Dec. 31, 2011
Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin
"I'd like to start by thanking our fans for their support tonight. I thought tonight was a great representation of what Vanderbilt can be. I would also like to thank the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for their hospitality and making this such a memorable experience. I've been a part of many bowls games in the past. We had a great experience and we were treated in a first class way. As I told some of our fans on the way over here, this game does not define us. No disrespect to the past or previous situations, we talked after the game in the locker room about the Wake Forest game last year and what that was like and how much things have changed in 12 months. I feel for these guys here (seniors), because they aren't going to be part of the future, but what they have done is laid a great foundation for our future." "That is a great football team that we played today. They played a smart, disciplined game and I have tremendous respect for their head coach and players. As I look over my notes from the game, we obviously made too many mistakes today. Special teams, we made too many critical mistakes today. Fumbles, poor coverage, poor kick placement, but all those mistakes are correctable and we will get those corrected in the offseason. Those plays did not help us tonight. Defensively, I thought their running back was a good player and their offensive line played well. I thought that was the first team this year that has been able to run the ball against us consistently. Casey (Hayward) made some big plays for us and we had some tackles for loss, but if you watch the game they were able to run the ball consistently. Offensively, we just weren't running our offense. If you look at the last third of the season and what we were able to do, we just didn't look like ourselves tonight. I thought their defensive line played really well, but it was a great game. It was an exciting game in the second half. It was fairly ugly there in the first half from our perspective, but we were able to come out in the second half and make it a more exciting game.
"I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this game and be the coach for these guys. I couldn't be more proud to be at Vanderbilt and represent the star V and the Black and Gold. We will be back. This is just the first step of many that we are taking. I really appreciate this opportunity."
Talk about Larry Smith and what he means to this team
"Larry is an amazing guy. I would hire Larry tomorrow to coach. I would hire Larry tomorrow to work in the weight room. I'd hire Larry to work wherever he wants to, but the funny thing is Larry will probably end up hiring me. That's how special this guy is. On the field, off the field, in the community he has the whole package and he has everything you could want. I've never seen a quarterback handle losing the starting role with more grace and class than this guy did. He was so supportive of Jordan (Rodgers) the whole way and it was so nice to see Larry go out there and throw that touchdown pass tonight. He came to the sideline and asked him who could have written a better script than that. Obviously, we would've like for it to end differently, but I was so excited to see him get on the field and have some success. That's no disrespect to Jordan, because he had a great year, but just didn't have it working tonight.
Why did you change quarterbacks?
"Did you watch the first half? It wasn't a whole lot of fun. We weren't doing the things we were supposed to do. I don't mean just Jordan, it was everybody. It's hard to call the game when you aren't running the plays like you're supposed to. I'll go back and study the film and have a better answer a week from now. We just weren't running the offense like we wanted and that's what it came down to. That happens from time to time and that's why you have to have depth. That's why you have to have a bunch of players so you can put somebody in and make plays. Larry was waiting to have his number called and he rose to the occasion."
Quarterback Larry Smith
On Losing the Starting Job Midseason and Being Thrust Into Game
"It was challenging at first, as far as losing my job midway through the season, but my mindset is team first. And, I realized that it was in the best interest of the team. I just took the same approach as if I was starting. Jordan [Rogers] and I have a great relationship and we maintained that throughout this whole process. Tonight, when coach gave me the nod, I went out there and just played my game."
On Throwing the Interception
"I just threw it behind him. It's a simple concept that we installed the first day of spring practice [to take care of the ball]. I made a poor throw and the defense made a play on it."
Cornerback Casey Hayward
On the Momentum Swing of UC's Touchdown Return
"It was very hard. We just talked on the sideline that the game was on us [the defense]. It was a dagger. But you've got to keep playing. There was more time left on the clock. We had a chance after that to make plays and still win the game."
On Tying Vanderbilt's Career Interception Record with Two Interceptions
"On our side (defense), we don't get that many balls, but when we do, you have to capitalize on it... At the beginning of the season I knew how many(interceptions) I needed to tie and pass [the record]. I needed eight to pass it and I only got seven. It's a tie and I don't like to tie."
Cincinnati Head Coach Butch Jones
"I want to thank the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for the experience. I've been to a lot of bowls and I've never been to a better bowl game; the organization, the hospitality, everybody involved. This truly is one of the best bowl games in America.
"Vanderbilt is a very, very good football team. They have a lot of the same characteristics that we have in our football program. I have a lot of respect for Coach Franklin, his staff and his players.
"I can't say enough about our football program. Twenty-one seniors and they mean everything to our football program. We talk about being a family and being able to overcome adversity. I just think it's true irony that last year at this time give or take a couple hours everybody went their separate ways and we weren't in a bowl game. I text messaged every one of our players and said 2011 be a champion. We're going to be back in a bowl game. Our players answered everything we asked them to do. They are truly champions. We've had five trophy games this year and we're 5-for-5.
"To win 10 games in college football is very, very hard to do. These individuals up here with Isaiah (Pead) and JK (Schaffer) and the rest of the seniors what they've meant for us has truly been phenomenal. I thought our defense did a great job of really keeping us in the game.
"George Winn really provided a spark. I do have to give Todd McMinn our equipment manager. He may be an unsung hero because Isaiah's helmet broke so George Winn went into the game and took it for the distance. He got us going.
"Special teams wise, Ralph Abernathy comes back to Memphis and he really provided a spark with his kickoff return. We challenged our kickoff return. We've been close all year. We told him today was the day.
"Obviously Isaiah (Pead), where he's come from, we've always said there's a difference between a rusher, runner and a running back. He is a running back. Running backs have to do it all; pass protect, catch the balls out of the backfield, run the football and take the right reads. The other mark of a great running back is durability. He showed great durability in the course of the season and today was nothing more than that. He got stronger as the game went on. There isn't any other one person in our football program we want the ball in the hands of No. 23 than No. 23. I thought obviously he responded.
"I can't say enough about everybody in our football program. We made the plays we needed to make down the end and it was great to get win number 10.
"I thought it was great to represent the BIG EAST Conference as champions. This is a championship football team through everything; on the field, off the field, academics. It's something that everybody can be proud of.
"In closing, our fans were phenomenal from our band to our cheerleaders to the Cat Walk to the support they've given us all week long. I just can't say enough about them. I'm obviously very proud, and I'm very proud to be the 53rd champion of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl."
Talk about Zach Collaros and coming back so quickly from his injury
"If you guys want something good about to write about in college athletics, write about that; the trials and tribulations of Zach Collaros. We live in a Sport Center society. Everyone's going to turn the highlights on. They're going to go to ESPN and turn it on and see the highlights. What they're not going to see is the eight hours every day with Bob Mangine and Angel Colosimo and all the hard work he put in; the eight hours a day rehabbing his ankle to play in this football game. When he was carted off the field in West Virginia he said coach I'll be back. The perseverance that young man showed to make it back and lead his team to victory in his last game is all you need to know about Zach Collaros."
Running Back Isaiah Pead
What did it mean to earn MVP honors alongside JK Schaffer?
"We came in together. We call ourselves 2012, because that is our (graduating) class. Going against each other every day in practice has made both of us better. After the game, we just brought that to each other's attention. Just to hug a guy for the last time on the field, that is special. I mean, this was our first bowl victory. It was just a huge burden off of our backs (to win our first bowl game). I am going to miss this whole team."
Linebacker JK Schaffer
What did it mean to earn MVP honors alongside Isaiah Pead?
"I am glad that he is on my team. Practicing against him for four years has definitely made me a better linebacker. Without having him on the other side of the ball during camp and spring practice, I don't know that I would be the player that I am. I have learned a lot from him and he is going to have a great career down the road."