Mack Brown Fiesta Bowl press conference: Jan. 4
Jan. 4, 2009
Opening statement: We would like to thank the Valley of the Sun. We would like to thank Tostios and Frito Lay, especially the Tostios team for the great time that the kids have had this week. It has been a great balance of allowing us to do our job, kids working hard and preparing for an important game and, at the same time, they've had a lot of fun.
The committee, I have always heard that about the Fiesta Bowl committee, but they have been able to go to the Insight Bowl, they have been able to go to the Suns basketball game. They have eaten a whole lot and they have had a lot of fun. The weather has been unbelievable. And all the kids, it seems like from Texas and Ohio State, when they have been together it has been respectful of each other and we are excited about the game.
Our practices have been good. They have been spirited. Everybody is healthy. Everybody is excited about the game.
Let me see, Jim and Ellen Tressel called us when we were back in Austin and said that they do an event at each Bowl where they take canned foods and take them to a food bank in honor of Ohio State and they give a lot of money back and they asked us if we would like to be involved -- our wives to be involved.
This morning about 50 of our wives are going over to help Ohio State, and I think it is at St. Mary's Food Bank, to give a lot of food to the less fortunate at this time because the Bowls are so great to coaches and families and they give us such opportunities that we felt like that it was a great gesture for Ohio State to do this each year, and we were pleased that Jim and Ellen called us and asked us to be involved.
They're involved at a big level. We're just learning, but it is something we are definitely going to do from now on.
Will you talk about the uniqueness of the field and the stadium. Is this the first day that the team gets on it? Yes, it was exciting watching it yesterday with the play-off game with the Cardinals. Our guys will actually leave here and head to the stadium. They will have about an hour there. They will not get to practice in the stadium but they can walk through and look at the dressing room and kind of get their feel of everything.
We are going to give them a little opportunity like we did at the Rose Bowl, they will have their camera so they can take pictures and be the last time the seniors will be together in a nongame setting and let them sign autographs for each other for anything they want, take a little team picture.
It should be a good hour out at the stadium. We are looking forward to it.
Coach, can you talk about what you think about Terrelle Pryor and, also, there has been talk that Ohio State might use two quarterbacks at once. Can you talk about that? Yes, Terrelle to us is like a young Vince Young. He is tall. He is strong. He is 6'6". He was Mr. Everything in high school. He has won all the games. He is a great basketball player. We see Vince Young as a freshman in Terrelle Pryor. He is hard to tackle.He can throw.
Because he is such a great athlete and so strong, he does not get the credit for his passing that he should get. He is completing 63 percent of his passes. He has thrown very few interceptions. But he can dominate a game, if you let him.
He has got Beanie Wells and that big offensive line to take some pressure off of him. That's the concern we have, and think it is one of the great matchups going into the game. We've gotten credit for great run defense, but we haven't played runners like Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor.
And if you look at our Oklahoma game, we held them to 47 yards, but that's about the only game you can compare a big offensive line running game. So it will be a great matchup for us.
As far as their two-quarterback system, we hope it works as well as ours. (Laughter). I think ours had five place for minus 12 yards. We put a lot of time in it and talked about it and it carried the media in Austin for about six months. Now they forgot the name.
In light of USC looking impressive in the Rose Bowl and then Utah beating Alabama, another undefeated team and then you guys of course as well, might this year finally be the tipping point for the BCS where you could have four teams to make a claim for a national championship? I do think it will keep it hot on all of our minds, and our system is not set up to have a definite one or two on years like this. We said in 2005, we only had two undefeated teams. You go back to the year Auburn won 13 and didn't get in, it is very difficult.
You go back to the year that SC was so good and they got the AP title and did not get the BCS title, and then I also think we've got to look at just because a team is in the BCS game -- the final game, if one team gets blown out, should they be number two when some other really good teams are sitting around? I do think we have got some flaws that we need to continue to look at.
I think it has to be driven by you folks. Coaches have said openly we would like to see something different. We love the Bowl system. When I saw -- I played at Vanderbilt for two years, when I saw Vanderbilt kick a last-second field goal to win their first Bowl game since 1955, there will be no team or coaching staff any happier than that Vanderbilt staff was.
In my estimation, we do not need to take that away from college football. It is an exciting time. I see 7-5 teams throwing Gatorade on their coach. At Texas if we were 7-5 they would be throwing something on me but it wouldn't be Gatorade, I will tell you that (laughter).
It is exciting for them and fun. Some teams can't get to this spot, so we sure don't want to lose that. But I do think that obviously after this weekend, whether it is us -- you already look at SC, they have made their claim, you look at Utah, they made their claim, there should be another game or two to see who is best. It is a body of work through the whole year.
Mack, you have been scrimmaging the young guys late in practice. Can you point to maybe some of the nonstarters right now who've looked good in the practices who you might need next year? I really can't because it has no relevance to Monday and I'm really worried about this game. But I will talk to you about it later, Chip, because nobody else in the room cares but you, very honestly. I will head you with that as we are walking out. Is that fair? Ohio State would be pumped about what freshmen red shirts we might be looking at for string today. That would be big for them (smiling).
Evaluate the special teams, your team against Ohio State. Yes, I always worry about special teams when we were playing a Jim Tressel-coached team. I think he is as good as any. They are sound and fundamental. They are returning punts at an average of 15 yards per punt. They are doing a great job on punt coverage. They are holding people to 4.13 yards per return. Kick-off return coverage, they're doing great.
I think it is like 17 yards a return that are allowing. They've struggled with kick-off returns some. It scares you to death and it is something he will fake. He is well-coached. There is probably more pressure on us in this game than them coming in with everybody thinking we were supposed to win.
So I think you will see a loose Jim Tressel that will go for it and keep the guns down the whole game.
Mack, could you talk about not only the on-field contributions of your senior class but the way they provided leadership the past year, taking ownership and kind of set an example? It has been great. I think it is the best I have ever been around in 33 years. Basically it has been a deal where that group and some juniors stood up starting the Holiday Bowl last year against Arizona State and said we're just going to start helping the coaches do what we need to do.
Coaches aren't around all the time and this group has been very vocal. I think that's why they will play hard on Monday night. They have practiced hard every day and it is because of them. A lot of people say this team will be great next year, and that's not necessarily true because when you lose some ingredients, like Orakpo and his leadership and what he has meant to this program or Roy Miller and you don't have those guys next to you, my experience has been you don't wave the wand and say we have a lot of good players coming back so it works again.
For whatever reason it didn't work as well for 2006 and 2007, and it's has worked this year. I heard one of you ask Brian Orakpo the other day what's the difference in this year and the previous two years, because we might have even been more talented some. His point was probably good, and we don't talk about it enough. He said injuries. We had so many injuries in 2006 and -7 that people couldn't stand up and be leaders; for instance, him, because he stayed hurt the whole time. And we had a lot of those guys, so he said it disjointed our leadership core and really and truly that that was the reason he thought we weren't as consistent in those years, because we didn't have as many people in the field.
We have been fortunate, we have had very few injuries. We had them all at tight end. We haven't had them in such a huge numbers that it has affected the way we played.
What's the next 36 hours like for you? With big games like this, do you get nervous and anxious and ready for it to get here? How do you deal with all that? Yes, I asked Coach Royal once, said, Did you have trouble sleeping the night before a big game? And at Texas they are all big, unless you -- if you lose one, it gets real big. He said that unless you gag before you brush your teeth on Saturday morning, you are not ready to play. And I gagged this morning. So I think I'm fine.
Is it lost -- back to the leadership -- is it lost do you think on the younger guys or are they feeling a sense of the responsibility that the older guys have helped bring them along this year? I think they get it and hopefully it will carry over. You never know. We always talk about team, and I don't think any of us ever understand how to get it because if we did, we would have a great team and great team chemistry every year and we don't. For whatever reason. We talk about leadership. Do you recruit it. Do you build it, do you teach it, and, yes, but sometimes you miss it and that's just the deal.
Coach Royal's old story about if you got it, you are going to make it. If you don't have it, you have no chance. If you don't know what it is, you damn sure don't have a chance. Some kids have it and some don't. And the Colt McCoys and Quan Cosbys and the Adam Ulatoskis and the Jordan Shipleys and the Roy Millers, and we started just going through that group of kids get it, and then they make some other kids that might not have gotten it step up and play at a higher level.
So hopefully the -- we had some entitlement we thought over a couple of years with some of the younger ones and last year before the Bowl game, the older ones pulled the younger ones in. I thought part of it was scrimmaging, like Chip was saying, and the older kids were coaching them and jumping on them and getting after them. If they weren't running, they were getting after them. Hopefully that will continue.
We want our seniors to go out right. It is really interesting in this game to me that both of these teams have won over 800 games. I think we've won 831. Ohio State has one 808. Both of these teams have won 63 games over the last so many years. Both of these teams have lost four games at home in the last six years. The seniors at Texas are 44-7; the seniors at Ohio State are 43-7. You start looking at the number of players currently in the NFL, Texas has 35; Ohio State has 37.
If you look at the story line of this game, it is so close it should be a lot of fun for all of us.
Mack, the Big 12 hadn't fared quite as well in the Bowl games, especially Texas Tech, Oklahoma state. Missouri didn't look well. Does it hurt the credibility of the league? Does that affect your argument for maybe having a share of the title if you win? Number one, I think that based on one game everybody changes their opinions now sometime on a half. I think that's absolutely ridiculous. Why do we have a year, if we look at a game.
Secondly, my experience in the Bowl games is the teams usually win that want to be there. We've had some teams that weren't as excited about their game because they didn't get the draw they wanted and they got disappointed at the end of the year.
If you look at it, to me, that's the biggest thing in the Bowl games. Who has the edge? Who is motivated? Who wants to be there? It could be a concern if you look at us and Ohio State. That's a concern, so we've talked about it, we've -- it is something that could have been an issue coming in. I haven't seen it. I don't think it will be. But if you base Alabama-Utah, you would have thought Utah was more excited because Alabama was disappointed.
You look at Tech and Ole Miss. Tech was disappointed and Ole Miss was excited. Boston College was disappointed. Vanderbilt was excited. If you look at the games and see who wants to be there and who is motivated because none of us have played for a month, I think that usually tells you the story more than anything else. I get into all this if you play a bad team in a Bowl and beat them, everybody gets excited and said, boy, that league has got six wins. You didn't play anybody with a winning record, my gosh. I think we should look at the body of work and see where that comes before we start making those decisions.
Jim Tressel was saying he thinks Texas and Ohio State are the most similar jobs in the country. Have you all talked about that? Talk about your friendship or how well you all know each other. We actually did. I didn't know Jim before our game in 20005. We discussed some things coming up to the game. I was really impressed by him, watching their film and similar backgrounds with coaching dads.
On the field before the game we started talking about huge stadiums, very passionate fan base. A lot of TV and radio and news reports about each game and that people cared about what we do and there is some goods to that and there is some others to that.
But we did feel like being in the capital, being the -- like a pro team in town that the jobs were pretty -- they were different and construed differently than some others in our league and some others that we played again. But at the same time they are very unique and a lot of fun.
We ended up thinking if you can coach where Darrell Royal and Woody Hayes coached, that's pretty cool stuff.
Going back to something you said a second ago, what did you say and do with the players to make sure that it wasn't a problem coming here and being too disappointed? What we try to do is be honest. We told them if you beat A&M, and you beat A&M by a significant amount, which was the second largest amount in the history of our series, that I would stand up and say I thought you deserved to play in the conference championship game. That's what I did.
We asked our players to keep their mouths shut and me being the guy to stand up. We don't want to work to get attention for their team. That's my job. That's our sports information director's job. That's what we felt like we would do.
Until Fox announced it at 4:00 or 4:10, whatever it was, we didn't know what the announcement would be. Like everybody else, we were sitting and watching very closely.
I got a call from our sports information director right after Dodds got the call from Fox which was 4:10 or something, and our first concern was our players would see it before they heard it from us and we never liked that. We tried to text all of the players immediately and tell them that you didn't get in and the Bowl selection will come down and you will be going to the Fiesta Bowl.
At that time, we weren't even really sure who we would play. We thought it would be Ohio State. We called a 7:00 meeting that night. Not to belabor the point, basically I told them the same thing. Here's what happened. There are six computers. You get more weight for winning an away game. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State on the road. We lost to Tech on the road. We don't like the system. We would like to see it changed. You don't even know who is voting. People that vote don't even see your games. Coaches that vote can have an itinerary. Yes, it is not a good system for what we think.
Some people like it. It is better than what we had ten years ago. But in this case, it didn't work out for you. But one year it didn't work out for SC. One year it didn't work out for Auburn. In 2004 it worked out for you when you went to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan. Don't say "oh, poor me" and don't say the system was poor to you just this time; it has been poor to a lot of people. This year it was good to Oklahoma instead of us.
We said -- I read a statement to them that I had prepared through our president and athletic director, John Bianco, that said we don't like it, we don't appreciate it, we don't think it is fair, but it is what it is and we're moving forward.
Very honestly from that day forth, I haven't heard it mentioned. The only time it is mentioned if I come on a radio show or come in front of you all. I think the players have moved forward. I also told them, how do we know after watching SC and Utah, how is it going to be fair to have a national champion picked anyway. There is obviously more than one team at the end of this week that will have a claim to the possibility of being considered for a national championship.
Will you talk about just the importance of finishing and kind of like what you talked about, the body of work you have done through the season doesn't matter as much if you don't win your Bowl game? This is a unique game to me because both teams need to finish. You talk to Jim and to me Jim has been the most consistent football coach and team for the last two years at least because he is the only guy to play for the national championship with his team two years in a row and didn't win the two games.
If you look at it, every other game, except those two, he is the only guy that has been in those games. In some ways it is tougher because it is better to be third and win than it is to be second and lose because people forget it and say you didn't win the big game. How many can get to that game? It is a great compliment to him and his program.
They have gotten there. This game to them, I'm sure, is about making sure that they prove that they deserve to be here again, but that they are going to win their last game of the year because of the tough situation for their seniors the last two years.
From our standpoint, we got to be careful that we're not satisfied that we're here. We were a team that was picked third and fourth in our division, much less to be in a BCS game. And then we got baited with playing in the last one and that didn't work out.
So we got to make sure that we feel like that, number one, if you get to come to a game like the Fiesta Bowl, the BCS, which everybody is trying to get to, none of our players are coaches have ever been in this game so that should be fun for us. It should be a great reward at the end of the of the year.
Secondly, we get to play a team that I just said the numbers, just like Texas. It is a storied program. Coach Tressel and their guys, when they have won 43-7, ours 44-7, both teams expect to win this ball game.
Thirdly, we would like to see our seniors go out on the right note because they deserve it. This class won a championship in their senior year. They fought back and this team has played better than the two previous teams that we had since the national championship.
Lastly, you would like to use this as a springboard like we did in 2004 at the Rose Bowl to move forward and hope that it could put us in a good spot to start out high next year.
A little bit off topic from the game specifically, how gratifying is it for you to have one of your former assistants in Mike Haywood to go on and now run his own program for the first time at Miami? It is great, other than dealing with your players, to have one of your assistant coaches become a head coach is so much fun. To see Gene Chizik go to Auburn, it will be good for him to get back to where he is really comfortable in that setting.
I was able to see the first half of Minnesota-Kansas, to see Tim Brewster out here coaching and to see Mike get a chance and get -- develop a staff and pull them all together and work. Miami is a great job. Mike Haywood is now part of the cradle of coaches. That's a lot of fun for us.
I have talked to him a lot over the last week, texted him a lot. He has his first meeting coming up here. He is hiring his staff. I have never seen anybody more excited. I am really pulling for Mike.
You have a very excited team coming to play in a big-time Bowl game. Over the next couple days you got young guys that play a lot. How are you tempering some of that enthusiasm from the fun they have had as they prepare to play a game? You have young guys that haven't been in this situation before. What we have told them is Texas and Ohio State, you need to win your Bowl game. They are fun, but if you go and you have only fun and you don't work and you lose, you won't be going back.
So what we do is we get them up really early in the morning. We practice them really hard. We don't stay out there that long, and then we make sure they get in bed in the afternoon some and take some rest and then we really, really control where and what they do at night.
We want it to be fun, but we want it to be clean fun and make sure they are in bed. We have had one eleven o'clock curfew most of the week that we've been out here. We have checked every bed every night. One of the coaches said if he smelled any alcohol on them, he would kiss them. That took care of that. As far as I know, nobody has been kissed by Coach Rucker before they went to bed. If you see Coach Rucker, only Nancy wants to kiss Coach Rucker. It is not a group of guys (laughter).
We told them these guys have won four Bowl games that have been here. We have a little thing called the drive for five. We want them to win their fifth Bowl game for the five-year seniors. They have been involved in two Rose Bowls, a Holiday Bowl and an Alamo Bowl and a Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. To be able to play in your career at Texas, Michigan, USC, Iowa, Arizona State and Ohio State in Bowl games and have a chance to win all five is really, really something special. These kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.
I do feel like this game is really, really important. They looked fresh yesterday when we practiced. It gets to be a long week about today. Somebody asked about being anxious. We have been here a long time so the guys are all ready to play.
And I think the stadium will stir them up today too. That will be really good for them to walk in there and get the feel for game day. You start seeing all -- I went out to eat dinner with one our hosts last night and starting to see a lot of those red jerseys showing up around here. You see all the red and orange start screaming at each other a day early and getting pumped for the game.
Some of it was alcohol-induced last night. But they will all be pumped and ready to go.