Mack Brown Monday press conference: Nov. 20
Opening statement: This is a fun week; it's rivalry week across the country, and as you were sitting and watching games this past weekend, it's kind of the build up for the next weekend, as you're watching teams like Ohio State and Michigan and different teams that have great respect for each other, but have to live with each other throughout the year. It looks like the weather is going to be perfect for the game; they're talking about mid-to-upper-70s.
The guys played against each other in high school -- some of them even played with each other -- some of the fans come from divided houses; so there are just a lot of fun rivalries in general. The other thing that happens is that this is a game that the guys will remember for the rest of their lives, and it is a national game and there are very few national TV games left. This is a game that showcases the high school coaches and high school football in the state of Texas. Lastly, for us it's a game about the seniors. These seniors have played really, really well across the board, but specifically at home. We haven't lost a senior game since we've been here, and it's really, really important for the seniors to go out of here with a win; I think they're one win away from tying last year's winningest class in Texas football history.
We also didn't play in this game as well as we wanted to; it seemed like the focus was more on the Big 12 Championship last year than it was the [Texas] A&M game so our guys understand that this week isn't about Big 12- it's about focusing on this week and improving as a football team, and winning the game on Friday morning.
Colt (McCoy) has been released to play and so he should be 100% and ready to go, and Justin Blalock has also been released to play. So we should be in good shape physically headed into the game.
On appreciating Colt McCoy more now: We appreciated him when before, and when people were talking about whether or not he should be a legitimate Heisman candidate or not, it gets your attention because his numbers were as good as other players who are in that race. And then you get into whether it's a freshman issue, is it a team issue overall, but there is no question that he has played as well as any quarterback in the country.
On Stephen McGee: Stephen is a guy that we recruited and know a lot about; he's a big strong guy that runs better than 4.5. Jordan (Shipley) said he watched him timed at 4.49 sometime; so he's really, really fast and sometimes doesn't get the credit for being that fast. He has also managed the team really well, been the team leader, and has thrown the ball for them. He's been a really, really good player for them throughout the year. He's more experienced [since last year's game]; he's started every game now, and this time last year, he had only come in against Oklahoma, and he hadn't won that game and he lost against us. So as a starter now, he's won eight [games] this year and that has to give him a lot more confidence.
On Texas A&M's offense: They're really balanced; they're as balanced as any team in the country. They're running the option really well; they've got Mr. Inside with Jorvorskie (Lane) and Mr. Outside with (Mike) Goodson, and you've got the big powerful guy on the inside and the great speed on the outside. They've got good players. They've done a really good job with running, controlling the clock, and also using the running game with play-action to get deep.
On Texas' defense: We'd like to get [the secondary] healthy and we feel like we'll be in the best shape that we've been in probably over the last six weeks, because we had the three days last week to work on a couple of things but at the same time get healthy. We lost our ability to run back there and tried to make a decision whether to keep a veteran in or put a younger guy in, and we lost some of our man-coverage, and that's hurt us. We need to be able to go back and blitz, put pressure on the quarterback, and be able to play man-to-man sometimes. So this will be the healthiest our secondary has been since probably the second or third game of the year.
On trick plays: Everybody we've played this year has run a minimum of three of them; so the ultimate compliment to our defense is when people have to try and trick them. So as long as they're tricking us, we'll do a better job of playing them and sometimes when you're playing more zone-coverage you're more susceptible to be tricked than you are in man-to-man coverage, because if you're in man-to-man, then you're with the guy, and if you're in zone than you have more of a tendency to come out of that zone and be tricked. So, I'm sure they will run trick plays like everybody else. It's funny because the fake punt that Kansas pulled was a trick play that didn't work but nobody remembers it.
On balancing the emotions of senior week and then having the big game to play: It's a tough thing; the senior games that I've traditionally been involved with we haven't started as well, because they're so emotional with their parents, coaches, and it being their last time to play at Memorial stadium. It's a last-time feeling that they'll remember for the rest of their lives, and especially in this case, because the stadium will never be this way ever again because they're going to be tearing down the north end starting next week. So this will be the last time that anybody will play in this stadium as how it is today. It's very, very emotional, and what we've tried to do that last few years is say, "If you're going to cry, let's cry after because you'll definitely be crying unless you play well and win." This senior class has been in a lot of big games, they've been around a lot, and they've been very successful, so we expect them to be excited about it instead of being emotional in a negative way about it being the end.
On the amount of pressure riding on this game: Just about every goal that we had after the second game of the year is still alive for us, so this is a very, very important game for us. We're focused, and the guys are excited; they had a great week of practice, and I expect them to play well.
On Texas A&M's defense: Their defense has improved each week, and right now, they're giving up more yards than points. They've been more of a bend-not-break defense; they haven't been a defense that blitzes a lot. So we know we're going to have to take care of the ball and do the things that we need to do because they're a defense that you have to execute well against and play fundamentally sound.
On the progression of the Texas A&M team over the past four years: They're better. They're running the ball better than they were early, they used to throw it all over the field, and they can still throw it, but now they're more balanced, and they're playing better defense this year.
On the streaks in the series: I don't know [why the streaks are the way they are] and the Oklahoma rivalry has gone the same way. A lot of people talk about the emotional edge of a team that's winning and how all their fans keep them going and the momentum helps them keep winning, and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the teams that have lost, and we felt that with the Oklahoma rivalry until we turned that back around two years ago.
On this year's senior class: Well, they've really brought The University of Texas a lot of joy, exciting moments, and fun, and they've also handled themselves really well. But to win two Rose Bowls, and to be in a position to still accomplish a lot of things here at the end, and to be one game away from being the winningest team in our program's history is amazing. These guys have been fun, and they've been fun to watch. You go back to playing Michigan, Ohio State and USC, and two of those games weren't even scheduled and these guys helped make those a part of our history. So you can't say enough good about this year's senior class, and this year, they've probably overcome more than any team I've ever been around. It's amazing how well they've done with the pressure of being the defending National Champions. And the expectations have sure changed from having the worst rush defense in school history when we got here nine years ago to now having the number one rush defense in the country. These guys have helped set a new standard here, they've learned to live within that standard, and they're as disappointed when they don't win every game as the fans and the coaches are.
On offensive linemen Justin Blalock, Kasey Studdard, and Lyle Sendlein: When you look at what Justin Blalock, Kasey Studdard and Lyle Sendlein have done for this program, not just this team, we may have never had a better offensive line throughout our history. We've had some great offensive linemen, but I don't know that we've ever had back-to-back years any better than this with performances from guys like those three. They're tough, they're smart, they haven't missed ballgames, and we've run the ball consistently well since they've been here. Offensive and defensive lines are the differences in college football games to start with, and the three of them have given us the chance to throw out the label of being soft and allowed us to be a tough, running, play-action football team like we want to be. You can't say enough good things about those three young men, and they've represented us well every day. The offensive line will be one of our biggest concerns for next year, because you can't replace those three. You'll have younger guys with a lot less experience. I think by starting this upcoming game, Justin (Blalock) may have the longest tenure of any starter in the country and especially at Texas. They've all been really durable.
On the importance of the bye week: It was really important for us and every other team that hadn't previously had a week off, because it's really tough to play for 11 weeks straight. We're all learning how to handle this new 12-game schedule. And we've never had this many injuries, so even fresh legs for a guy that's got a tweaked ankle is important for him. So we do feel like it was really important, it was something that was really needed. It went well, our guys practiced well, and so again, we should be as healthy as we've been since early in the year. They've released Colt (McCoy) to run every play that he could have run going into Kansas State, so they really think he's ready to go.