Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl availability: Dec. 24
Dec. 24, 2011
Head coach Mack Brown
On the difference between the feeling last year at this time and now: Sally and I were talking about it last night. We’re sitting there after Thanksgiving [last year] with half the staff gone and really having to make some hard decisions and look in the mirror and have to see who we are and where we are and why we’re here. We got revitalized and excited about being at Texas again and actually did start over. We’re not where we want to be right now, but we’re a whole lot better off than we were this time last year. I was sitting at home watching bowl games last year trying to hire coaches. Now we’re actually part of it, and that’s where Texas should be. We should be in bowl games, and I’m glad we’re back.
On the health of the team: We’ll have a hard practice. We’ll be in shoulder pads and shorts tomorrow and still have a good, physical practice. Then we’ll be in shorts on Monday and have a walkthrough the day before the game. I know (Head Athletic Trainer for Football) Kenny Boyd said everybody will be ready to go today. We’ll get to watch them today and see how they do, but we’re anticipating everybody being 100 percent for the first time, probably since the Kansas game.
On the effect of losing Fozzy Whittaker and what he has meant: Losing him was like losing your quarterback. He’s your captain. He’s your starter. He would have gotten just about every award at the banquet. Right before he got hurt, [co-offensive coordinator] Bryan Harsin said he’s the best in the wild formation he’s ever seen. He just has a natural feel for it and is really good at what he does. Then the fact that we didn’t have the two young ones [RBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron] and lose him at Missouri is when our problems started. We were back on track against Texas Tech and Kansas, then we took our step back. We fought our guts out against Kansas State and just didn’t win. It’s hard to hold a team to 127 yards of total offense and lose, but we played hard, played like we should play. We just turned the ball over on their end against a good team. Then we played well enough to win at A&M. I thought after A&M, we didn’t play as well against Baylor. We’ll have to look at playing after Thanksgiving. With that being a special and emotional game, being the last A&M game, we didn’t give our best shot at Baylor. We need to come back out here and get back on track and get it done. If the running backs are well and run the ball, and Cal’s been good against the run, but if we can run the ball, it will sure help our quarterbacks and help us in the passing game.
On what Whittaker has meant off the field: Off the field, Fozzy’s just been as good of a leader as we’ve ever had. You talk about the Vince Youngs and the Colt McCoys, and you’ve got to put Fozzy right in the middle of that because of what he means to those guys. To graduate in three years is what all of them would want to be. To be in graduate school now, to be a guy who gets hurt and has his short-term NFL dreams shattered, he picks himself up and goes right back to work every day. He put off his operation another week so he could be out here with the guys to help them win the game.
On Major Applewhite being back in the Holiday Bowl and in the Hall of Fame: This is our fifth trip here in 14 years, so we’re excited about being here, and we do have a relationships with this bowl. All of the games have been good. Three of them have been within eight points, but the fact that in 2001 Major came back after the Colorado game that we lost - it’s very, very hard to create that edge for a bowl after you have a chance to play in the national championship and you don’t. We were down by 19 late in the third quarter, and Major came back and threw for 490-something yards and put himself in the Hall of Fame. We actually had all the guys give him a standing ovation last night for being the only hall-of-fame inductee that we have from the Holiday Bowl.
On if there is any concern about the team’s play at Baylor lingering: No, I think we gave up to many big plays on offense, and they obviously have the best quarterback in the country from the Heisman and the national player of the year. And Robert’s [Griffin] a tremendous player, but we still had a chance to hang in there if we don’t turn the ball over so much. The first half was the type of game we thought it would be. We thought it would be a shootout, but when we fumbled the snap right before the half and threw the interception, we never came back out of that.
On if turnovers are the most important thing: Yes. You go back and study, and bowl games are like opening ball games. Number one, you need to be excited. If you go back and look at the teams that have been excited, more than the other ones, so far, they’ve won the bowl games. Also, kicking game is so key because you haven’t done it live in a month, and turnovers, because you have not been hit offensively like you’re going to get hit in the game, because you don’t scrimmage. You thud, but you don’t have your full-speed scrimmage. We talked to the guys last night, and you go back and in our seven wins, we’re plus in our turnover ratio, and in our losses, we’re minus-13. So it’s very easy to see why we’ve lost the games we’ve lost.
On the similarities between Texas and Cal: They’re two of the top defenses in the country. Two teams that run the ball well. Two teams that have inexperience at quarterback that when they turn the ball over or didn’t play as well at that position, it hurt them. And the kicking games have been pretty good. I think that we want David [Ash] and Case (McCoy) to stand up for the game and play well, and we’ve got to help them more. Hopefully with Jaxon [Shipley] being back and the young backs being back, we’ll be able to help our quarterbacks more.
Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On the 2001 Holiday Bowl: Just the game itself was exciting. It was the last game, and everybody has experienced that as a senior. You want to take your pads off as a winner and put them on the rack that way. We had a great senior class in ’01, and it was very important to us as a group of seniors to win 11 games. It was something that hadn’t been done at Texas since the early 80’s. That was kind of our stamp as the 2001 class. It was a group effort, everyone chipped in, and we came back and won that game.
On being inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame this past summer: There’s no doubt. Anytime there’s something with “Hall of Fame” next to it, you feel honored. I’m extremely honored, but I also understand as a coach, you get better perspective and realize just how many guys contribute that – coaches, players, staff and everyone. You just kind of take that award in stride and understand it’s everybody.
On the biggest key this week: When you look at just bowl games in general, you see some lapses in special teams. You see some lapses in conditioning, in the timing of offenses, so trying to keep things right timing-wise on offense. We’ve really spent a lot of time during the break with special teams, then also conditioning. You see a lot of guys cramp late in games. So those three elements – special teams, (offensive) timing and staying in great condition.
On the difference in not having Fozzy Whittaker healthy: There are on-the-field and off-the-field effects of losing Fozzy. Obviously you lost some packages and some of the dynamic things he was able to do. He’s an explosive football player, so you lose some of that stuff on the field. Then off the field, you just miss his attitude. His aura at practice, so to speak. Everybody just kind of fed off of that and had energy off of that. So it’s good to get Fozzy off the crutches and back out (attending) practice again. That’s what he’s meant for us. He’s been an inspirational guy, and guys have seen his battles through the four or five years they’ve been here, overcoming injuries. He’s just a testament to hard work and determination.
On the importance of ending well with the running game going into next year: You want to be realistic. It’s great to optimistic, it’s bad to be pessimistic, it’s best to be realistic. We also understand that during the middle of the season when we were having a lot of success, we knew who we were playing against. As we got later in the season we were playing against some better teams, some better run defenses, and you were losing personnel. So it was difficult. Just as an offense in general, we want to have a great performance in this bowl game – running game, yes, passing game, obviously, quarterback, all positions. We just want to have a great taste in our mouths going into the offseason, and that’s what the bowl game typically is. It’s a momentum setter for spring drills.