Mack Brown Monday press conference: Nov. 24
Nov. 24, 2008
Opening statement: These are really exciting times for college football, but especially The University of Texas. If we would have thought at the first of the year that going into the last game of the year, we would be talking about this football team being number two in the BCS with all of its hopes and dreams alive, we would be very excited. Then you look at what's happened this year for the Big 12, it's by far the best year in the history of the league. Missouri has already tied up the North, and they're in the BCS. You look at what [Texas] Tech, Texas and Oklahoma have accomplished, it's just been amazing. Now the Big 12 should be talked about like every other league in the country that is so traditional and has been around for a long time. It even makes it more special for Texas and OU fans that we have our battle at midseason, but now people are still battling over who's the best team. It's year round. To think that either one of those teams - ours or Oklahoma's - could still play in the National Championship is really special for these two states, the history of that game and these two schools. It makes it a lot of fun.
When you look at how we address the BCS and what we do with our players, yesterday after practice, [Sports Information Directors] John Bianco and Bill Little brought out the BCS standings. They brought out the polls - I still don't know who the Harris Poll is. It's interesting that coaches have to list their names and votes, media list their names and votes, and the Harris Poll doesn't have to do anything. They're incognito. I can't believe y'all allowed them to do that. That's the only one you haven't uncovered yet. But John brought out those, he handed them to me and I read them basically to the team. I read each poll and then I read the BCS to the team, and then answered any questions they had about what that means for us. After that, we made a decision as a group that we would not discuss it any more, because we have a live audience of all the voters for Thursday night to see. That's the only thing that we could do to affect the BCS at all. Discussion doesn't help us. What-ifs do not help us. Playing well and winning against [Texas] A&M does help us with everybody in the country watching, because it's such a showcase of not only our football team, but A&M's and all the high school players in this state. I'm excited. This will be the first time that I've been involved with a game on Thursday night for Thanksgiving. We've got the [Dallas] Cowboys playing that afternoon. It should be a great day and a lot of fun for everybody that's involved. But again, everybody that votes in college football will be watching that game, period. So why discuss it, why talk about it? What we can do about it is play well and win the game. If we don't, then it's not a discussion. So we're not discussing it anymore for the rest of the week.
The other thing that we have changed a little bit, partially because of the schedule, is the way we're preparing. We practiced yesterday. We did practice last week three days - we ran one day, practiced two. Guys went home Friday, spent Saturday night at home, and they are really excited about this game because every one of them was back an hour early before our meetings on Sunday and wanting to know what happened. I'm sure they all watched the game Saturday night. Practice was really good yesterday, so the guys are pumped and excited, and I'm proud of them. This team has done everything we've asked of them. They beat the number-one team in the country, they've lost one game on one play, on the road, last play of the game, and that's all they've done for a slip-up. They're deserving of whatever is out there for them if they finish well. We practiced yesterday like it was our Tuesday practice during the week. We were in pads and had a very physical practice. We will practice today like it is our Wednesday practice in a normal week. And then we will have our Thursday practice tomorrow. We will not have our regular Thanksgiving meeting that we've always had the day before the game, because it's not Thanksgiving. It's a very emotional meeting, so we will do that sometime during bowl practice. We will not have anything special for the guys on Thursday because they can have their Thanksgiving on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. What they will do is be back on Sunday like they normally would, because we're not sure what's still out there for us. Hopefully if we play well and win, we'll be preparing for Missouri next week. That's what we've got and the guys know. They're excited. They can't wait. They understand how important this game is to A&M. It will be their bowl game. It's like their National Championship, and that's fine, because we've got all of that stuff involved too. I think it's a great matchup and a great game. You see the enthusiasm before Ohio State and Michigan last week, you see the enthusiasm before Louisville and West Virginia - that's what rivalry games are all about. That's why people you throw out the stats and records, because it's about emotion and who plays best on that day. I think it should be a great game.
On the importance of "style points" and margin of victory: When you talk about people, everybody is different. Some people don't care about style points. Somebody will look at our game with Oklahoma and say that was enough. Some people say this team has played great. So how do you know? What you have to do is be yourself. We need to beat A&M and that's it. It would be very disrespectful to A&M to talk about anything other than playing the game.
On keeping the team focused with the national debate in the media: We've told them that all those people that are debating and talking have very little input. (The players) have input, and they will decide where they play at the end of the year by how they play. That's fair. So if this is like a playoff, this is as close as we can get, all eyes are on them to do your job Thursday night and show people how good you really are. If you don't play that well, then you didn't play that well, so you don't deserve anything beyond what's out there for you because you were a good team instead of a great team. We've talked about that all week and they need to stay focused on what's important. They need to do whatever they've been doing to get them to 10-1. They really had the same situation at Kansas, except it was away from home and it was really cold and windy.
On the prospect of winning his 200th game as a head coach: That's very unimportant this week. It just means you've been around for a long time. I appreciate that, but this game to us is more important than anything that is individual about a coach or a player. For us to be in the mix for the National Championship in 2005 was fun for Texas and Texas fans, and for us to be back in that mix three years later is a lot of fun. I like it, it's exciting and this should be a great week.
On how this year's team differs from the 2005 squad leadership wise: The '05 team had an expectation that unless they played (Southern Cal) for the National Championship, they had a bad year. They had just beaten Michigan and Vince [Young] said on the field, "We'll be back." So that was a set up. What we had to do with that team was keep them interested in playing the teams until they got to a point where they could play for the National Championship. This team was projected fourth in the Big 12 South, to win maybe seven or eight, there was no way that they could possibly win 10 games. So it's been more fun because it's kind of a surprise for everybody, me included, that they've done so well. They've done it because they've done everything right.
On how he has changed as a coach since 2005: I don't think I've changed. I go back and look at it, I think maybe if there is a change, it's that my expectation is for us to play for a National Championship every year and win it. That's what Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno told me, after you win the first one, it's hard, but after you get it, you want a second one. I'd say that my standards have gone way up and that may not be fair to our team some, but that's the way it is.
On what the coaching staff learned from the last two losses against Texas A&M: We thought they were more physical than we were in both games, and our team needs to be really physical on Thursday night because A&M is going to be. We didn't win the line of scrimmage either year, and when you don't do that then you have trouble scoring. We didn't make fourth-and-inches out here two years ago, which would have made a huge difference in the game. Last year, we had an awful start, so we need to get a good start and we need to be physical.
On any questions the team had about the BCS rankings: It's funny, we've discussed it so much and you all have discussed it so much, they really had an absolutely no questions. There wasn't one hand up, and that's good because we've kept them posted to where they don't have to ask. I feel like I've got a pretty good feel for it. I was thinking this morning that the BCS has accomplished what they wanted, they've got everybody talking about college football this time of the year. At the same time, wouldn't a playoff be great right now with the top eight teams because there is no question that someone will get left out that is a really good football team? It's a discussion this week; next week it's a problem. That's where it's unfair to the college kids and the fans and the coaches. It was funny in 2004, people jumped on me for what they called politicking or whining, and I just said that I thought we had a good enough year that we should be in the BCS, so somebody look (at us). Now the BCS modern day has forced coaches into standing up. So I guess I was a trendsetter. It's pretty cool. It's not called whining anymore, it's called, "My coach is standing up for me." Amazing what four years will do for you.
On the philosophy change coming full circle after the loss in College Station last year: We weren't happy walking in after that game, none of us. We weren't happy for Texas fans or ourselves or the players. A change was made at that time. It's been put in place and these kids have played hard every day since that day. That's why I expect them to play hard on Thursday night, I expect them to be tough on Thursday night and I expect them to play well. We're not talking a lot about the last two years because this is a different team than the last two years. This team has not had a flat game. They haven't had a soft game. They've been excited every week and I thought last week, that's the week we didn't play well at Kansas State or Oklahoma State, and this bunch played well [at Kansas]. This is a different team, so we're really not talking much about last year.
On Oklahoma's performance against Texas Tech: I didn't get to see it. I was at my son, Matt's wedding. Bill Little was texting me the score, so I didn't have to listen long. I texted Bill at 42-7 and said, "Gotcha, thank you." But my son Matt got married in Chapel Hill on Saturday night at 6:00, so I didn't get to see any of the game.
On the last home game for the seniors: These seniors have been great. You want your senior class to be about leadership on and off the field. I think this senior class is as hands on with this team as any I've ever seen. They threatened them Saturday - "If he's going to let you go home, you act right. You make sure you come back and do things right." If Brian Orakpo threatens me, I'm going to listen. I'm not messing up. But they've just been great. I really think that if you take everything else away from this football team, senior leadership has been the reason it's so good. And then you've got Jordan [Shipley] and Colt [McCoy] - there are a lot of juniors that have stepped into that too. Our senior leadership was great in 2005, but again the team was so good, it was just about how bad we were going to beat them. But this team has had to play, and to overcome that stretch that they did, the toughest four-game stretch in maybe the history of college football, much less The University of Texas, for them to get through that, not whine, not say they're tired, not get down and keep working and practicing, I'm really proud of this team.
On the Texas A&M quarterbacks, Jerrod Johnson and Stephen McGee: We recruited Stephen. He played at Burnet [High School] with Jordan [Shipley] and they were great players. They dominated high school football their junior and senior years for Jordan's father. Stephen has been a great player. People have always labeled him as a runner, and we saw him in high school as such a great passer, we wondered if he'd run because he never ran the ball at Burnet. But he beat us with the option two years ago and beat us with his arm last year, and played with a lot of confidence. I think he's probably the biggest difference in those two ballgames.
You look at what Jerrod's done, we recruited him, his family was Aggie all the way and we knew he was a great player when he got there. He's got everything - he's big, he's tall, he's fast, he can throw, he can think, he can scramble, he makes plays with his feet. So he is obviously the guy for the future and I think he's really good.
On Thursday night being a stage for Colt McCoy's Heisman candidacy: What I think personally is Colt has done more for his team than anybody else because he's rushed for over 500 yards - he's our leading rusher - and he's with a team that was not expected to do well, and he's thrown for over 3,000 yards. After Thursday night he'll be in the records with his feet and arm that only Vince Young and Bobby Layne have broken, so that's pretty cool. That's a pretty good group to be in. Their jersey [numbers] are up in our stadium. Then you start thinking about what Tim Tebow did for his team last year, it's the same thing. To me, you look at all the other candidates, and they are great candidates. The Heisman race is kind of like the BCS race. There will be some really good players left out, and that's a shame because how do you pick? They're all really good. It's the same thing with the BCS. We're talking about a one-loss USC team that can't get in the BCS to play for the National Championship. They're pretty good. That team beat Ohio State 35-3 to start the season and they had one slip-up on the road. But what I do think about Colt, and I can say this without question, he has done more for our team running and throwing than any other quarterback has done for their team this year, and I don't think there's any doubt we would not be in this position today if it wasn't for him. He means to this team what Vince Young meant to the one in 2005.