Josh Heupel recaps Missouri win, thanks fans and players

No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 5-1 SEC) defeated Missouri (4-6, 2-5 SEC), 66-24, Saturday in Week 11.

Saturday’s contest was the Vols’ final home game during the 2022 season. Tennessee also celebrated senior day versus Missouri.

“I just want to say thank you to our fanbase,” Heupel said following the Missouri game. “It is the first time we have gone undefeated at home as a program in quite a while. Their energy, the way that they have supported us and the way that they have shown up every week has been a huge part of our success as a program here at home. Our players, our staff and myself absolutely love seeing them. You guys have heard me say the Vol Walk is the most special thing and the most unique thing in college sports. I truly believe that. Obviously, when Neyland is rocking, it is unsurpassed by anybody. I appreciate what they have done this year, and hopefully we will see them travel extremely well as we go to South Carolina next week.

“I want to thank our seniors and their families for what they have meant to this program since I have gotten here, just trying to put us back on a solid foundation. Those guys, with what they have been through, are the guys that chose to stay through uncertainty. They bought in and jumped into the deep end with me. They have competed. They have grown, and we have been connected in a really unique way as this thing has grown pretty quickly. I cannot say thank you to them enough, not just what they do on the field but who they are and how they go about their business every day.”

Heupel’s recap of the Vols’ win versus Missouri is listed below from a transcript provided by the University of Tennessee.

On making a statement today

“The statement for us is that we are a good football team playing good football. What the scoreboard ultimately ends up being and what people down the line might judge us for, we are out of control of some of those things. There were a lot of things that were good in the first half. There were some things that were not. Offensively, in all three phases, our best football is still out in front of us. I am proud of the fight, the competition, the ability to reset in the second half and the way our guys went out and competed in all three phases. It was a good win.”

On flipping the switch in the third quarter

“There were some things that they have done. When you look at them defensively and what they have done here throughout the course of the season, that is a really good defense. It’s one of the top ones in this conference. There are some things that they did that hurt us. There were some things that we did, too, on the offensive side of the football. The quarterback run in the first half changed the dynamic of the game. There are some things that we did. If you look at the two-minute drive that we had, we were not able to go score. We were on the plus-30 or whatever it was, and they hit one play get three points out of it. We were not as clean as we could be in the first half. Our guys do not blink and came back and played. I am proud of that part of it in particular.”

On Dylan Sampson’s second-half performance

“I planned on playing him here the last couple of weeks and in some respects, more than he has gotten opportunities to. He is a young guy that continues to get better and that we can have trust in. He has really good vision and the ability to press holes, deliver blocks and get to open space. He was dynamic with the ball in his hands today. He played really good football.”

On LaTrell Bumphus

“Man, he’s been through all the adversity here at Tennessee during his tenure, his career, plus all the injuries that he’s had. I don’t know that there is anybody that cares about the Power T and the players in the locker room more than he does. He is one of the most selfless people that I have ever been around. All he does is come to work. He’s got a great family. That guy is going to be ultra-successful whenever his playing days are done. He is going to be ultra-successful in whatever he chooses.”

On Cedric Tillman's status

“Cedric could have played in this one. Everything that is going on, it has nothing to do with the ankle. He will be ready to go next week. As a program, we talked to him after warmups and felt like it was probably best that he sat this one out.”

On family and Princeton Fant

“Princeton Fant, family, I mean you guys see it as we come out. I think it is really cool where our families sit. Our players get a chance to see them as they are running out, as they are warming up, when they come back in. You can tell that in wives, kids, player families, we try to build a program where everybody is connected and a true family. Princeton Fant’s little one being able to spend time with her dad and be on the field. We have multiple guys that are like that, and those are rare, unique opportunities. You guys see me, I mean we arrive to the stadium and meet a bunch of recruits. I take a five-minute pause, and most of our coaches do, to play catch with my kid. Those are moments that as a dad you are going to cherish, and as a kid, I know having been on the other side of that it meant the world. At the end of the day, those are the things that spring it on to do things the right way, continue to fight and get better.”

On what the sideline mood was when Missouri cut the score to 24-20

“Pretty calm. Certainly, the guys on the sideline, they don’t panic. A week ago, I don’t think we settled into the game and did the ordinary and that starts with me, our assistant coaches and our players together. These guys have been resilient. You guys heard me say that at the beginning of the week. We didn’t just land at this spot, these guys earned it. Their character and who they are has been revealed every day along the way. It’s how we got here. Good teams don’t play perfect, but they do compete in the way they reset. Our guys did that today.”

On what Bru McCoy brought against Missouri's defense

“Consistency. Playing the complete field and making some tight catches. Worked over the middle of the football field extremely well. He had some big plays, had some third down conversions. The way they matched things out there, it was unique at times. Trying to find the right matchups to play against a loaded box early in the first quarter made it tough to run the football straight out the gate. The pitch and catch was important in those parts of the game.”

On Jalin Hyatt's third quarter touchdown play

“It’s been in my back pocket for a while. It’s been run in different places. Brought it out this week because we felt like we had the opportunity to sneak him out. The staff did a great job of coming back to that one. And it was time, I think. They cut it to three or four, and it was a big-time answer.”

On what it is like seeing guys like Toby Wilson getting their chances

“Toby, a year ago, got an opportunity and played a ton of football as our kickoff guy. This year, he didn’t get those same opportunities. There is not a better person inside of our program. He continues to come to work, competes every day, cares about the Power T and his teammates. When you have an opportunity when the scoreboard is the way it was, you get the next guy in. Those are awesome opportunities to let them go play. Those are big. Those are memories for those guys, and I think it’s important to let those guys play football when they get a chance.”

On if adjustments were made to contain Missouri’s quarterback better or if it was just better execution

“Better execution on the back end of it.”

On what he saw in Hendon Hooker's preparation to bounce back this week

“I think his energy and his ability to speak to his teammates throughout the course of the week and early in the week is a part of our guys’ ways in handling it to respond the right way. Great teams have great leadership from within the locker room. We have really strong leadership. Hendon being as strong as anybody. He affects this program in such a positive way. Being able to reset from last week, he’s a huge part of that.”

On the seniors walking through the T during senior day

“I remember a lot of those moments for a lot of those guys going through that, and I’m super grateful and appreciative of what they have meant to us and to me. We are not here without those guys doing what they’ve done. Hendon is a really powerful story. He transferred in, didn’t get it right at the first stop, the young man didn’t get named the starter and continued to pour into his teammates. He becomes the guy and continues to grow. He competes every day, shows up and works and becomes a great leader. He will be one of the greats however it ends out. He will be one of the greats here, and it’s a pretty cool story. The perseverance that it takes to fight and go through that as a player. It’s a hard thing to do.”

On if Jalin Hyatt needed to be talked to or if he's a "let-him-be" type of guy after dropping a couple passes in the first half

“We ended up coming into halftime, coach pulled me out with him, and I said something to him. He’s played enough football and at a high enough level where he is supremely confident. He went out there and played well in the second half.”

On Hendon Hooker directing the band

“I had my band moment. I’m going to let him have that one. I do remember Peyton (Manning) being up on that ladder and doing it. It’s a pretty cool moment, one that he will remember forever.”

On what changed defensively after the score hit 28-24 in the third quarter

“There wasn’t a whole lot of scheme changes for us. We just settled in and played better football. The quarterback run, we lost contain on him. We didn’t handle the interior run off some of our twist games. We didn’t match out some of their stats and formations the right way. At the end of it we settled in and made some plays that were routine plays. Doing ordinary things at a really high level.”

Story originally appeared on Vols Wire