Tennessee football's season in quotes from coaches, players across the nation

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Blackhawk helicopters fly over Neyland Stadium before Tennessee’s season opener Sept. 1 against Ball State.

"Hopefully that says there is a ton of belief and optimism and excitement that surrounds our program. I shouldn't say 'hopefully,' because there is, and you can feel it."

-- Tennessee coach Josh Heupel after nearly 8,000 more fans attended this season's opener than THE 2021 OPENER


"A year ago in a game like this with all the ups and downs, I don't think we would have handled it in a way that we really needed to be able to come out on top."

-- Heupel after the 34-27 overtime win at Pittsburgh


"It's really indescribable. There have been so many ups and downs. At the Vol Walk, there used to be just a few people there, and it wasn't anything compared to how today was. It was unreal, but we'll have a lot more experiences like this in the future."

-- Defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus AFTER the 38-33 win over Florida


"That was not what we planned or expected. We expected to play much better than that."

-- LSU coach Brian Kelly after a 40-13 loss to the Vols in Tiger Stadium


"They're sort of like a Mercedes- Benz plant. Everything that rolls off that assembly line is a high-quality product, so we've got to be high quality just so we can go out there and compete with them."

-- Defensive line coach Rodney Garner on facing the Alabama Crimson Tide

"Obviously it wasn't my cleanest hit."

-- Chase McGrath after KICKING THE WINNING 40-yard field goal against Alabama

  photo  Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee kicker Chase McGrath boots the winning 40-yard field goal in the 52-49 topping of Alabama on Oct. 15.


"Man, what an unbelievable scene. That thing ends, and I'm running out on the middle of the field, and you can see the swarm of orange coming down."

-- Heupel on the Neyland Stadium field-storming


"You want to have great energy, and you want to be loose. I thought we were tight, especially starting the game. Coming out of the locker room, our players always chant. They weren't chanting, and I said, 'Why aren't you guys chanting?' What's up with that?'"

-- Nick Saban after his first loss to Tennessee as Alabama's coach


"We've tried to enjoy the journey and take moments to pause and reflect and enjoy what our players have built. They've built this."

-- Heupel on being No. 1 in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings

"Sometimes it's like, 'Wow. There is no way they left him wide open like that.'"

-- Quarterback Hendon Hooker on receiver Jalin Hyatt's record-setting season


"When I first got here, it wasn't like this. It's exciting to see how this program has turned around."

-- Fifth-year senior left guard Jerome Carvin before the showdown at Georgia

"No matter how it starts, you've got to continue to compete. You have to focus and reset, whether that's doing something offensively or getting some defensive stops. We weren't able to do enough of that."

-- Heupel after the 27-13 loss at Georgia


"He coaches his team. I coach our team. I've got no issues with their team and what they do."

-- Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz after Heupel's Vols scored with 36 seconds left in a 66-24 blowout

"He is playing at as high a level as I have ever had anybody play, and I've had Heisman guys. He is in complete command of what we are doing."

-- Heupel's mid-November assessment of Hooker


"We just felt like it would be given to us. We didn't feel like we had to go out there and work for it. We thought they were going to lay down, but they played a great game."

-- Linebacker Aaron Beasley on the 63-38 loss at South Carolina


"I was real emotional. I could barely look at him."

-- Running back Jabari Small on Hooker's ACL injurY IN THE LOSS AT SOUTH CAROLINA


"This was an important game for us. It's about finishing, man. Everybody starts something. How do you finish? This was a good finish to a special regular season."

-- Heupel after the 56-0 win at Vanderbilt

"You look at the two losses by Alabama, including one on the last-second field goal to Tennessee, and somewhere in there you've got to measure the loss that Tennessee had to South Carolina. As we went through that, that was part of the determination as to why we had Alabama ahead of Tennessee. That loss against South Carolina really weighed with the committee."

-- CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan


"What Josh has done at Tennessee is incredible. I grew up watching Tennessee, and he has made Tennessee Tennessee again."

-- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on his Orange Bowl opponent

— Compiled by David Paschall

  photo  Tennessee Athletics photo by Cayce Smith / Tennessee football players get ready to take the field amid a checkerboarded Neyland Stadium before the Sept. 24 game against Florida.