Mack Brown Holiday Bowl press conference: Dec. 26
Opening statement: Coming back to San Diego just reminds you how beautiful the city is. The trip to the USS Ronald Reagan was very special. I always admired President Reagan so much, and to be able to meet his son on the ship made it even more special. The guys have had a great week. The Red Coats have been unbelievable. To see all of those volunteers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day giving back to the two teams and staffs that are fortunate enough to be here is a credit to them and one of the reasons that the Holiday Bowl has gotten such great recognition for teams and for universities that want to come here. The weather has been great, the city is great and the bowl is great, so that part of the experience for the kids has been really good.
This is a business trip and you work really hard, and like Arizona State, I think our kids have worked really hard. And in watching the kids interact at some of the functions they also have great respect for each other. We also have George Wynn on our staff that spent six years at Arizona State and he knows a lot of their people and a lot of their kids, so he has really enjoyed getting to speak to some of those kids that he helped recruit.
If you look at the ballgame itself, my first recollection of Arizona State is when I transferred to Florida State, and the first Fiesta Bowl was Florida State and Arizona State. And I'll never forget watching the game I think it ended up about 62-60. There was great speed by both teams, and it was one of the greatest football games I've ever seen.
The respect that I have for Dennis goes way back, and I'm talking about 25-30 years, so it was fun to see him and (his wife) Marilyn throughout this week. He's just done an amazing job wherever he has coached, and you can see the similarities in all of his teams. They are always physical, they can always run the football and they take care of the football. Right now they're plus seven with turnover ratio and we're minus three. And at the same time, they've done a great job of getting the ball vertical. Dennis mixes the running game and the ability to throw the ball deep as well as anybody in the country.
Their defense plays hard. Dennis is tough and they're tough. So many times your team reflects the personality of your head coach and they've got great speed in the kicking game. So we feel like it's a blessing for us to have the chance to play a team like Arizona State in a bowl game, and we think that if we do our job, it has the potential to be one of the best bowl games in the country this year. Unlike Arizona State, we did not end our season like we wanted to. It was not up to our standard and we've spent a full month trying to get back on track. Again, we may play really well and not win, but the guys have done everything that we've asked them to do out here to prepare to play.
On the players being ready to play: Well I think so. This has really been a short week in comparison to most bowls because we're out here about five days and we got here one day and started practice the next day. So I think that the timing has been perfect. And after watching both groups of kids walk through the hotel and be around each other and we're leaving here to go to the luncheon in a few minutes, I think both teams are ready to play.
On practices in San Diego: The guys have done everything that we've asked them to do. They've worked really hard, they've prepared really hard, we told them we would not tell them who would start until game time and we've stood by that. The coaches have worked really hard to make sure that they're fair because we didn't play as well as we wanted to in the last game and we need to play better.
On his relationship with Coach Dennis Erickson: When Dennis was the head coach at Miami and I was the head coach at North Carolina back in the late 80s early 90s, we were both young and in a position that was new for us and we just kind of became instant friends and had a respect for each other that has continued through the years. You start pulling for your friends in this business, and through the years I've really watched Dennis.
He's been different from a lot of college coaches in that he got opportunities to go to the NFL and he took them, then he came back and won at Oregon State, then he went to Idaho and won there and now he's back at Arizona State and wins immediately, so he knows how to win. He's a guy that I've admired in that way ever since I've been in coaching. He carries a confidence when he walks into a program; he says, "We are going to win, we are going to win quickly." And the kids believe in him and act on it.
On similarities between Arizona State and Big 12 opponents: The Big 12 was really good at throwing the ball this year and Arizona State is just like them. We're seeing it across the country, and it's been a nightmare for some defense coordinators the way people are throwing the ball. We can call it spread-offense, but I think it's that quarterbacks are being taught well and people are spreading out but skilled people are scoring more than ever before. Everything has changed and people are scoring points now at an amazing rate. The way we do overtime skews the stats so much that we'll never know who was the best player of all-time anymore because you can score 50 points now and it might be 21-21 at the end of regulation. Arizona State is as balanced and throws the ball as well as anybody we've played. They've moved the ball against everybody and they've moved it consistently well. And like I said, we're so disappointed that we're minus three in turnover ratio, and then they're plus seven. The best teams are the ones that take care of the ball well and they can usually run it and have balance and Arizona State has been able to do that. I think we forget sometimes that they're the Pac-10 champions along with USC and that's hard to do.
On Texas' history in the Holiday Bowl: None of these kids have played in the Holiday Bowl before, and it's been a great week. I really don't like the fact that in our bowl system now in some cases you're forced to go back to the same bowl, in some cases, two years in a row. And the Rose Bowl was different because there were obviously some things there that we needed to get accomplished for the national scene, but to me, I would like to see us get a rule that kids don't have to go back to the same place because it is boring for some that have the same exact experiences. But none of these kids have played in this game, and so they've been really excited. But I think that the credit goes to San Diego and the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and it also goes to Arizona State. The teams that usually gets beat in the bowls are the teams that aren't excited to be there, and you're usually not excited because of who you are playing not because of where you are. And the kids want to win, they have great pride and they're excited to play Arizona State. Our guys watched Arizona State run up and down the field this year and at one time they were in the mix to win a National Championship, so I think you're going to see a great game because both staffs and both sets of players have great respect for the other team and what they have accomplished this year.
On Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter: I think he's competitive, he's tough and as Dennis said, he'll make plays when they're not there. He's a leader. This is a passionate sport and a tough sport and you need a guy who touches the ball every time to be tough and that guy is tough. I've watched every play of every game on film and it's amazing to see how competitive that guy is. You can tell he's a guy that spends a lot of time in the film room, and he and Colt McCoy are very similar and there is a tremendous amount of pressure on both of them to play well because they have high expectations of themselves.
On the loss to Texas A&M: There were a lot of things that we looked at after the A&M game and overall we felt like we just made too many mistakes. There were great plays and there were a lot more than you think when you look at the stats and you look at the score, but when we gave one up, we gave up a 60-yard touchdown. And we just felt like we were doing too much and therefore not doing anything as consistently well as we needed to.
On why they haven't been as consistent: We played good defense until the Nebraska game, and we played really good defense against Kansas State, we just had so many turnovers and the kicking game mistakes, so it didn't look like we played very good defense, but a lot of the 41 points in that game belonged to the kicking game and the offense more than the defense. I think against Nebraska we gave up too many big plays, and then we also gave up too many big plays against Oklahoma State. And then we played Texas Tech, who has one of the best offenses in the country, and we gave up too many plays against them. And then A&M, who had no pressure and had been running the ball every time, came in and threw the ball every time, so we didn't handle the change in what they were doing very well. But we felt like probably as we continued through the season and got more injuries, we felt like we had to do more, and then you're putting more inexperienced players in and you're adding things and it just did not go well for us at the end of the year.
On the pass rush: The secondary takes the blame against the pass like a quarterback takes the blame if he throws an interception when the receiver has gone the wrong way. There were obviously some plays that we could have made in our secondary that we didn't make, but our pass-rush has not been consistent. Our drops at linebacker haven't always been exactly what we wanted, and all those underneath things are not secondary throws and we've had a lot of those. We've watched every practice film as an offense and defense to show the kids exactly who is at fault because they do listen to the media, parents, fans and other stuff and then all of sudden whoever the media is blaming and whoever the fans are blaming they start blaming. So what we've done is gone back to every play and shown them what actually happened on the play. And we've also gone over the game plans, so they understand explicitly what we need to get accomplished to win the game.
On what he found after re-evaluating the team: There is such a fine line now between winning and losing that you're talking about a missed field goal or a fumble. The biggest reason we haven't won more than nine games is because we haven't taken the ball away enough and we've turned it over too much. If you take one thing that has been different this year, it's being minus three in turnover ratio. That is absolutely inexcusable. You can't do that. And we've gone back and taken out every turnover on both sides of the ball and looked at and gone over it with the players. It looks like we had gone through a transition after the National Championship and the expectations were higher than in some cases the performances were. And we want to keep the expectations as high as they are, but we also want to get everybody to perform better.