Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl Q&A: Dec. 22
Dec. 22, 2011
Senior RB Cody Johnson
Senior TE Blaine Irby
What is the importance of getting the eighth win?
I think bowl games are really special games, not just because you can get the last win of the season, but at the same time it sets the stage for next year. We have seen it before where we have done really well in a bowl game and the next year we started off really well through the offseason. This is an important game for this year, but also for the younger guys for them to really get after it during the winter workouts and spring ball. Going to San Diego and sending a statement is really important for us.
Have you thought about applying for a medical redshirt to play next season?
Yes, I have. I am not going to apply for a medical sixth year. This is going to be my last year here. The reason for that is I want to be smart, and I am looking after my body. I have accomplished everything coming back. I have run through the tunnel and got to play in front of our fans. It is something that I have been talking with my family [about] for the last three or four months. Even in camp, I was talking to them about it. I talked to [Head] Coach [Mack] Brown about it last week and discussed it with him. I thought my best interest was to step away from the game on my own terms.
What was the season like for you coming back and catching a touchdown in your last three games?
This season has been great with coming back out here and fighting and just playing with everyone. It’s the game of football and you are going to have your ups and downs throughout the whole season. We have definitely shown that. There are games that we wish we could go back and play [again]. It is something that you have to keep on trucking I guess you could say. This team has great potential and this bowl game is going to set the statement for next year and for the younger guys.
Was there any temptation with the strong finish you have had this season to come back for a sixth year?
Definitely. It was a very difficult decision, but I have to be smart about it. I have to start thinking with my head. It’s one of those things where I want to be healthy for the rest of my life. I have been lucky the last three games, and it has been a really fun time. It was really my decision in the end. Like I said, I talked to my family and everyone really that’s close to me. I think it is in my best interest.
What kind of emotions does it spark knowing that your last game is going to be played in California, your home state?
It’s going to be a really fun experience for us going to San Diego. That [the Holiday Bowl] was the first game that I went to. The whole atmosphere is really cool playing in the San Diego Chargers stadium. It is going to be a fun deal, and it is a chance for each team to show what they have worked on the last month. For me, it has been a long ride and a very fulfilling process here at the University of Texas. It will be fun ending it in California.
When you refer to ending your football career in your “best interest”, do you mean more physically or mentally?
I think mostly physically and also just to move on. My body has been through a lot, all of you guys know that, while I have been here at UT. I’m just glad I was able to come back from that injury and really play with my best friends and run out of that tunnel again and really score a touchdown in DKR again. I thought that was a really, really cool deal that that happened. It is my decision.
What makes bowl season so much fun?
I think just the whole process and the whole atmosphere of going on your bowl trips and spending a week out [there]. For us, San Diego is going to be fun and we are getting to do a lot of different things. It is really a time for us to make a statement for next year for our young guys to come out [strong]. Bowl practice is the time for a young freshman to make a statement to the coaches and show them the talent they have. It is almost like the first game of the year. You get a month off, and you get to work on your weaknesses and get everyone healthy.
What will you be doing next fall?
I’m finishing up my minor and undergrad in the spring. I got pushed back because I switched my major a couple of times. After that, it is really undecided. I am just moving on with my life and staying healthy. That is really my main concern. Just being physically healthy.
Who is going to lead this offense next year?
Next year, we have so many young guys who are doing so well. This is really their first year to come out and play. Both of our quarterbacks are young guys, and you know during the spring they are going to make tremendous progress. I think all of our wide receivers are real young. Our O-line is basically all coming back except for David Snow and Tray Allen. So I think they are going to have a lot of experience under them after this year. It has really been a building block for these guys. These bowl practices show that our young guys have a lot of talent with the guys who have redshirted this last year. I am excited to see what they do in the spring and excited to see what they do next year.
Does a month seem like a long break when coming off a loss?
A month seems very long. You just want to get out there the next week and play. It is a time for us to really work on our weaknesses as a team and to get everyone healthy.
Do you feel like Cal is better than their 7-5 record indicates?
Yes, definitely. I think their defense is one of the best defenses in the country. Just like us, we had a lot of games we wish we could go back where it came down to maybe three or four plays that really lost us the game. I think every team in college football is great, but it is who plays better during that day or that night on Saturday. I think this gives us a shot to send a statement out to the rest of the country and set a building block for next year.
Where do you think this offense is right now?
I think the Baylor game was humbling for us, just because we were doing so well in the first half and in the second half they got after us. Bowl practices are a time for us to work on our weaknesses and work on the fundamentals. That’s what we are doing and everyone is staying positive around the football team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line is really pounding it down. It is a game to send out a statement. We have to really come out with a fast-pace offense and really get after it. It’s just something that we need to do. We all need to play just a little bit better.
How special is it to play in a bowl game after not making a bowl last season?
You can’t take the bowl practices or the bowl month for granted. It’s a time to enjoy it. We get to play football during the winter. We get to go to San Diego for a week to have fun and play against a Pac-12 school. It is just a fun process and we need to enjoy it. At the same time, it is our last game of the year and we want to finish out.
Sophomore CB Carrington Byndom
Is there a lot to work on during these bowl practices?
There is always a lot to work on. You always continue to try and get better. Now is when you try to focus on fundamentals and going back to the basics and just making sure everything is right so that you can perform well.
Have you had a chance to think about all of the talented wide receivers and quarterbacks you have faced this season?
Not really. I am still focused on Cal and seeing what they do with their quarterback and their wide receiving corps. That is another pretty good group.
Who does Cal’s quarterback remind you of?
I see sides of him from Steele Jantz, the quarterback of Iowa State. He is definitely a runner and can throw the ball. I haven’t seen a lefty quarterback yet, but he is a good quarterback. We are going to have to continue to stay on him and put pressure on [him].
How important is getting this eighth win?
I think it is important for us as far as finishing the season off right with a win and jumpstarting next year into the spring. I think it is a big deal for us, and we definitely don’t want to finish the season off with a loss.
How are the cornerbacks behind you like Josh Turner doing?
They are doing good and they are making steps. Similar to my role last year, I had guys in front of me that played and started. I used them as a learning tool, and they are coming along well. They are filling their roles on special teams and things like that trying to make their way into the rotation.
Is the defense going to be set up better next year after having a full year with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz?
I think we will have more time. We went through a season with it and I think people will be able to mold to it and take their time and learn it. I think we will be just fine with it come spring.
Did you enjoy the break off or are you itching to get back on the field?
I was kind of waiting for the break. Guys saw that I just sat in my room doing nothing for three days, and I was kind of ready to be back at practice.
Why is WR Jaxon Shipley so hard to cover?
Shipley is really athletic guy. He is one that finds ways to get open. He has such quick speed, and his knowledge for the game is unbelievable. He finds a way to get the ball in his hands and when he gets it in his hands, he can make plays for you. He is mature for his age, and he has the learning curve.
How do you think you and CB Quandre Diggs played this year?
I think we’ve opened up a lot of eyes. We definitely made our mark on the season, and we have to continue to work and prove for next season.
How different is this from last year when you were sitting at home with no football at this time?
It is definitely different. Last year, we were at home for such a long period of time and sitting home watching everyone else in the bowl game. I think this is a great feeling that we are going back to a bowl game. I am excited, along with everyone else on the team, to play and get this eighth win.
Does a win in a bowl game carry over into next season?
I definitely think it does. Being at home and watching everyone else play, you are waiting to get back and prove yourself during the spring. But I think winning a bowl game also benefits because you want to work just as hard to get to a better bowl game. So I think it is a good thing.
How far has the defense come in defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s system?
I think we have come a long way. Definitely in the beginning of spring, it was a little difficult with trying to learn a new system. He put his time in with it during our 13 or 15 practices in the spring, and then in our two-a-days we had to learn and pick up the system. As the season went on, I think everyone started to buy in and started to see the concepts of the defense.
How much more confident will the defense be in this system after having this year and the spring to work on it?
I think we will be really comfortable. Being under a system for a year is kind of tough. I think the more and more you are under it and continue to learn and understand it, than the better you are going to be.
What you are looking forward to in your first bowl experience?
We are playing a pretty good team in California, and you kind of dream of that. We are also going to Sea World, I heard, the [San Diego] Zoo and visiting an aircraft carrier. So I look forward to that.
How much do the younger players want to get a win for the seniors?
We definitely want to finish the season off right for them. All the sweat and blood they have put in for four years and even five, this is their final game. For some, it could be their last. We definitely want to finish the season off right for not only them, but for us going into these future games.
How is this game important for the young guys that are coming back?
I think it is more of a growing experience. Getting a win in a bowl game definitely brings confidence. It will inspire us to work harder in the spring so we can get to a better bowl game next year.