Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl Q&A: Dec. 17
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Dec. 17, 2011

Senior LB Emmanuel Acho
How important is it to get that eighth win?
I think it is huge. It is a culminating point of the season. For the seniors, it is going to be our last outing and for the rest of the team it is going to give them momentum into the offseason and into the next year. This win is important. It's the next game. It's the next opponent and for me it is my last game, so I have to make sure I play well. We have to go out and get this win. We want to lead this team into a strong offseason. For myself, it is my last game left to put on this uniform, and we are playing for pride.

What are you thoughts about San Diego?
It is a heck of a city. Everyone is excited to get out of Texas and go see somewhere else and be somewhere new with all of the little things that surround a bowl game. We are looking forward to it.

How did the bowl practices benefit you as a freshman?
They are huge especially for freshmen and sophomores. It is when you prove yourself to not only your team, but to your coaches. That is when you truly develop as a player. As a freshman, I think I was very inexperienced and very immature, but then my sophomore season I had to start immediately. So those 13 practices were vital.

Other than your brother Sam, who helped you to get better out on the field?
Really [Roddrick] Muckelroy. Muckelroy back then was a very influential figure in my life because we played the same position. He taught me how to practice, how to prepare well and just helped me become a better player.

Do you feel a responsibility to help the younger players?
I feel like that has been my duty all season. If I haven't done it by now then I'm not going to do it in the next 10 practices. That was the kind of responsibility that I took all summer and all season, but now it is my time to usher Jordan Hicks into the role and usher Steve Edmond into the role. I am encouraging them to speak up. I am done speaking, and I am done yelling in practice. I'm listening and watching more as a coach.

What are your thoughts on LB Jordan Hicks and LB Steve Edmond?
They are going to be a heck of a tandem and a heck of a bunch. As long as they continue to learn and continue to grow in [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz's scheme, then they are going to be future All-Americans.

Do you think the bowl practices serve as an audition for younger players?
Coach Diaz has constantly emphasized that. He is continually talking to the younger guys. He keeps saying, "Acho and [Keenan] Robinson only have 60 minutes of ball left and after that they are gone." It's really time for the young guys to step up and really come through.

What do you remember from watching your brother in the 2007 Holiday Bowl?
I went a couple days beforehand and got to see my brother [Sam Acho]. I remember it being right off the shore. There was a cool little area around there. As far as the game, I remember them running out of the tunnel, and it being an awesome time.

How was watching that bowl compare to the ones you've played in?
Compared to the ones I have been in, it's been very similar. Again, it's a boost of morale and it's always fun to see who can bring out the most fans and who can pull more from their home state. That's always really fun. It's a split atmosphere, a neutral site and that's always fun.

What are your thoughts on LB Keenan Robinson?
He's really fought, but that is the same thing Keenan has always done. He has really fought and overcome adversity, whether it is an issue with his thumb or switching positions. He is a heck of a player and a heck of an athlete. I hope I get to play with him in the future, but if not, I will enjoy this last time.

Do you think the team will be rested before the bowl?
The good thing about bowl games is it gives you time to get healthy. It gives everyone time get healthy, whether it is just a nick or a bruise or soreness from the first 12 games. You have two weeks off just to refresh yourself and revitalize your body. So we will be able to play a lot faster.

What are you thoughts on freshman CB Quandre Diggs?
He played as we expected. He was great all summer, and he was great throughout training camp. When games came around he played like the mature individual he is. Since he has an older brother [San Diego Chargers CB Quentin Jammer] who has already been there and done it, he is much more mature than the average freshman and he plays like it on the field.

What is your advice to the younger guys about playing in a bowl game?
To remember what is important. We are going to Sea World and we are going to the [San Diego] Zoo and that's all fun, but the real fun is in winning. If you lose the game, it will completely taint your image of the trip, and it will completely ruin your trip. So remember what's important. The trip revolves around the game so let's not disassociate those two things.

Have you seen a bowl win carry into the next season?
It was definitely shown in my freshman year when we went to the Fiesta Bowl. We were a great team then, but we went there and got a close win right at the end, which carried momentum into the next season where we went to the National Championship. Getting a win would be huge for this team and hopefully they can carry that momentum on into the next season.

What are your thoughts on next year's defense?
I think essentially everyone is coming back except for [S]Blake [Gideon] and [S Christian] Scott. That will be huge because they will have a very good role. I expect Jordan Hicks to step up tremendously and Alex Okafor on the D-line. I expect that to be how it goes.

How do you think the defense played this year under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz?
I think we have come a long way, but the sky is the limit. Because it's only going to get better. He is a very open-minded guy. We had two seniors at linebacker, so we fed off each other. I think they are going to get a lot better.

When did you feel that the defense started to click?
After Oklahoma State, when the sacks started coming and the tackles for loss started coming. After a full year, people will finally get a good spring under their belt with him. I think the skies the limit.

Are you looking to end your career on a high note?
I have to go out well. I didn't end my senior regular season well, but I have one more game left and I plan to go out very well.

What do you think the team can do to get a win?
We can prepare better on the defensive side of the ball. We need to execute better. With the three weeks of preparation, we are going to be able to study more film, watch more and execute better than we did.

Do you think both Cal and Texas are better than their 7-5 records?
I think both teams record's [are] not indicative of how good they may be. You have to go and approach that game as if they are the best team you are playing. That is going to be the only team we are playing on that day. I am going to approach it as if it were the national championship game. That is the kind of intensity you have to bring and how you have to approach it.

What is your mindset entering this last game?
I am really looking forward to having fun and enjoying time with my teammates, especially Keenan [Robinson]. We have played side-by-side for like 25 straight games now, so I'm really going to enjoy my time playing with him and the rest of the guys. It will be my last time wearing the uniform so I'm going to soak it all in.

Do you think this Holiday Bowl can be a launching point to future BCS bowls?
Hopefully we are laying the foundation for the future. Hopefully we have done a good job throughout the season of teaching these guys how they have to work and what it takes to get this last win.

Senior DT Kheeston Randall
How have the bowl practices been going?
They have been going well. We've gotten a lot of work in. It gives the younger guys a chance to get some more reps and for the older guys to get better on their techniques.

What do you think of the young defensive tackles' progression?
They have been doing well. [Defensive tackles] Coach [Bo] Davis gives us a mission everyday, and we have to go out and you either get better or you get worse. These last couple of days we have been getting better.

Why is getting an eighth victory so important?
The bowl game is always important because it allows you to go into the next season and the spring with a little more confidence. It is pretty much the first game of next season, that is how Coach [Mack] Brown explains it. You have a boost of confidence knowing you ended the last season on a good note.

What is the excitement level like for the bowl game?
It is very exciting. [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Manny] Diaz said in a meeting after our last game for all the people who haven't been to a bowl game to stand up. Probably three-fourths of the room stood up because they haven't been to a bowl game. It is really exciting for those guys and for myself.

How does it feel to have made it to a bowl this year?
It is always nice when you get to play a game that you love. We work hard all year to play 12 games and now we have an opportunity to play an extra one. Coach Brown put it into the perspective that I think only 36 teams get to play in a bowl game, so you have to take advantage of it.

What are your feelings about this being your last game at Texas?
It is bittersweet. I have had a lot of good memories here, and I just have to build on that.

Who are some of the younger players that you expect big things from?
Off the top of my head I would say [CB] Quandre [Diggs]. [DT] Desmond Jackson is doing a heck of a job and just most of the guys in general. They are getting more comfortable in the system we are in and the freedom that Coach Diaz gives us. Sometimes, it takes a little more time for some guys compared to others, but they are doing a great job.

What is the team emphasizing right now?
Just the small things like our techniques. Speaking as a D-lineman, using our hands a lot better. We are doing a lot of pass rushing. That has been a big point of emphasis for us. Just becoming better players all around.

What are thoughts on defensive coordinator Manny Diaz?
I think he has definitely done a great job this season. He came in with his feet on the ground running, and we haven't looked back since.

Will the extra bowl practices give the players more time to learn Diaz's schemes?
He gives us so much freedom playing which most of us were not used to, so it took awhile. Once you get the hang of it and know when you can cross face or when you have to stay in your gap, then that's where these extra bowl practices help. Going through the season and the spring, that has really helped us.

How have the freshman on the line improved this year?
They are playing a year older. I want to say after the fourth game of the season, Coach Brown always says, freshmen start playing like sophomores and the sophomores start [playing like juniors] and so on. That is definitely true. Desmond [Jackson] has been great for us and making plays. Coach Davis wants it so that when our one's go out and our two's go in, you can't really tell the difference. That has really evolved over the season and has been taking place.

What is special about playing in a bowl?
The special thing is as a senior, I get to hang around my teammates a little longer and am just able to enjoy their company. It is really the small things. We will enjoy the moment that we have with each other and get better when we have the opportunity in practice.

How did the bowl practices benefit you as a freshman?
They were great for me personally going into the Fiesta Bowl, because it was around that time when I actually understood the defense. [Ex-defensive coordinator] Coach [Will] Muschamp's defense was really complicated, and it took me until the bowl game to actually see what I had to do without thinking. They were great for me because I had the chance to get a lot of reps and it was awesome.

Which senior helped you the most as a freshman?
I would have to say Lamarr [Houston], he was a junior, though. Roy [Miller] and Ben Alexander. Those guys really helped me a lot.

What do you know about Cal?
We know that they are a very balanced team. We have to get after the running back and try to minimize that. Then we will try to rush the passer. If we do that, we should put ourselves in a successful position.

What are your thoughts on Alex Okafor?
Alex has grown tremendously during the season. He voices his opinion more. Everybody listens to him and everyone respects him. I feel like he is a better player for playing defensive tackle during this last season compared to the previous season. He is a lot stronger and more aggressive on the edge. He doesn't care about contact and will run straight through you or right around you. He has turned into a complete player.

Sophomore OG Mason Walters
How do you feel about playing in a bowl game?
It was one of our goals. Fortunately, we accomplished it. It is nowhere near where we wanted to be sitting at this point in the season, but it is something we can build on.

What are your thoughts on running the football?
I'm an offensive lineman. You can put my grandmother back there and I don't care, I want to be able to run the ball. That's an offensive linemen's attitude. I am not denying that some [running] backs are better than others, but we've got to take that challenge upon ourselves. If one of our backs goes out, we have to put it on our back and we've done a poor job of that.

Even though he isn't playing, how do you think RB Fozzy Whittaker has been able to influence this team?
He is doing the same things he was doing on the field, but has more time now to almost be a coach to the guys. He's been in these situations, being a young guy playing here. He really talks them through what they are going to see, and he's done a great job of it.

How do you feel being compared to former Longhorn Kasey Studdard?
That's a huge compliment, but I don't want to take away from Kasey Studdard. He did his thing and hopefully by time I leave here, I will have my own [reputation].

What are you thoughts on OL Sedrick Flowers?
He was in a similar situation to what I had freshman year with getting injured, so I have talked to him about it. Redshirting is a great deal for him, because he is extremely talented. There is no question there. He's a fighter, and he's got a mean streak coming. He has the body type to be a guard and is deceptively athletic from the way he looks, but still very athletic. He is going to come along and produce well because we are going to push him. He wants to be good, and we want him to be good.

What have you seen from the quarterbacks in preparation for the bowl game?
I have full faith [in them], and they are working their butts off right now. I see them in the film room two weeks out. From day one I have had faith in those guys, and I still do.

How important is it to end the year with a win?
Momentum coming out of the bowl game is big. I haven't been around to enjoy it, but I know what a loss does. Coming off the National Championship year, you feel terrible and everyone is down. That goes into offseason and spring ball and it starts to settle. A win is something we can accomplish and will make everything go a lot smoother.

Are you excited that most of the offensive line is returning next year?
I am definitely excited about that. We have a lot of good ones coming in next year too. Don't look past Cal at all. They are formidable opponents to say the least. I am excited for what is going to happen. We are young in some key positions. I think a little more experience, some growth and the addition of a few others will make us a contender.

What did watching TE Blaine Irby battle back to play this year mean to you?
Blaine was injured when I got here. I got to know him pretty well, and there are so many things you can take away from him. His leadership ability, his work ethic and his love for the game are so strong. When he came back from that injury, which we saw was terrible - I still get queasy watching it and thinking about it. He loves the game of football, and I'm sure it hurts him to be leaving.

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