincinnati’s offense: "They run the spread and run it very well. They use a lot of motions and reads with the quarterback. You’ve got to stay gap sound."
On Vandy causing 14 turnovers in the first half of the season: "When you have the secondary we have behind us shutting down receivers, the quarterback holds the ball and gives our defensive linemen to make plays."
On his tackles for loss jumping from three last year to seven this year: "A lot of it has to do with the scheme. We’re more of a vertical front than a horizontal front. It’s helped us get more plays, and become really disruptive making less area for running backs to run. The scheme has really helped me blossom as for as making some plays. The rest of the D-line is also attacking. The mentality has changed with the new scheme."
On teams throwing away from Hayward after he had four interceptions in his first four games: "At the beginning of season, people tried me even though I had success the year before. When you have interceptions, they throw it away from you. Now, they throw it more towards the middle. Me and (cornerback) Trey Wilson have a competition. Whoever gets an interception the other guy has to take him to breakfast the next morning. We haven’t been able to take each other to breakfast in awhile."
On Cincinnati’s spread offense: "We know are going to come at us. But they also will run the ball. Isiah Pead is a tremendous back. We have to make their offense one-dimensional. We want to stop the run and make them throw the ball. That’s what we’ve done during the season, and that’s a plus for us."
On building on the momentum of the season-closing 41-7 win over Wake Forest: "We talk about that all the time, using that momentum. We won the last game big, and we’re trying to win this game big. It will start with the defense. We’re going to put a lot of people in the box to stop the run and make them beat us throwing the ball."
On why defense improved so much from last year: "The scheme has something to do with it, but we have five seniors who have played a lot of ball here. That leadership has helped us. We’re trying to show our younger guys how to lead."
Offensive coordinator John Donovan
On the offense’s improvement: "Our last seven games we got better. It took us awhile to find out who we are, but we learned our personality as time went on. Game plan, watch situations, try to find our best runs and passes for situations, want multiple plays out of different formations, test top of defense keep them squatting."
On his offensive philosophy: "We’re on the attack. They’ve got to defend us." We dictate to the defense. They react to us. Our offensive philosophy, it’s our background, pro formation two backs, we do lot of one-back, preach a tough mentality that have to be able to run the ball. There were some spread elements here in the past and we got asked that question about you bring your offensive philosophy here. But the guys bought in. Our mindset is if we can run it every snap we will.’ We were told coming in that it probably couldn’t be done, so it has been great to watch. The kids love it. The line and the backs feed off it. If you talk tough, you gotta act like it, too. The line has to come off the ball and play smashmouth. You’ve got to be able to do that for a few games. You’re not always going to be able to do that. But we were able to do that more often than not in the last half of the year and it’s opened some things up for the guys outside. They’ve made plays."
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers
On his shoulder injury that sidelined him until this year; "It was extremely frustrating. I was in the heat of competition. I’m the type of player who likes to play through things I feel I can overcome. I tried for about a week to do that and I couldn’t throw the ball 30 yards at that point. "At one point, we thought we could rehab it, a couple of month’s process, so it just wasn’t working out. Then I went and got surgery. It was a huge relief knowing it could be fixed and I’d be back 100 percent.
On his relationship with his famous brother Aaron: "My brother is the one I turn to, with anything football-related. He has battled through injuries, he has battled through being on the bench, being that second-string guy that wanted to be playing. All that stuff, I’ve got a guy who has been through it all. "It’s nice that we run almost the exact same offense now. We talk the same language. We talk game plans. We talk about plays we like. We talk before and after the game. That kind of stuff is good to go to. "When I wasn’t playing much, it was good to talk to him. Our careers have mirrored each other almost identically. We both went to the same junior college, we both didn’t start until our fifth or sixth game in college, he didn’t start until; his fifth game, I didn’t start until my sixth game. "We went through almost the exact same thing. He was telling me that my opportunity was going to come; I just got to take advantage of it. I don’t know when it’s going to be, I’ve just got to be prepared for it to become at any moment." On starting over again with a new coach: "It was a tough situation to be in. I was recruited by one coaching staff and ended up getting hurt. New coaching staff comes in and I’m not even able to throw a football the first four or five months they’re on campus. They don’t know the kind of quarterback I am. They didn’t recruit me. It’s a whole different offense. I’m not able to get live reps in that offense during the spring. So I knew I had to work my butt off in the summer to prove I could throw the ball. Not that I could be a good quarterback, but that I could throw the ball. They’d never seen me throw. That was tough situation."
On Vandy’s offense: "I was actually really excited when they put this offense in. It’s a pro style offense, Coach Franklin was in Green Bay in 2005, my brother’s first year. With that kind of offense, you know it can relate to any level. It requires a lot of preparation from the quarterback. I’ve got to know a ton. I have to know the offense in and out."
On being an effective running QB: "I didn’t want to be a running quarterback first, but if I need to, I can be. I really don’t mind running. I like that aspect of the game. It really puts a challenge on the defense to have to account for two guys in the backfield who can run. But I always want to be a pass first quarterback when I take a drop and we’ve got a called pass on. I’m going to go through my progressions and if I need to, I’ll tuck in and run. But I want to get the ball in my playmaker’s hands as much as possible. Not (a good runner) at all in high school. I was small. That’s why I really didn’t get recruited, I was maybe 5-10, 160 pounds my senior year. I was slow."
Running back Zac Stacy
ON THE OFFENSE: "Ever since Coach Donovan introduced this offense, I was really excited. We kind of ran a similar offense in high school with that power-type mentality.
ON RUNNING OVER PEOPLE: "We have an aggressive mentality on offense. We’re going to come out and execute. We bought into the system, bought into the offense and made plays. That’s pretty much the formula for this offense. If we execute it, we’re pretty good.
ON HIS YOUNGER BROTHER: "When he was a toddler, it was hard for me to deal with the fact he had Downs syndrome. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know why he was acting that way. "I remember the day my Mom sat me down and talked to me about his condition, and how she needed me to step up and help out from the man-of-the-house standpoint. I started taking care of him at an early age and when I go home I still take care of him. Make sure he gets food. "That taught me a lot from a football standpoint, about staying humble. You can’t take life for granted, and that goes into football. Coach Franklin always emphasizes to play every down like it was your last. That’s the mentality I’ve taken ever since I started playing this game. "My Mom she gets off work, when she had to work late. I remember working out on weekends, and just taking him with me. He would be my spotter on the bench. It has helped in the long run being a better person. "She told me the certain characteristics of how he acts, I came here and found out they had a special ed major. I found out it was the No. 1 special ed program in the country, so I pursued that as my major. I’ve learned a lot, calling my Mom let her know what he needs. "But I’ve been around him so long I forget he has Downs’s syndrome. He acts like a normal kid, outside playing running around, tagging along with his big brother, it’s a wonderful experience. He always comes to most of the games, depends on weather. Seeing him after the game, win or lose, with that big smile on his face is heartwarming. He’s pretty much my motivation."