VANDERBILT HEAD COACH DEREK MASON
“First of all, congratulations to Coach Rhule and Baylor. I thought they played one heck of a ballgame. I'd like to thank the Texas Bowl for their hospitality and really, just for providing a great Bowl week and a great Bowl experience for our young men. I tell you, it was a heck of a ballgame. I saw great offense on both sides. You know, explosive plays. I thought (Charlie) Brewer was exceptional for them. I thought he played well. I thought their backs made plays. They made plays when they had to. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, special player. Obviously, he had a banner day. I feel for these 26 seniors, I do. They have put a lot into this program, and we weren't able to finish today. That's the tough part of Bowl season is that, when you're done, you're done. It's done. It's over and you don't get a chance to get it back. But, I do know this: this group's going to bounce back. I believe this group is resilient. I think all year, we sat with a young man by the name of Turner Cockrell, and we worked hard, extremely hard to honor his memory all year long. I know Turner is up there smiling. We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but his offense battled and it's just really a microcosm of the season. Defensively, we didn't play well, we didn't tackle well and that reared it's ugly head. Generally during Bowl season, it does, but today, just some missed opportunities and that’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for this football team because again, I thought our offense played well enough, but not good enough to win. With that being said, I'll turn it over for questions.”
Just playing off of what you said about RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, he looked like an NFL-ready back tonight do you think that performance affects his decision or affects your conversation with him going forward?
“It doesn't affect my conversation. I think Ke'Shawn, you know, will get the information from the NFL and really respond to that information accordingly. The reality is, he's always been a good back. I mean, I don't think that's changed. I think he's an elite back. I think, capable of when the time is right of maybe being a first-round back, but there's a lot of distance between now and then, like in my opinion. But I've always said he's special. That's why I wanted Ke’Shawn back here at Vanderbilt and I'm glad to have him, and as of now he's a Commodore.”
It seemed like Baylor's offense, whenever they got to the line, they were looking to the sideline to audible or pick a play right then and there. How did that affect the way your defense approached it and how did that play into some of the issues you had in stopping those big chunk plays they were able to get?
“I thought they did a good job of keeping us off balance. The dual-threat at the quarterback position, I thought was huge tonight. I thought he ran as well as their running backs did. The reality was, he was the difference in this ballgame when you look at it. I know they had some explosive plays, but he was able to keep drives alive with his legs and that was tough for us. You know, even when it got to fourth down, they went for it. I don't know what the percentages are, but they were pretty high on fourth down. They were pretty good on fourth down and that was, again, the difference in this ballgame. For me, I look at Bowl games. I mean, it's a slugfest. It's a heavy weight fight and when you look at this one, we didn't throw enough punches, we couldn't get them off the field and really that was the difference in this ballgame for us, stopping the quarterback.”
DB LaDarius Wiley said yesterday that tackling is often lacking in Bowl games because players haven't finished tackles in a month. Do you think the month off played into that at all?
“I really don't. I think, for what we did fundamentally in practices – what I saw sometimes in this process was just guys measuring and not bringing their feet to, through and beyond contact and that happens. I truly believe not going for three weeks with a ballgame can be difficult, but what else do you do? I think you put your players in position to be able to tackle, OK, and they were in plenty of position to tackle. Bring your feet to, through and beyond contact, wrap up and then get guys on the ground. Again, it showed on both sides, but we happened to be the bigger culprit tonight.”
How different do you think the performance of this team and this Bowl was from the Bowl two years ago?
“Much different, I thought really, offensively, we were able to put up points and sustain some drives and really when we didn't sustain drives, it had more to do with us. I thought we were more fluid offensively. Defensively, again, couldn't get off the field on third and fourth down. That was the difference in this ballgame. But, our offense kept us in it. Our offense really kept us in it. We had some timely stops at times defensively, but explosive plays sort of ruled the day. For our guys, it feels similar because you don't get the outcome you wanted.”
What did you think about that crazy interception in the end zone off deflection?
“It's football. You know, I look at football nowadays and nothing really surprises me. I thought, a receiver goes to make a play, hits his legs, it pops up and Randall (Haynie) is aware enough to grab it out of the air. That's just a great football play by the DB and a missed opportunity on their part. It's football.”
When you look at the players that are graduating after this year, and moving into next year, what can you kind of take away from this game for the players that are going to still be here, and kind of let them learn and let them move forward into what's going to be another tough season?
“Yeah, well, we'll assess, play what we did, where we need to go, how we need to supplement this roster and make sure that we're moving forward. That's one thing about football, football continues to move forward. Our last game was today, guys will be traveling tomorrow and then we'll get back to it as a coaching staff and figure out exactly where we're going to be. But, I do believe that we've got a good football team coming back. I think we have the remnants of a good football team coming back, a lot of guys have grown up and even though we lose some guys, I think there's so much maturity from some of these young guys who have had to play that, you know, we're going to be better.”
You mentioned Turner Cockrell, can you think back even as a player, going back in your career, have you been around a team that's been as much as this team's been through this fall?
“No. No. Not really, not teams that I've been involved with. I mean, I've had a thing or two happen, but this year's been a little taxing on this group. But I thought it galvanized this group a little bit. I think it helped them understand their purpose and that the game is a special game. Play it as hard as you can for as long as you can because you never know when that opportunity will be taken from you. And like I said, Turner is up in heaven right now smiling down, and our guys know and understand where he is, but they will all go forward looking to honor his memory and his name. I think that that's something that shouldn't be looked at as just a low point in our season. We saw a young man live his life strong, and in doing that, these young men have been given an opportunity to do just that, except they are living. They are going to fight for life. They are going to work extremely hard to be good football players and great people.”
BAYLOR HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
“Well, first off, I want to make sure we thank the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. I thought it's been an outstanding week. I'm happy we won but life – not life changing but life altering, life happy moments for our players, for their families and our kids and our family, it's been a great week and want to thank the Texans and people of Houston. It maybe means a little bit more to us doing it probably here in the state, where our family and friends could be here. I thought our crowd today was awesome and we very much appreciate them for that. I thought today was a hard fought game, came down to the end. There are stories in there that you couldn't imagine. John Mayers kicking his first ever play and has to go kick a couple field goals. Issac Power, first of play and he has to kick it an inch from the goal line and he crushes it, and that's just two guys. But that's, to me, emblematic of the grit of our team, the toughness of our team, and the never say die attitude from our senior class all the way down to the freshmen that just walked on to the program. So, proud of our guys, very grateful for the Bowl, a lot of respect to Villanova (Vanderbilt) and Coach Mason. I saw the running back out there, unbelievable performance by him. That was a good football game, and hopefully our seniors leave feeling like they left a legacy, and hopefully our young players build off it as we move into the future. I'm very proud to be here right now.”
You guys showed a whole lot of resilience all night and it was needed in this game, as back and forth as it was.
“Yeah, as I told our guys, would we have wanted it any other way; the way our season's gone, the way we battled back. We didn't want it to be easy, and that was a great football game. And at the same time, who are we to think a team – they lost to Notre Dame 21-17, they beat Tennessee for the third straight year, they won three of their last four and they play in the SEC, like that's a real football team. They are going to fight and battle till the end, and I was proud of our guys for fighting and battling till the end, even when we dropped that last interception on third down, to go out and get the stop on fourth down I thought was huge. So many different guys stepping up, and that's what was fun about it for me was watching it, Charlie (Brewer) hits Trestan (Ebner) for a touchdown; hits Marques (Jones) for a touchdown. Marques is a guy that does his job, and plays hard, and plays well and starts the year as a walk on, and finishes it with the game winning touchdown. To me that's really who our guys are.”
Coach had at least five fourth down conversions, some short yardage, but 4th and 13th, not short yardage. Can you talk about that for a second?
“Yeah, you know, the fourth and one was a long one, and we did that against Texas Tech. We went for a fourth and one on our own 25, and we did a fourth and one again. You're going to look back, I think Charlie (Brewer) has been one of the great quarterback sneak quarterbacks of all time, this year. It might sound silly, but it's been so good for us. The pass to Denzel (Mims) was really I would say this was Charlie's football IQ because it was a high/low, where there's a guy at like six yards and a guy at 16, and he knew he really couldn't throw it to the guy at six yards, and he found a way to make that throw. I thought what Charlie said, I thought our offensive line did a really nice job. We were there to win. We weren't going to come out and be safe. We were going to push the ball down the field and go for it on fourth down and have some fun and we thought the best way to win the game was just keep possession of the ball, especially when they started moving it pretty well.“
One year ago, your team went 1-11. So from that point last year to now, how much has this program and team grown and how big is it to end the year with a bowl victory?
“You know, I asked them the other day and I said it to them before the game, I asked them to think about where they were a year ago and I think there's two things. No. 1, they did it with hard work. Like you're always looking for a substitute, looking for this, looking for that. They just did it with hard work. And even the team that played Duke earlier in the year, I just told these guys the other day, I don't even remember that team. That team doesn't even exist. Like they have just continued to evolve, every week into a good team, battle through adversity. So you know, they did it by working hard and working together. And then the second thing is, you know, as I said to them, this game was a gift. It wasn't promised to us. We got a thirteenth game, and we're here because of all the gifts that we've been given, whether it's gifts that the Lord gave us or our family and our coaches and even the wins and losses this year. Some of the losses were, you know, if you look at them, we learned a lot from them. We learned a lot from the TCU game. I learned a lot from the TCU game. We learned a lot from the Duke game. They are miserable when they happen, but if you're smart and tough and loyal to each other, you'll grow from the adversity. I want our guys to go out and take this game like a gift and learn from it, and I thought we did. We battled through everything, no matter what happened. Even me with the officials, a couple times, some plays, I was like, ‘What is that?’ and I tried to flip back, which is really hard for me, but I tried to do that because I learned that at the Texas game. Don't complain, just play the next play. I just think, you know, it's been just this slow process and the thing is that we want to be a program that's built on something and built on rock. So I feel like our senior class last year, the senior class this year, and then the guys that are sitting next to me and many more like them, they are building the program on the right things in terms of the right lessons and toughness and resiliency and battling back and celebrating together. That it will hopefully just continue from here.”
WR Jalen Hurd was obviously not in the game tonight and he was very special in the flats for you guys during the season. Can you talk about the adjustment period you had to make to make sure your receiver is still getting open in the flat?
“We have great receivers, and it's really just a matter of quarterbacks doing a great job of getting the ball to the right guys. You know, it was fun to have Jalen here. I appreciate what he did for us at Texas Tech. Had a hurt knee and played through it and went and had surgery and look forward to him going off to the NFL and representing Baylor with tremendous dignity and class in the NFL, but we have lots of good players. We knew that Josh Fleeks and R.J. Sneed and Pooh Stricklin and those guys would step up, and Denzel (Mims) would step up, and you know, we had a lot of guys do that. The backs, all the running backs had big plays tonight. I thought it was an opportunity for a lot of our guys to maybe step in there and fill that role and build some momentum going into next season.”
Before you guys came in here, you gathered all the seniors, took a picture with the bowl trophy. Considering the past four to five years with those seniors, what does it mean for them to cap off their career with a win like this?
“Well, I think at the risk of sounding corny, what I said to them is that I don't think they will ever, they won't recognize for a long time really what they did from last year to this year. They have been so in the moment, just kind of one day at a time. But not many people do what they have done. Not many people go from where they were the last couple years and the changes and stuff. But they’ve done it. I'm just as proud of the fact that we had 24 college graduates out there tonight as I am that we won the game. And I said, ‘You won't recognize it now, long after this game is over, but you will remember the lessons that you taught to our young guys and the humility and the loyalty.’ So I was just happy to see them have fun and smile and play, and play one more game together, and they’ll wake up tomorrow and the next part of their life starts for a lot of our young guys. They will hopefully build off it, but I think the lesson our seniors taught is keep battling, stick around. So often, guys quit, guys give up, guys transfer, they do all these things, instead of just hanging in there, man. And the guys that hung in there, the Iras (Lewis), the Gregs (Roberts), the (Christ) Platts, all those guys, Pat Lawrence, (Blake) Blackmar, Josh Malin, so many more, they have accomplished a lot now, and that's a key lesson I think for our whole team.”
What brings about all that emotion from not only you, but your players after getting the win?
“I think I'm in the concussion protocol right now because they hit me with the actual ‘Gatorade,’ Gatorade thing. They didn't hit me with the Gatorade. They literally hit me with the orange thing hard. We'll see how tomorrow goes. I was happy for them, man. No one knows how hard we work, you know, and the coaches, players, everybody. I had no part in that offensive game plan. That was Jeff Nixon called an unbelievable game and Glenn (Thomas) put together a great third down plan and Fris (Frisman Jackson) had the receivers playing well and Shawn Bell, and George (Deleone), with the loss of Fran (Brown), George was able to go back on the field and coach again and Joey (McGuire) and Phil Snow, proud of our coaches and players. When you see them all smiling and laughing and having fun and celebrating, when you end the year with a win, it's a big deal, and so you know, I really wanted that for them, so I was happy to see that. I always go back to our families. Like my daughter is coming up there, my son, our coaches' kids, they sacrifice a great deal. They get to do a great deal, too, though. It's not like ‘woe is me.’ They sacrifice a great deal and, I want them to celebrate it, and I want all of Baylor and the fans, I want them all to have bragging rights tomorrow. I want them all to smile tonight and have fun. You sit back, thinking about how far you've come and everybody is happy, is a nice thing.”
What adjustments did you make in the locker room in the second half to slow Vanderbilt down and then how did QB Charlie Brewer and the offense then pick up the offensive game?
“I think the thing that we felt like as I alluded to earlier, they were having fast drives, and we were having 7‑, 8‑, 9‑play drives, and you could see some of their guys starting to get tired, starting to lay around. So we felt like, hey, we can continue to run it. Anytime we've run the ball like over 150 or over 160, we've won the game. So I think we finished with 250, 260, 270 or something at the end of the game. I just think we felt like, hey, we'll be able to, because they are scoring so fast and we are having longer drives, maybe that will wear them down eventually because you know you don't win the game in the first, second, third. You win it in the fourth quarter and that's where we wanted to win it. I thought Phil (Snow) went down to a 3‑down front in the fourth quarter in the end and turned the pass rushers loose and big key turnover. So I thought the defense was constantly searching trying to find some things to slow them down and eventually did.”
What does it mean to you when you look at your players after the win tonight?
“Well, you know, the key, core philosophy of our program, other than winning but the key purpose of our program ‑‑ the job is to win but the purpose for our program is to make sure that players leave here with a life that's better than if they wouldn't have come. That they leave here better. Just watching them grow in two years is fantastic. I can't tell you. I think I've gotten four or five e‑mails from just random people in the community meeting Trestan (Ebner), and helping. Helping disabled people to their car, taking time after a loss to help people. They just kind of figure out who he is. And the way Charlie's (Brewer) handled stardom, I mean, fame. It's hard for Charlie to go places. People know who he is, and the humility that he shows and respect the respect he shows. Jalan McClendon and Garrett (McGuire) and the guys at his position, guys on his team, that to me is far more important than anything else. They go out and play football really well. So they are good students, good people, and I say those two, but they are a representation of our whole team, and I was proud to watch our guys this week at the charity events. I was proud to watch our people, our guys all week the way they carried themselves, the way they handled themselves. I think some of the people from the Bowl said to me, ‘Coach, I've been around a lot of teams and this is the most respectful, polite, fun team to be around.’ They might not always be that way Tuesday at a practice, but they are fun to be around for a week. I'm proud of all of them, and I hope they feel good about the decision they made and hope these two recognize that now we've got to start right back over in two weeks. Julie and I are going to México tomorrow, and then we're coming back and in two weeks we're going right back to work because we have to take another step and that's what they will want to do. Thanks, everybody.”
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CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPTS:
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY HEAD COACH MATT RHULE (Transcribed by Hannah Pietsch and Sarah Hoffman)
What does it mean for your players to be able to play in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl?
For a lot of them to go back to their hometown of Houston and play in the Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl and play their last game in a stadium that they’ve dreamed about being in, in a town that they love. So it was really cool for me to see just how unbelievably excited our players are, especially our older players, about this amazing opportunity.”
What was motivating your team to go from a one-win season to becoming bowl eligible this season?
“Last year was a hard year, but at the end of the day, I could see all the signs of maturity and growth, even as we were going through a one-win season. I made the proclamation in the spring that we would go to a bowl game, so I had to back up what I said and I had to count on the players to do that. And, I said all of that because I really believe in our players. They’re a special group. They worked hard, and they handled adversity the right way. After seeing the way they handled adversity last year, I really wanted to see them manage success this season. And having a chance now to come to the bowl, having a chance to play a great team like Vanderbilt, this really makes it all worth it.”
How does this bowl game really help you in extra practice time for your young guys? And is there any advantage to having the bowl game in Texas for recruiting purposes?
“The first part of your question, yes absolutely, have a chance to get these extra practices with our young players. We have a lot of guys that—even over the last two years—that have played early, so I look at it as one more spring ball, one more chance for guys to get more confident to really learn how to trust themselves a little bit more. When you play a quality team like Vanderbilt, now you know you have to prepare at a high level, and every time that you go through that process of preparing at a high level it makes you better. I’ll just say this, having a chance to stay in Texas, and to play our first bowl game at Baylor as head coach within the state is an absolute home run. The impact it’s going to have for us in recruiting, last week I was out three days in the Houston area recruiting, and the anticipation from high school coaches, high school assistant coaches, Baylor people in the high schools, and recruits, the anticipation of Baylor coming down and spending a week in Houston was palpable. For us to be able to practice there and play there, and just as importantly, go out and do the bowl events and do them at a high level in the community, it’s just an absolute home run for us as we continue to try and build the program.”
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY HEAD COACH DEREK MASON (Transcribed by Sarah Hoffman, Hannah Pietsch and Stephanie Ramsey)
What are you looking forward to most?
“We recruit in Texas, and first of all, I’m excited and honored that we have the opportunity to represent Vanderbilt University in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. Our football team is definitely excited. We feel like we finished the season strong, and this football team has been in two bowl games in the last three years and six in the last 10 years. We've got several student athletes from the state of Texas. The Odeyingbo brothers – Dare and Dayo – Dimitri Moore, Braden Kopp, so we’ve got young men from that area, and we recruit in Texas. I also understand the rich tradition of Texas football and really are extremely excited, because we have a huge alumni base there in Houston. It’s going to be a great ball game, obviously going against Baylor and Coach (Matt) Rhule. We faced each other my first year here when he was at the University of Temple, and now when you look at the two coaches in different spots both 6-6 with an opportunity to play each other in an extremely rich environment, so excited about it.”
Can you give an assessment of where your team is at at this point?
“Yeah, as I take a look at it, this football team it had to really find itself. We lost some tough ball games this season. You can go back and look at Notre Dame, you can look at where we were versus Florida, in that ball game, Kentucky was extremely close, I felt like we had a chance to beat Missouri, at Missouri. Then, this team found itself with its back against the wall knowing that there really was no margin for error. It was win or go home. I thought that what this football team did on the backstretch was just what this team was capable of. We played, not mistake-free football, but complementary football all the way around – offense, defense, special teams, and found ourselves playing our best ball at the right time. We played almost a complete game versus Ole Miss, and found ourselves playing a pretty complete game to fish out another straight victory against Tennessee in three years. So, I think this football team has grown up. It has a lot to do with some of these players, like Kyle Shurmur, Jared Pinkney these guys have grown up before our eyes. For us, we’re excited with this team and to go down and play some football in the State of Texas.”
Can you elaborate on what QB Kyle Shurmur has meant to this team?
“Yeah, Shurmur finds himself in his fourth straight years as a starter, he had to jump in midway through his freshman year and grow up fast in a conference that really doesn’t – or a conference that really isn’t for the faint of heart. He had to learn early, every year he’s put a little more on his resume. He’s learned how to handle the pressure being a quarterback in the SEC. He’s learned how to make the play to his strengths and worry about what he can do. I think along the way he’s become a pretty prolific play caller. Because in this day and age, when you have guys getting most of their play calling and signaling from the sideline, Kyle Shurmur’s been able to do it for the last two years pretty much on his own. He gets play call, but he has opportunity to check at the line of scrimmage. Most of this offense is check with me, with him having the final say so. So, I just believe that he’s grown up, which you’ve seen the last couple weeks, especially the 31 for 35 performance against Tennessee really speaks to exactly what he’s become and what he is capable of.”
Do you have any initial thoughts on Baylor or what you saw from Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule when he was at Temple?
“Got a good football team. I know Coach Rhule well, obviously, a tremendous coach. He’s been able to recruit and find his way in the midst of playing in a bowl game. I think that has a lot to do with his expertise as a ball coach, what he understands and really what he’s been able to put together. When you go through them, and you look at their ball games and what they were able to do, obviously, finishing the season with a big win over Texas Tech really propelled them in to this bowl game. As I had a chance to watch them, the win over Oklahoma State, I was just looking at some film earlier in the day – didn’t know if we’d play them or not, but just went through their games just to see who they had and what it was. I saw the Oklahoma State game and watched that, and I was impressed. When you talk about his team, his team is going to fight. They’re resilient. They’re a program that’s been building. Now he’s falling in to some guys that are juniors and seniors, and when you start to do that, those guys start to understand your culture.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, December 3, 2017
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS HEAD COACH TOM HERMAN
What are your first initial thoughts about Missouri, a team that’s won six in a row, although they didn’t play Alabama or anything, but they’re still on a six-game winning streak?
“They’re playing some of the best football in the country right now. The quarterback I think finished the season with the most touchdown throws of anybody in FBS. They’re playing really, really well offensively. Obviously, I haven’t watched them on video. I’ve been out recruiting, but I know just from the numbers that are pretty gaudy. And I want to commend Coach (Barry) Odom for, this is a guy that’s had some adversity early in his tenure there and has stayed the course and has turned this season and this team around and, like I said, they’re playing as good of football as anybody right now.”
Obviously, the big news of the week was OL Connor Williams and DB Deshon Elliott, where do you think LB Malik Jefferson stands right now, and do you expect anybody else to pull out of the bowl game?
“No, I think the rest of them will wait to get their grades back and make some informed decisions based on some of the NFL stuff.”
For you personally, what does it feel like to go back to Houston to coach your first bowl game with Texas?
“I think it’s neat. It’s a city that my family and myself have called home on a couple different occasions, at Rice, at the University of Houston. That was kind of the city that we gravitated to even in our four years in Huntsville at Sam Houston State. So, it’s a city that I have a lot of friends and people that I know back there and I’m excited to bring our team out to Houston to play in front of them.”
Just from a recruiting standpoint, what do you think a big performance and win in this bowl would do in such a hotbed for you?
“The unfortunate thing is your bowl practices are during a dead period, so not much contact with some of the recruits, but I think a lot of them have already expressed to me that they’re planning on attending the game and Houston has been good to us thus far in some of our commitments and it’s really, really good high school football as is anywhere else in the state, but it certainly would be a nice shot in the arm, just from a momentum standpoint.”
How important was it, because of the way this season went for you, to get these extra practices and this extra time with your team moving into next year?
“That is critical. This is a team that had not had that kind of development and for the last two winters had basically gone home for four weeks, five weeks, whatever Christmas break is. That development is critical in terms of staying with your competition that are going to bowl games and have that developmental time. That’s what we’re going to use the early part of bowl prep for is we’ve got a long time between now and the 27th, so we’ll focus early on just development, getting our team better, getting some of these young guys better and then start worrying more on Missouri and the game plan later in the bowl prep.”
Do you feel like the time will help take the sting away from how it ended last week?
“Yeah, I do. I think that we’re a resilient group and I think just getting on the field for practice on Friday. It was as good a practice as we’ve had, guys were flying around, they were excited to be a part of the postseason, excited to play football. So, I think the sting is gone already and we’re looking forward to this. When you win a bowl game, they call you a champion. You’re the Texas Bowl Champion or you’re the whatever, Rose Bowl Champion. So, we’ve got an opportunity now to play for a championship and send these seniors out the right way, but also develop our program and get lot of momentum heading into the offseason.”
Along those lines, just like the game against Texas Tech, you still have the chance to finish with a winning record and for this program, just how critical is it that Texas finishes with a winning record?
“Well, I think it’s important. I’m not going to downplay the importance of just winning a game, but I don’t think one number difference on either side is really going to be a make or break anything in our program. We’re going to stay the course and we’re going to continue to develop our players and we’re going to try like heck to win the thing and prepare as such. We know it’s going to be against a really good opponent in Missouri, but I don’t see it as one way or the other, if you win is it going to propel you to so many great heights or if you lose are you going to be devastated. It’s a game and losing is awful and winning is really cool and it feels really good to win and we’re going to do our best to win it, but the number on either side of the ledger, I don’t know that that has much relevance in the importance of the game.”
Do you expect anybody to miss the game that is not expected injury-wise?
“Again, I’m down here recruiting, so I don’t have all that information in front of me. I think P.J. Locke (III) will be back. Jeffrey McCulloch should be back. The guy that we’re hoping to get back if he stays on track would be Patrick Vahe. So, those three guys are, from a concern level, I would say Patrick’s number one in terms of is it going to be enough time. Jeffrey is already out there running around doing some stuff as well as P.J. So, I think we’ll be pretty good from a health standpoint.”
Is getting OL Elijah Rodriguez back for this game an option?
“He was cleared for the Texas Tech game. So, he’s been practicing with the two offensive lines right now and we’re hoping that and he’s looked pretty good doing it, so hopefully he can work his way back into the starting lineup.”
How do you feel your team matches up with this Missouri team this year?
“I think it’s too early to tell. Like I said, I got the news on where we were playing and who we were playing when I was on the road recruiting. So, all I know is, from a statistic standpoint, their offense is phenomenal and has been for the last six weeks and just doing some quick look at some of their stats, the TFLs and sacks on defense certainly stand out as well, but I’ll know a lot more when I watch video on them here in the coming days.”
Right now, you don’t know whether LB Malik Jefferson is going to play in the bowl or not?
“No, I don’t know whether he’s going to play in the bowl, whether he is going to play in the bowl, whether he’s going to declare for the NFL and still play in the bowl, whether he’s going to come back. I think all of those options are on the table and he’ll make a decision. I don’t want to speak for Malik (Jefferson) certainly, but I think he’ll make a decision after he gets the grade back from the NFL.”
What does this practice time mean for some of the young guys like TE Reese Leitao and TE Cade Brewer and any of the young guys you have on the roster?
“I mean it’s critical. It is absolutely critical, especially these true freshmen that got here in June. They haven’t had a spring ball, they haven’t had anything other than a couple weeks in training camp in terms of football development. So, any time you can extend that by 12, 15, 18 practices, that’s absolutely critical for their development. The Sam Cosmi’s of the world, the Reese Leitao’s of the world, as you said, the Montrell Estell’s and the Kobe Boyce’s of the world – it’s just going to be fantastic for them in terms of their development as they head into the offseason.”
Any word from OL Jake McMillon on what his plans are and if he and OL Terrell Cuney practicing for the bowl game?
“They are practicing and I don’t have any word or update.”
When do you think the guys will be getting their grades back?
“We put them in on Monday and I think they said seven to 10 days, but this is only the second or third time I’ve gone through this, so it’s usually been around 10 to 14 days, but I think as early as early in this week I would imagine.”
At what position is OL Elijah Rodriguez working?
“Right now, it’s at right guard, but I think the thing that we loved about Elijah (Rodriguez) through spring ball and training camp is his versatility. So, probably going to play him a little bit at tackle as well this week, but the first two practices he was at guard, but because of his versatility I think he’ll get reps at the tackle spot as well.”
Do you guys have anyone else besides TE Kendall Moore at tight end? Are you guys working anyone else in or is he going to be it for you guys?
“That’s it. That’s what we got right now. I’m sure we’ll have to – plan B would be some other form of personnel packages, whether that’s two backs and no tight end or four wide receivers and no tight end. But yeah, right now, he’s running with the first team at tight end and in practice Reese (Leitao) and Andrew Beck are getting those reps and it’s unfortunate the way the red shirt rule is. We can’t – our starting tight end is healthy, but we can’t play him because he’ll lose the entire year of eligibility and I can’t wait for, hopefully, this new rule to pass where we won’t be forced into situations like this. But, as of now, this is the way the rule states and we’re not going to waste either one of those kids’ year of eligibility on one game. So, it’ll be Kendall Moore and then we’ll get creative if we need to.”
Do you plan to approach the quarterback situation the same way you did for the Texas Tech game with QB Sam Ehlinger starting and QB Shane Buechele getting a drive or two early and then kind of taking it from there?
“I haven’t talked about it. They’ve been both – we’ve only had two practices and they’ve both taken, they’ve rotated reps with the ones and twos evenly. So, I haven’t really talked about it much. The good thing is with these bowl preps, you can put these guys in some very game-like situations, scrimmage-like situations and see how they do. So, we’ll keep evaluating them and we’ll make a decision as to the direction we’re headed after a couple weeks.”
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI HEAD COACH BARRY ODOM
Just kind of curious to what your read is on Texas right now?
“Thanks for the question. I know that I’ve had the chance to watch a couple of games from earlier this season, just a cross over from when you are in a hotel and have a night game and maybe they had an early game, so I’ve seen them play a couple times. I got started on the video pretty soon after we learned of the announcement on getting into some preparation for them. I know they have recruited well. We have great respect for their coaching staff. I know that it will be a tremendous challenge and a great opportunity for our kids. We’ve recruited at the University of Missouri, we’ve recruited the state of Texas a very long time. We’ve had a lot of great players from that area over the years, so very familiar with their roster and the guys they have signed over the last couple of years and know that they are a talented group.”
Do you think people are excited to reignite an old conference rivalry even if it’s only for one game?
“Yes, it’s awesome. I think anytime you have a chance to play somebody in an atmosphere, in a Bowl game like this will be, and then you add the historic references to it about having the opportunity to play somebody from a conference that you were once in, that means a great deal to our fan base and I know our kids are excited about it.”
What is the mood like around there? Just for any team to win six games at this level is just an impressive deal. How would you gauge how you guys have turned the whole season around, from where you were in mid-October to where you are now?
“Our team has shown great resolve over the course of the year. We didn’t play very well on game days early in the season. That’s obvious, very maybe the most elementary statement there is. We were doing so many really good things; we just weren’t transferring that over to playing a complete game. Finally, we started getting a little bit better, really in all three phases of the game and doing it collectively together as a football team. Getting confidence, we prepared better as the season went on. We understood who we were. Our margin of error was absolutely zero and we had to win the turnover margin. We had to play efficiently. We had to play smart as a team. Then we started doing that. If you prepare the right way through the process of the week and the game week, how it unfolds, and if you do that, then you have the opportunity to go play freely and play fast. That’s what our team has done. They have embraced the opportunity to try and get it turned around. They have done a great job of holding the rope together and all pulling in the same direction. The excitement that we have and the confidence that we have on an opportunity to go play one more together; our locker room is fired up about the opportunity and the chance to go do that.”
What has been the key about your quarterback play? He has more touchdowns than University of Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield who is getting all the Heisman talk in our neck of the woods.
“Drew (Lock) is a tremendous talent. I can’t put it into words how happy and proud I am for him, so excited that he is our starting quarterback. Tremendous leader. There is not anybody in our program and I don’t think in college football that puts in more time and effort in the knowledge it takes to play the position. Coach (Josh) Heupel has done an unbelievable job on leading him and transforming him into that special arm talent and turning him into a great quarterback and all the things that it takes to go do that. He’s got the ability to make a lot of throws, but it’s also, he’s playing well because he’s a talented kid, but he’s also playing well because our offensive line is giving him time to see the field, scan the field and go through the reads. We have been able to run the football and block well to point of attack and then our receivers are making plays. So, it’s ten other guys around him playing well. They have the ability. When you can run the football for us, that helps in a lot of different ways and Drew has capitalized and really put us in a right situation. The offensive staff has done a nice job on game planning each week and building the offensive of the week to try and give us a chance and put the kids in a position to be successful.”
When you were 1-5, what was the biggest lesson maybe you learned and how did you apply it to maybe staying level headed over these last six as well?
“I knew it was not and it’s still, we have a long ways to go. It’s not going to be easy. I knew the hand that we were dealt. I knew what we had. I knew how close we were to breaking down the walls to winning football. We weren’t that far off even though it sure looked like it at times and seemed like it. We stayed the course. We did make a couple of personnel changes that got guys moved around that helped us out a bit. But, more than anything, credit to our kids to continuing to stay the course, keep their heads down and work together and understand how the slim, fine line of preparing and how that turns over. You can prepare and do everything, your checklist throughout the week, but then once comes game time you better be able to go execute and that was the biggest thing for us is with a little more attention to detail in our practice habits, the things that our kids prepared a little bit better, a little bit more and a little bit smarter, and then our playmaker stood up and made plays and played well together.”
Knowing what you know about the way everything went down, some of the things that were said down here, do you get the sense from the Missouri side of it that fans, administrators, everyone, there’s a little more to this bowl game than just the two teams that are playing?
“I think it’ll be exciting for a lot of different people and the opportunity for us to compete against a team from a conference that we once were in, I think that will show some importance, especially to the fan base and our kids are determined to try to finish the season the right way and I don’t ever make too big of a deal out of the headlines. Let’s focus on us, let’s focus on preparing the right way. Obviously, make our team aware of the situation of an opportunity to play against a really good team and what that will do for us if we go prepare the right way and have the chance to play in a great bowl game.”
How much does it help you in having an assistant coach in Defensive Line Coach Brick Haley who not only recruited a lot of the players that are on this current Texas roster, but also coached a lot of them as well?
“I think, No. 1, Brick Haley is an unbelievable person. He’s done such a great job since he’s been here. I’ve known Brick for a number of years through recruiting. He’s as outgoing and relationship driven with our kids and student athletes as I’ve ever seen. A tremendous hire for us. Our defensive line has played really well over the course of this season and he’s done a great job developing that group. I’m so appreciative and thankful for he and Tina and his family, just the approach that they take every day on the opportunity to be here and work together. We have a great staff and he’s a huge part of that. I’m sure they’ve got coaches on their side that are familiar with a bunch of our players too, so there won’t be much played into that as far as he, from a personal standpoint, I know that anytime you play against somewhere that you once were and play against kids maybe you recruited, that’s difficult and I understand that, I’ve been through that a couple times. So, he’ll do a great job on getting our team ready to go play and I know he’ll have a lot of familiar faces down there that’ll be excited to see him.”
What do you see as Texas’ identity on offense?
“You look at what they’ve done, I know the playmakers that they’ve got and they recruited well, they got them all over the field, just getting into really studying them from the schematic part of it, they’ve got an opportunity on the quarterback runs. Just the game I’m looking at currently, I noticed him being smart with the football, he’s able to get in and out of areas that maybe, could be a negative play and he turns it into something positive. He looks like a great, they look very, very competitive in every area. They look well-coached. We’ll have a tremendous challenge on trying to be able to match up and put together a plan for our kids to be successful.”
Is it too early to say if there’s a team they remind you of that you’ve played this year?
“I wouldn’t want to make a comparison yet. That would be unfair for me to do at this point with the amount of video that I’ve been able to look at at this point today.”
TEXAS TECH HEAD COACH KLIFF KINGSBURY (Transcribed by Stephanie Weaver and Ryan Cantrell)
What did you see from LSU tonight that you didn’t anticipate?
“Nothing, they were fast and athletic and physical, and played a good game defensively.”
What in your game plan didn’t work that you anticipated would work?
“I always expect to score more points than the other team, so didn’t work out that way. They did a good job like I said, bunch of sacks, locked us down with some man coverage. We had some drops early that hurt us and that interception going into the end zone, I thought the game really turned on that. ”
What were your thoughts on the offensive line play?
“It could have been better obviously. I thought they fought hard. LSU is a very talented team. That was a different level of pass rush than we’ve seen I’d say this year. Pat (QB Patrick Mahomes) was under some duress, but I thought they fought hard.”
What were your thoughts on RB Leonard Fournette?
“Yeah, he’s a great player. I thought they had a good plan. I thought they threw it when they needed to throw it. Those receivers, 15 (WR Malachi Dupre) is a stud, went up and got it over our guys. And they had 600 yards offense or something like that, so I thought they had a good plan mixing it up. Got to give them a lot of credit.”
Did you feel that offensively you had to pass the ball rather than rush?
“We weren’t really running the ball. When we would, it wasn’t getting the yards we needed to, so we started throwing it more. I guess, we had a bunch of sacks, which obviously hurt the totals.”
What did you think of QB Patrick Mahomes game?
“He competed hard. Made a bunch of plays running around for his life. I think he’s just going to get better, but that was a different level of speed I think than we have seen this year. It took a little while for him to adjust to it.”
What are your big priorities going into 2016?
“We have a bunch of the offensive skill coming back, we have to replace some lineman, but I think I got to get some coaches hired and we just have to continue to improve. It was a big improvement from the year before. O=I thought offensively, I guess we have the school record for the most points, so headed in the right direction there and defensively, we have got to get a lot better.”
What does it say about WR Jakeem Grant to have a strong game against a strong defense?
“Yeah, he is tough to handle. I felt that he was a guy in space that could have a chance against them. They had a good plan for him, but a couple of times we were able to get him in space and he made the most of it.”
Did the momentum swing on the interception thrown by QB Patrick Mahomes?
“I think the fact that then they went down and scored and made it 35-20 instead of 28-24, or 23-27, so yeah that was a big turning point it felt like.”
From 4-8 to 7-6 do you feel like you made some big strides this season?
“We got better. Like I said, I think offensively, that type output is what I expect. I think we will continue to get better there as Pat (Patrick Mahomes) develops and some of those younger receivers get better. We have to continue to improve in turnover margins, still wasn’t great, and then defensively we’ve got a ways to go. Coach Gibbs has done a great job. We have to get some guys in here, coaching wise, that will fit and then kind of improve talent on that side of the ball.”
With so many players from the Houston area on the roster, did you see emotions play a bigger part than usual in tonight’s game?
“They were excited. It was a great atmosphere. It was a great way for those young men from this area to finish off the year and they were definitely excited to be here.”
Did you think that your offensive line was capable of having that much of a struggle tonight?
“I knew it would be a challenge, particularly when we had to go into throwing mode every play. It’s a good front, it’s a good defense, they had a good scheme and they played a good game.”
WR JAKEEM GRANT AND RB DEANDRE WASHINGTON (Transcribed by Ellie Pardee)
Can you talk about the game today?
Washington: “I think first of all, you’ve got to give credit to LSU. It was a solid bunch, especially up front, fast, fast group, so just give credit to those guys and I think some of the plays when we had some opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Is that the fastest defense you guys have gone up against all year?
Washington: “They’re probably up there. They’re definitely up there.”
Deandre, did you feel that you were limited rushing the ball?
Washington: “Yeah, I think we were pretty much, we didn’t lead at any point in the game, so that kind of dictated why I didn’t get as many carries, but like I said, a lot of that credit goes to LSU. They did a good job.”
Deandre, what has your career at Texas Tech meant to you?
Washington: “It’s been special, man. It’s been a hell of a ride. Through the ups, through the downs, the relationships I’ve created with these guys are some I’ll never forget. I would have liked to go out with a win, but it was a special night for me.”
Did you imagine this season being the way it was after the Missouri game?
Washington: “Yeah, man, it was definitely a process, I could tell you that, because it was kind of my first major injury, so I really didn’t know what was for me in the future. It was definitely a process, definitely a grind, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Jakeem, talk about the matchup you had tonight?
Grant: “LSU definitely did a good job of covering me up. I made a few plays on them, and they made a few plays on me. I take my hat off to (LSU FS) Jalen Mills. He’s a great defensive back and I knew from the first beginning that I was going to be matched up with him, and he got me on a few times and I got him on a few times, and like I said, he’s a great back. I could see him going in the drop of the draft.”
What are your thoughts on where the program is overall?
Washington: “I definitely think things are on the up and up, I mean they got some great guys coming in, they’ve got some great young leaders already here, so it’s definitely going to be a lot of work to put in this offseason, but I think leader-wise, they have that, so they’ll be in good shape.”
Grant: “Just basically going off of what Deandre said, I think this program is a great program. I think those prospects seeing myself, like Deandre, myself, (LT) Le’Raven (Clark), all those guys you see us making big plays in this conference, and that’s just going to bring in more prospects like us, so I feel like this program is going to go up.”
Jakeem, what have you seen from QB Patrick Mahomes this season?
Grant: “I’ve seen Pat grow a lot. He took on the leadership as a quarterback, nothing runs without the center and the quarterback, and Pat he took on that leadership and he’d get on to us about not getting our depths, dropping balls and all that type of stuff. I felt like looking forward into the future, he’s just going to continue to increase that leadership and he’s going to get those receivers right. Never know, he might win the Heisman one day.”
What are your thoughts on LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Washington: “Yeah, I mean he had a great season and just to top it off, he had a great bowl game. He’s a good player, wish him nothing but the best.”
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES (Transcribed by Stephanie Weaver and Omar Majzoub)
When did you make the decision to bring Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron on the field and how much did it help the offense?
“It helped, I thought, tremendously. I thought that he brought energy to it. I thought that Brandon Harris, seeing Cam and listening and getting instruction, not even so much what was said but how it was said, just made a tremendous difference to him and his approach. What we needed to have happen in this game, to improve, we needed to have our quarterback play. I think our quarterback played extremely well. I shouldn’t say extremely well, he took a stride certainly. But that is what we needed to have him to do to have victory today. I think Cam being down was exactly the right thing.”
When did you decide to do it (bring Cameron on the field) and was it something you considered at any point this season?
“We did. The question is, is how much do you get from the press box without him there. It is the opportunity for his eyes to see it from the field or his eyes to see it from the press box. I think what we found tonight that maybe the synergy and the things he did on the sideline were very probably the difference.”
Did Cameron come to you with the idea of him coaching on the sideline?
“To be very honest with you, Brandon Harris kind of asked for it. It really kind of put it back on the table in my opinion. We had thought to it and Cam was, you know, I’ll go either way you want to go. He’d been very comfortable on the sideline in the NFL. I enjoyed him on the sideline except he has this high five, you know it hurts. He has these bid old paws. You better watch out.”
How would you describe the night RB Leonard Fournette had tonight?
“This is a night that Leonard Fournette would have again and again and again. I wouldn’t call it routine because he is not a routine runner. He is a special back, but we would expect him to have nights like this. He’s fast and strong and capable. He’s one of the more competitive men I know. He wanted to win this game. No doubt. He’d like to have gotten about 47 more yards, but if we could have expanded the fourth quarter just a couple more minutes we may have got it for him.”
Is this back to the “good times” with a big win in the bowl game?
“I think when you start the offseason with a victory what happens is one, we will recruit well which will eventually in June sometime benefit a very, very talented class as it comes in. I think what will happen in spring ball and in our offseason, it will start pointing towards that College Playoffs, which is really where we want to be. I think this is the right turn. I think certainly you can see the program itself is being manned by real quality young men and that they’re looking for the kind of success they had tonight in a bountiful way and by numbers.”
How do you get to where you just talked about in the spring?
“Here is what happens. We come out of the gate 7-0. It should have been 8-0. This should have been our 10th victory. Our first game got lightning out and called on account. What happens is this football team catches speed, and we are really in position to do some special things, and we lose about three guys that really were instrumental in some of the things we were doing that had changed our direction some. We are just now starting to get some of the health back in some of those guys, and we’re starting to build the depth in the backup that is necessary so that we can play, and play and execute at a very high level. I think what this did is there was a spot where this football team needed to rebound. I think they showed great character. Any time that you have a string of losses with a very talented team, a very capable team, a team that is used to winning, it can be – ah, let’s forget this year. No, they didn’t forget this year in any way. They knew they were going to saddle it up again. They enjoyed how it felt when we came off the field against A&M, and they were going to saddle this team up one more time. They would take the seniors and the juniors that might go and be on an NFL team and some of these freshmen to say – alright guys this is how it is going to finish. And that’s what they did. And that’s character. And that’s to me, maybe that is the strength of this program.”
How much easier is it on your defense when you are dictating the score and limiting them on offense?
“Our defense is – our defensive front got better really start to finish during the season. I think Ed Orgeron made a tremendous difference there. I think Kevin Steele put them in the right spots and understood how to attack certain things. If we got the sacks that we were capable of getting today, it statistically could have been way different. But again, I think Kevin Steele also had a very significant impact on the structure of this defense. I liked how our defense played today. The first three and out was minus yards, minus yards, minus yards. I said that surely sent a message to the quarterback that this is just not going to be his day. But again, before I go much further, I think Texas Tech coach (Kliff) Kingsbury is a really good football coach. I think he’s doing some really special things. He’s got energy and I like it.
We beat a good football team today. They threw it at the start of practice, in the middle of practice, and at the end of practice. When they decide to go just a little longer, they throw it some more. I like that. I like how they sling it around.”
Do you feel like your defensive speed is an advantage against teams you haven’t faced yet?
“I think what we did too was we took two days off around Christmas Eve and Christmas, really it was right in the middle of a game week. We took the equivalent of a Monday-Tuesday in the game week and came back on a Wednesday practice. I think the freshness of our team was very evident tonight. They showed speed. Guys like Arden Key, he is a spectacular athlete at his spot who can come around the edge and chase you down. Guys like Tashawn Bower improved tremendously. The interior group is playing extremely well. Frank Herron and Christain Lacouture and Davon Godchaux. We may have the fastest linebackers in college football, so I think that speed is something. That quarterback gave us headaches. It was good to have some guys on the field to chase him down.”
Were you concerned about your defensive line getting tired like it did a couple years ago against Clemson?
“We probably have a little bit more depth in this game on the defensive line than we had in that Clemson game, if you recall. We had some guys that went down early in the game. We did not have ends that were fresh that could chase that fast quarterback around. Our ends were really in position all night to run. Again, we were two-deep.”
What about the impact of D.J. Chark tonight?
“We saw the opportunity for a speed play. D.J. has unusual speed. You could see that when he got in front. It was very difficult to catch him. We think that we’ll use guys like that pretty routinely. We’re just getting him started.”
RB LEONARD FOURNETTE (Transcribed by Ellie Pardee and Edgar Veliz)
How would you describe tonight?
“I’d say that tonight was productive. Our whole focus was just to win the game, just to boost us for next season, and I think we did an excellent job.”
What did having OC Cam Cameron on the sidelines instead of in the booth do for you guys?
“Well, really make us nervous you know. You don’t want to mess up, just stick to the game plan and he’s right there helping us each and every way basically with the little things.”
It seems like as the year went on you ran angrier, more fierce, is that accurate?
“My job is to run the ball. Each and every play, each and every down, those guys they’re going hard for me to open the holes for me, so my job is to run the ball.”
Do you feed off of the defense trying to stop you?
“Yeah, I do. I think our whole offense feeds off of it as you see Malachi (Dupre), John (Diarse), Trey Quinn, they had some big plays when we needed them. They came through.”
Did the passing game open up the running game for you tonight?
“Yeah I believe it did. I believe just working on it in practice, the little time we had off – y’all may not know this, but everybody got to practice outside of coaching, just to send the seniors off with a W. I think that motivated us more in practice, even though we were tired each and every day, tired of practicing, it’s a mental thing. We got through it as a team.”
As the night was going on could you tell it would be a special night?
“No, not really, but at any minute the offense could score. Pretty much, they had us on our heels their offense, they scored, we had to score. That was our mentality.”
What does a game like tonight do for next year?
“Just in the back of my mind, just knowing what we have, no doubt we – to me we have the most athletes of any college to me, and just come out next year firing.”
I saw Coach Miles do the ‘dab’ after the school song, but that dance is kind of old right?
“It’s not old, but I’m going to teach him the new dance I did in the end zone. It’s called – by Plies, when the whole o-line started jogging. I’m going to teach him that.”
Can you tell us what it’s called?
“Plies actually came out with a song called “Ritz Carlton”, it was about a hotel and he just say he ran off on the plug twice. He was just jogging in the bathroom.”
How great was it to see WR D.J. Chark have a big game?
“I started off with him as my roommate. I was just so excited for him. Outside of football, he’s my brother. He’s actually who I lived with my freshman year, and we grew to be brothers, man. It was a special moment. I knew his time was coming, and he’s one of the fastest people on the team, him and Donte (Jackson). It was a special moment for me to see him finally get the ball and score.”
How much did you practice that throw this week?
“I was so tired, that’s why I threw the ball like that. I apologized to him about that. It should have been a touchdown, but I’ll get it back to him.”
Do you practice that every week or was this a one-time type of thing?
“I throw it at practice. I get at quarterback and just throw the ball.”
What was your favorite touchdown of the game?
“Everyone of them. Those guys were going 100 percent for me. The credit goes to the offensive line and wide receivers. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me all season. I just can’t wait to get out there next season.”
Did you know you were close to 2,000 yards rushing for the season?
”Yeah, I did. I got out of the game. I wanted Daryl (Chark) or Darrius (Guice) to get a touchdown. I’m not the type of person to (sic) . Records are meant to be broken and I may break it next year.”
Did you feel that the Texas Tech defense was on its heels in the fourth quarter?
“Yeah, I could see that they were getting tired. Actually, they were kind of smothering us. I just kept pounding the ball, running it down their throat.
What are your personal goals for next year?
“Win a championship. Win a championship with the team. I haven’t won a championship since my pop ball days. I was 7 or 8 years old.”
Do you think this team can win a championship?
“Yes, I think we can.”
LSU LB DEION JONES AND OT VADAL ALEXANDER (Transcribed by Ryan Cantrell and Christina Johns)
How does it feel knowing that you were able to execute your game plan?
Alexander: “It is a great feeling. The guys were phenomenal in this game, from the o-line to the tight ends to the fullback, (Bry’Kiethon) Muton and obviously, Leonard (Fournette) and Derrius (Guice) and even Brandon Harris, quarterback, we rushed for a lot of yards and that is a credit to the coaches and how we worked to get to this game.”
Is this how you envisioned your last game?
Alexander: “It really couldn’t of gotten any better than this for us and the game itself. We dominated, I thought, upfront and the offense as a whole. It couldn’t be a better feeling.”
What is that feeling like for you walking off the field for the last time?
Jones: “I think I am going to realize, it is going to come around to me later, but I took my time to enjoy it, definitely.”
How did you get so much pressure?
Jones: “I have to give that to the coaches, making sure that we are prepared and knowing what they are doing and guys going 100 percent and giving the maximum effort on every play.”
Did that interception feel like it changed some things in the game?
Jones: “Oh yeah, that was big. I was a great play by Rickey (Jefferson) keeping the ball live after shack made a good breakup. I think that I really needed that one, I was getting a little winded.”
How much did the passing game help your running game?
Alexander: “No doubt, Brandon (Harris) played a really good game and right when we needed it and he executed great passing plays. Our receivers and our tight ends and our check downs, all phenomenal definitely right on time.”
Did RB Leonard Fournette seem to run madder as the season progressed?
Alexander: “A guy as competitive as Leonard to come into this game, he wanted to prove to everybody that he’s that running back that everyone thinks he is, and obviously we believe in him. He’s the best running back in the country in my opinion.”
What was it like to finish the season after being a special teams player and backup, then being the leading tackler?
Jones: “This whole year has been a blessing. It’s kind of hard to leave it all behind, but this year has really been special. There’s a lot of followed dreams on the field playing for LSU’s defense and getting after it and being the leading tackler. That’s what I dreamed of all the time when I was young watching LSU. So it’s been a blessing. It’s going to be hard to leave it all behind.”
When did you know that Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron was going to be on the sideline for the game and how did it affect things for the offense?
Alexander: “He told me about two or three days ago that he was going to change it up and be on the sideline. I thought it worked wonders. He was talking to us, came down after every drive, communicating with us on where his mind was at and where we were going with things. I thought it was a great decision he made to do that.”
How much better is it to play with an offense like this?
Jones: “They came out clutching this one. After chasing the quarterback around and them holding the ball for a good bit of time for us time to recuperate and get our feet under us, it helps a lot, especially defensively.”
Where is the future of LSU football going?
Alexander: “Obviously, to start the season, you could see how much potential for greatness we have as a team, and just going into next year, the talent that we have and a lot of the young guys we have this year, it’s just going to get nothing but better. I’ve heard we have the No. 1 recruiting class coming in. Everybody’s going to improve from our tight ends to our fullbacks obviously, and just the DBs, our secondary and our whole defense. It’s something to look forward to and I know my guys are going to handle their business.”
Jones: “I think LSU will maintain the same style of football that they always played. The guys that we’re leaving behind, they’ll step up and make sure that the class that’s coming in has that same mentality. And I can’t wait to watch them play next year.”
How would you say your team improved as a unit throughout the season?
Kliff Kingsbury: “For us, I felt we started the season fairly strong, 3-0 in non-conference, played Baylor and TCU going into conference when they were hot and playing very well and then battled through, but by the end, I think the last two games, played our best football and felt like that is what we wanted to do and have a month to continue to try to get better and play one of the best teams we will have played all year. I like where we are at, but know that it is a big challenge ahead of us.”
Les Miles: “We are a team that has some youth and we started a couple of young freshman on the offensive line. I felt like they developed all year long. I think it’s an interesting thing, we have lost some guys at midstream and we were 7-0 and in really good position and we find ourselves starting guys in key contests that just didn’t have a lot of experience, the good news is they have grown up, they may have been playing as freshman then, but there are certainly sophomores or juniors today and we feel like we are in position as well to play our best football.”
What’s the benefit of playing in a bowl game or a neutral site game in Houston?
Les Miles: “We recruit here. I have to be very honest with you, I got off the plane today and realized it was a press conference. I knew I was going to go recruiting here. That happens after we leave. We have a tremendous fan base here. I can’t tell you how many energy, petroleum industry executives that LSU has right here in Houston and not only our fan base, but we draw a lot of students from Houston, so this will be a very nice trip for us, certainly the venue, the NRG Stadium, the AdvoCare Texas bowl, is exactly the style of bowl we would want to be in. It is right directly in the mainstream of our recruiting and fan base and the population that comes to our school. We are thrilled to have been here before, recognize the hospitality that (Chairman of the Board of Directors for the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl) Chris Hanslik and that staff will be a part of. We are excited and this is a tremendous opponent, talented football team, second in the nation offensively, talented quarterback, great running back and defense that plays very sound and over the top, so we recognize really in short order that Coach Kingsbury has done a great job and we are going to have to play well.”
Kliff Kingsbury: “Yeah, very similar, incredible recruiting base here as well as huge alumni base here, to play a top 20 team from the SEC, a premiere program like LSU has been under Coach Miles is a huge
What’s the one thing you guys take away from these extra bowl practices?
Kliff Kingsbury: “For us, just like any other college, I think your young guys that have red-shirted, that have really been doing scout team type duties and repping other people’s plays, now you get to coach them. Now you get to get them started moving into spring football with your terminology, how you coach, how you work, so those are invaluable practices and having not gone to a bowl game last year, it’s huge for us to get back, get our young guys developed and continue to move them forward.”
Les Miles: “The opportunity to practice some of those guys, in what we call young guys go, where they can line up against each other and get after it and run our plays, just puts them in great position for, if you look at it, spring ball is 15 practices and you are basically, you are not quite 15 practices here, but very close, so it’s an added spring. It’s very important to us and we are very fortunate to have the ability to be there annually.”
How much can having a bowl game in a fertile recruiting ground do for your recruiting?
Les Miles: “It’s not a place you, we won’t leave the stadium and go into somebody’s home, because it will be a dead period. It will be followed by local media and it will be followed by, I would not be surprised if some guys got tickets and came to the game. Certainly we feel like this information disseminates quickest from Houston.”
How will it affect them when recruits get a first-hand experience with the team?
Les Miles: “Yeah. Again, they would have to get to the stadiums themselves. We are not allowed to provide tickets and we don’t. It’s more the perimeter, the day in and day out press coverage of the event, really kind of saturates Houston and allows us to be really on the tips of people’s tongue a ton.”
Is the spread offense more dominant now in college football than the wishbone or veer was?
Kliff Kingsbury: “I don’t know much about the veer or wishbone so I’ll let you take that.”
Les Miles: “That’s the advantage of youth, right. You were young for some of those. I can tell you this, that there’s a lot of similarities. Basically it’s an option. This quarterback has an opportunity to read a down lineman and not block him and run an option. I think obviously Coach Kingsbury played in a prolific passing attack and I think that that comes along with a spread piece and there’s some traditionalists that would certainly want to cry if they said ‘wishbone’ and some of these traditional ways of attacking. Yes, I think by far the way of the spread is overtaking. I think it’s certainly the trend in high school, college, it’s not gotten to the NFL often. You look at an NFL game and occasionally it’ll get there, but it’s not gotten there often.”
Do you see anyone in high school running anything but the spread?
Kliff Kingsbury: “In high school football not a lot, not a lot. I think that that’s with the prevalence of seven-on-seven, particularly in our state, that’s where teams are going. It gives you all those extra practices throughout the summer to throw and get good at it, so yeah. I don’t see much on the recruiting tape, I see of anything other than true spread.”
Les Miles: “I can tell you this, that we just occasionally look for it, a big strong blocking back and you don’t find them. You have to go find and make that guy. It’s an undersized tight end, it’s a h-back that’s got physicality, the fullback position, it’s not even in our conference as an all-conference position.”
How have defensive lines also changed in college football over the years?
Kliff Kingsbury: “Yeah I think the d-line that Coach Miles has can face any offense from what I’ve seen. I think more than anything during weeks of practice or training camp, and he knows this, going against a tempo of spread, the conditioning comes into play and having enough bodies to rotate guys through is more important than it ever has been. You can’t leave guys out there six, seven plays where teams are tempo-ing and playing fast. Having depth at that defensive line position is more crucial than it ever has been in college football.”
Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury
(on his relationship with LSU Head Coach Les Miles and what he remembers while they were together at Oklahoma State) “Just a great coach, I remember him taking over and them having immediate success there and really helping take Oklahoma State to the next level. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he’s done in coaching and still do.”
(on what he’s seen from LSU RB Leonard Fournette) “Just the highlights, I haven’t watched any game tape on him, but he’s a phenomenal athlete, one of those once in a generation type backs. We’ll have our hands full trying to slow him down.”
(on if he followed the matchup speculation leading up to bowl announcements) “I didn’t get too much into that. I know how these things go, so I knew there was a strong possibility we’d be in this game versus an SEC opponent, so I was excited about that opportunity knowing we’d play a very quality opponent.”
(on what he likes about this matchup for his team) “It’s a great team. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere with their fan base and our fan base in the state and in Houston. It’ll be rocking, and that always makes for a great deal for both universities and the bowl itself. They were ranked up there in the top 2 I believe when the rankings first came out for the playoffs and they’re a very good team, and that’s what you want in the last game of the year. You want to see how far you’ve come by playing a great team like LSU.”
(on how different these two offenses are) “I’m not sure, we’ve actually ran the ball pretty well this year, not to the extent they have, but we are very proud of our running back as well in DeAndre (Washington) and what he’s accomplished this year. We throw it more, we push the pace more, but I think that their offensive coordinator is a great offensive mind. I’ve seen what he’s done over the last few years there and they’ll have a great plan. You give a great coach like that a month to get ready and he’ll have a great plan.”
(on if he has any ties to the LSU coaching staff) “No, I’m not, when I was at (Texas) A&M in 2012 we played them, but that was it.”
(on what he remembers about that game in 2012 with Texas A&M against LSU) “They had an awesome defense. I think eight or nine of those guys left early. We had Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel) running around and they did a pretty good job of containing him. They had Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry and (Zach) Mettenberger and they beat us. That was (former defensive coordinator John) Chavis, and I was always impressed with the way he did things and Coach Miles, and it was a heck of a game we just, they got us.”
(on building on the wins they’ve head recently) “I think every team is focused on that. You want to play your best game at the end, and we’re no different. We’ve built to this point and with a month to prepare we feel like we can put our best plans in place, put our best foot forward, continue to progress as a football team over this month and try to finish with some momentum.”
(on how the changes on his coaching staff affect how they go into the bowl game) “We’ll have to move some bodies around and do our best to handle that being a little short-handed. It’s part of the business. It comes with the territory, and we’ll be able to slide some guys around and try to put our best foot forward.”
Media members interested in covering the 2015 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl may now apply for credentials through the bowl’s online application system. Applications will be accepted until 5:00 pm. CST on Tuesday, December 22.
Louisiana State University Head Coach Les Miles
(on if he expected to land at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl) “We’re very happy to be at the Texas Bowl. Houston, Texas for our team, for our recruiting and really our fan base, I mean we have a ton of people that come down the road from Houston to watch us play in Tiger Stadium, so we will certainly have a large number of alumni at the game and we look forward to it. We opened the season last year at NRG Stadium against Wisconsin. It was a great venue, big spacious, well lit, fast tracked, so we’ll look forward to playing and participating.”
(on the matchup against Texas Tech) “I know Texas Tech since I was in the Big 12 conference and they are very talented on offense, move the football well against everybody. I think they are second ranked nationally on offense. They have a 1,400 yard running back, and a very capable quarterback and receiving core. Their defense is very sound, plays on top, plays to the strength of the offense, very capable on special teams, so we recognize this is going to be a great challenge. I think our guys will look forward to that challenge and that will add to the preparation of the bowl game.”
(on the last week after the reports of his job security) “I think the only thing I did was I had a distraction free week of preparation. It really didn’t bother me much at all. I communicated pretty effectively with the AD (LSU Athletic Director), Joe Alleva, kind of knew where we were at. I did not believe reports. I guess what I am saying is, all I did was put my head down see if I can improve our team and coach.”
(on what is key to getting his players ready for a game that is three weeks out) “I think first and foremost is introducing the opponent. I think Texas Tech, it will be important to our team to play well in this game. They are a very talented, very capable team. They have a lot going on. They are very multiple offensively and their defense is again a team that plays extremely sound, plays over top, and has quality special teams. I think when our guys see that team, they’ll be challenged. They’ll be challenged to work hard, they’ll be challenged to improve, they’ll be challenged to prepare for this team and I think that really starts with the next team meeting.”
(on how important is it to make a good showing for the final game of the season) “I think anytime that you line up in a bowl week or anytime that you look forward to a very quality next year, I think you need to have a very positive bowl experience, so certainly that will be the plan.”
(on LSU RB Leonard Fournette) “I think he is a complete back. I think he can block you. I think he can catch the ball out of the backfield and I think he certainly has the ability to run. He runs with a good combination of size and speed. I think he is pretty special, considering he is the LSU leading rusher for a season and that record he got in his last game. We are also a game shy, we didn’t get to play in a lighting game. I think he is very talented and I think he will have the opportunity to do a lot of things before he leaves here.”
(on if LSU RB Leonard Fournette reminds him of any of the running backs that he had at Oklahoma State) “I was very fortunate to have a great number of backs in my career, both at Oklahoma State and at LSU, and I think there are similarities and there are not similarities and I think I do a good job, politically, to not compare people to Leonard Fournette, especially great backs, as I have enjoyed their abilities, so I refrain from making too obvious a review.”
(on the coaching style of Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury) “I certainly like his style and I think he is a very competitive man. I think he played that way the quarterback spot and I think he is doing exactly that. I think he is very competitive and I think his team carries that characteristic.”
(on LSU RB Leonard Fournette against Texas Tech’s rushing defense) “I just watched the start of the Texas game and that defense played awfully hard in that game. I don’t think it will be any issue with our players watching that game in recognizing that this is a very capable defense and we will have to play well.