KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee seniors Jashon Robertson and Kendal Vickers, along with junior Micah Abernathy, met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to talk about this Saturday’s Homecoming contest against Southern Miss.
The Vols return home this Saturday after two consecutive road games at Alabama and Kentucky. Saturday’s game will be the first of three home contests for UT in the month of November after having just one in October. The game will be aired on the SEC Network at 7:30 p.m.
Robertson talked about the great fan support at Neyland Stadium and his excitement to get to play three of the team’s last four regular-season games in front of the Big Orange faithful.
“I am from the state of Tennessee,” Robertson said. “I love this place and I came here to play in front of a great fan base like we have. We appreciate all the support they have given us this year, and we look forward to them continuing to give us that type of support.”
Offense Starting to Click
Tennessee’s offense is starting to click after producing 445 yards of total offense last week at Kentucky. The 445 total yards and 203 rushing yards were the most by UT in a game this season.
Running backs Ty Chandler and Carlin Fils-aime as well as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had career days for the Vols and will look to keep the offense rolling this Saturday against the Golden Eagles.
“I am encouraged,” Robertson said when talking about the success the team had running the ball against the Wildcats. “We went down and back, and a lot of guys stepped up in the back. I am very proud of the way that they played, the toughness displayed and the ability that they displayed running the football.”
One person who certainly wasn’t surprised by Chandler’s breakout performance was Vickers, who said the freshman has been making plays throughout the year in practice.
“I wasn’t surprised at all by his performance,” Vickers said. “Obviously we’ve seen it in practice and we saw it in camp. He came on to the field right away and started making plays, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Four Vols Named to PFF College SEC Team of the Week
The Vols had four players named to the PFF College SEC Team of the Week, the most they’ve had during any week this season. Guarantano, Chandler and senior tight end Ethan Wolf represented the offense, while redshirt junior Rashaan Gaulden made the defensive team for the second straight week.
Guarantano earned an 84.2 grade after the best performance of his young career, passing for a career-high 242 yards while completing 18-of-23 passes at Kentucky. Chandler’s 90.9 grade was the highest of any player on the PFF SEC Team of the Week. The Nashville native rushed for a career-best 120 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats last week. Wolf had the second highest offensive grade at 87.1 after hauling in three catches for 33 yards.
Gaulden’s 86.4 grade was the second highest on the defensive team. The Spring Hill, Tenn., native was a force yet again for the Vols’ secondary, making five tackles will forcing and recovering a fumble as well.
Senior Offensive Lineman Jashon Robertson
On losing streak:
“Losing is something that is never tolerated, it is never easy to deal with. Of course there is a lot to learn from those losses and a lot to improve on. At this point we’re fighting for a bowl game. That’s the goal. Right now we’re doing everything we can to control what we can control.”
On the success running the ball against Kentucky:
“I am encouraged. We went down and back, and a lot of guys stepped up in the back. I am very proud of the way that they played, the toughness displayed and the ability that they displayed running the football. I am encouraged.”
On making it to a bowl game:
“It would mean a lot. For me, it’s an extra opportunity to strap it up with a “T” on my chest and just enjoy the game one last time. I would be very appreciative of an extra game and one more time in my football helmet.”
Senior Defensive Lineman Kendal Vickers
On the team’s confidence after close losses:
“We have a confident group of guys to begin with, so I don’t think it will shake any of our confidence. We just have to go out there and work and prepare like we’ve been preparing for Southern Miss, and hopefully the ball will fall in the right direction for us this time.”
On the team’s goals for the rest of the season:
“Just win. Winning is always a motivational factor. That’s why you play the game, so it’s the same message every week. Just go out there and get the win.”
On the energy that the team came out with against Kentucky:
“I think it’s just the mentality of the guys in our locker room. They love to work, they love to get better, they love to play the game of football. And we just embraced the conditions that were at Kentucky. It was cold, it was wet, and we just embraced it. And that’s what I love about those guys in the locker room.”
On if Ty Chandler’s performance came as a surprise:
“I wasn’t surprised at all by his performance. Obviously we’ve seen it in practice and we saw it in camp. He came on to the field right away and started making plays, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Junior Defensive Back Micah Abernathy
On preventing wearing down late in games:
“Obviously nobody is fresh going into the fourth quarter, but I feel like we just need to play through it and just get over whatever we had going in the first half and just give it our all in the fourth.”
On the defense’s performance against Kentucky:
“I think the defense played well, but we don’t feel like we completed our task. We hold ourselves to a higher standard as a defense, as we have the whole year. But we know we have another week coming up, and another week to complete our goals.”
On his assessment of the Southern Miss offense:
“They’re very fast and athletic, and have athletes at every position, and we just need to match their intensity.”
On the frustrations of inconsistency:
“We know that we’re a good defense, we just need to lock in on the small details of our run defense like I said, and even the deep ball as well. We just need to lock in.”