THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome everyone. I'll introduce the head table, we'll take comments, then we'll take questions.
With us today, president and CEO of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Derrick Fox; University of Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich; University of Texas head coach Mark Brown; from Valero CFO Mike Ciskowski; and our chairman Pat Frost.
PAT FROST: Thank you all so much for coming here today. We are very excited at the Valero Alamo Bowl to introduce our two head coaches we are so fortunate to have participating in this game.
But at this time I'd like to introduce Mike Ciskowski, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Valero.
Valero has been our sponsor since our inaugural game in 1993 and our title sponsor since 2007. We're are very grateful they've renewed their title sponsorship for another six years through our 2019 game. God bless Valero.
MIKE CISKOWSKI: Thank you, Pat.
Valero is proud to be title sponsor of the Valero Alamo Bowl and thrilled to be part of this matchup which should grow the bowl's track record of exciting games, capacity crowds and record TV ratings.
Valero and the Alamo Bowl are two San Antonio‑based institutions that provide support for higher education, drive tourist activities, and deliver a strong economic impact for the City of San Antonio.
The Valero Alamo Bowl gives the City of San Antonio a second life during the holiday season by filling the hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions during the bowl week.
At this time I'd like to introduce Derrick Frost, president and CEO of the Valero Alamo Bowl to introduce the coaches.
DERRICK FOX: Thank you for your support, Mike, and Valero's long‑term support of the Valero Alamo Bowl. To have Valero onboard until 2019 is unbelievable, and we couldn't do it without them.
Our advertising slogan this year is: Bowl week is the week the other 51 are jealous of. That certainly holds true this week. Thanks to these two outstanding universities with tremendous football teams and coaches. The 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl promises to be a great game delivering many lasting memories of a lifetime.
Now it's going to be my pleasure to introduce our two respective head coaches.
First up is our visiting head coach, Mark Helfrich from the University of Oregon. It's Coach Helfrich's first season as coach of the Ducks, following four seasons as the offensive coordinator during which he was twice named Football Scoops national quarterbacks coach of the year.
This year's quarterback, Marcus Mariota, finished the season ranked in the top 10 in five major passing categories, helping the Ducks to average nearly 47 points a game.
The Ducks finished season with a 10‑2 record and are ranked 10 in the final BCS poll.
Coach Helfrich, welcome to San Antonio. Glad to have you here in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
COACH HELFRICH: Thank you.
On behalf of the University of Oregon, our fans are excited to get down here. I think San Antonio is one of those great cities of America to visit, something for everybody. It's one of those places you'd have to try to not have a great time.
Obviously it is an honor to compete in the Alamo Bowl. Thanks to Valero and everything they've done for college football and everybody associated with this game.
It's an honor for me personally to sit next to Coach Brown and compete against the University of Texas. He's an icon of our game, an iconic program. Very excited to prepare to compete against them. As I started watching film on these guys, that's not much fun. They're big, fast and physical.
But our players, our coaches, our families, we're ecstatic to get down here and compete against Texas.
DERRICK FOX: I'll now introduce no one who needs an introduction from our standpoint, a great friend of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Coach Mack Brown.
Coach Brown is in his 16th season at Texas, and one of only two coaches nationally to direct teams to 20 bowl games in the last 21 seasons, and 22 winning seasons in the last 23. He has a 10‑4 bowl record at Texas, and a perfect 2‑0 in San Antonio.
No jinx or anything (laughter).
At last year's Valero Alamo Bowl the Longhorns defense recorded a record 10 sacks. This defense this year is anchored by Jackson Jeffcoat, the AP Big 12 defensive player of the year. Jeffcoat had five sacks in the last two games.
This year the Longhorns finished with an 8‑4 record overall and 7‑2 in Big 12 play.
Coach, welcome back to San Antonio.
COACH BROWN: Thank you, Derrick.
There's no better town or city in this state or country that's great to the Longhorns more than San Antonio. We've been down here twice with the Iowa game a number of years ago, then coming last year in both cases where we needed to pick up when we came. The crowds were unbelievable. The games were great. We have to come back to win both games. The whole week was fun.
Looks like the ticket sales are going wonderfully already for us. I'm sure Oregon will sell out theirs, which should be another sell‑out.
We appreciate you and Mike, what you and Valero do, for college bowl games and football. Without the sponsors, we couldn't share all these wonderful experiences with all these kids.
You always want to be challenged in a bowl game so you won't come in without an edge. We got that, without a question. We have a BCS‑type team in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon could be as good as anybody in the country. They had a couple slip‑ups because of some injuries that were key injuries. Mark has done a tremendous job taking over what was already a great program and moving it forward. That's not an easy thing to do.
Our players were disappointed we didn't come out of the Baylor game winning the Big 12 championship, but at the same time it didn't take them long to bounce back when they see who we're going to play in the bowl game.
Oregon has been one of the best teams in the country since these guys have been playing college football. Now they'll have a chance to play.
I thought last year our bowl game was one of the best in the country. I think this one could be. We have to live up to our end of it, because obviously Oregon has. We didn't finish the way we wanted to finish. That will be exciting and can't wait to get all that started.
There's been a little speculation about my job situation throughout this week, if some of you haven't noticed. I told Mark with all respect to he, Derrick, the bowl game, I would address it very briefly. But we're here to talk about the Alamo Bowl and the matchups. We're not here to talk about me. That would be wrong of me spending a lot of time with that.
My situation has not changed. I've got the best president in the country with Bill Powers. He's unbelievable. He's done a tremendous job for eight years. What.
We did lose in an iconic athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, that has been here 32 years and has run the best program in the country, without question. He'd been my boss for 16 years.
We've hired what I think is a great athletic director with Steve Patterson. I got a chance to visit with him a little bit the other day in New York. Anytime your athletic director changes, that changes the game. With all due respect to him, I want to sit down with he and Bill in the near future and talk about where we're going and our program is going.
I'm excited about our team, the way they fought back this year. They've had more adversity than any other team. We weren't excited to be 8‑4, but we were excited about the way they fought and competed. It was a great message for all of us.
Moving forward, I'm looking forward to my meeting with Bill and Steve. We'll all get on the same page and move forward.
Again, I want the focus to be on these kids and the focus to be on this bowl game because that's what we're here for. I apologize to you for having to put up with this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to questions.
Q. Mack, along those lines, we've talked about distractions all year. This season has been nothing but. When you do get to talk with your team, what can you tell them to get everybody's mind right?
COACH BROWN: Beat Oregon. That's the only thing that's important. This is about the kids. This isn't about me. It's about the kids moving forward.
That's what we are. Mark and I are guys that try to keep a staff moving in the right direction, keep all the distractions away from that. It's about the University of Texas playing against Oregon, it's about the kids in this game. We sure don't want that to be a distraction.
I haven't seen our kids since the Baylor game. Like Mark, it's a tough day for us because we're both recruiting. The dead period starts on Sunday. We have to get done as much today as we can. We have our banquet Friday night. I look forward to seeing the kids because I know they were down after the Baylor game. We'll have our first bowl practice on Saturday and get started towards the ballgame.
Q. Mack, do you believe this is your last game as the head coach of UT? If so, what does it mean to you?
COACH BROWN: You know, I'm excited about the game. I said we wouldn't talk about me or my future because I am going to have that meeting with Bill and Steve Patterson. I look forward to that meeting.
We're not going to discuss that anymore today. We're just going to talk about the ballgame.
Q. Mark, I was wondering with you recruiting, finals going on this week, how are you as a staff beginning game prep? Sneak in film review whenever you can?
COACH HELFRICH: Yes, we are a little bit of everything. This is a tough time of year, like Coach Brown was talking about. We're transitioning from an end‑of‑the‑year regular season to hit the road recruiting immediately. We throw our banquet before we go recruiting to make it more challenging.
We'll finish up tomorrow afternoon recruiting, then we'll have a short practice Friday. We'll practice Saturday, Sunday, kind of begin in earnest on Monday on a game plan as a staff.
Q. What was your reaction when Marcus said he was coming back? Should he have been invited to the Heisman announcement?
COACH HELFRICH: We think Marcus is pretty special. If there's six better players in the country, and that's not in any way disrespectful of those players, those guys are really great players.
But Marcus Mariota is a top‑notch guy in every form, excellent person, excellent student and excellent football player, a guy our guys have rallied round.
His coming back, he had been hinting at that for a long time. It wasn't a huge surprise. It was a nice pickup in the recruiting class, absolutely.
COACH BROWN: Will he be at the bowl game (laughter)?
COACH HELFRICH: We're talking about Jeffcoat, too, by the way (laughter).
Q. Coach Brown, can you talk about Oregon's offense. Is anybody comparable in the Big 12?
COACH BROWN: No, I don't think anybody compares. They do a good job of running the ball. They started the up‑tempo stuff to be as fast as anybody in the country. They don't give you an opportunity to line up. It makes it very, very difficult. They have tremendous team speed.
Where they do not get the credit is their lines of scrimmage. That's where they've improved so much, even when we played them back in the Holiday Bowl in the early years.
Their quarterback to me is as good as anybody in America. He's unbelievable. He can run, he can throw, he's the leader. He's the guy. When their backs touch it, they have a chance to score every time they touch it. Their receivers, you have to spend so much time on their receiving game, one‑on‑one situations, it puts you in a bind.
I think their offense is one that all of us are continuing to look at and trying to emulate.
Q. Mark, what would you say is the difference between your play in October and November?
COACH HELFRICH: It's colder in November (laughter).
As the season wears on, there's always kind of nicks and dings that take effect. We played an excellent Stanford team that obviously had a great run here recently, and lost. That was extremely deflating to a lot of guys. We're both at places where after one loss, there's some element of huge disappointment, or the season's over. I think that permeated a couple of our younger players.
But I thought our guys rallied pretty well. Our win, especially against Oregon State, Utah as well, those were kind of just those games from the outside that it's like, That's just another win. Those were grind‑it‑out, gut‑it‑out, shorthanded‑type of wins that you have to do to be as consistent as our guys have been and win as many games as our guys have won. You have to win those every once in a while. Part of it is playing great people.
Hopefully we'll get healed up and get ready to go for Texas.
Q. Coach Brown, have you ever thought of doing uniform changes as frequently as Oregon?
COACH BROWN: When I got to Texas, Coach Royal sat down with me and he says, You know our colors are burnt orange and white, right?
I said, Yes, sir.
He said, You know we like our uniforms, right?
I said, Yes, sir.
He said you're not planning on changing them, ever, right?
I said, No, sir.
I think that answers the question (laughter).
With due respect, Phil Knight is a friend of mine and we love our Nike uniforms.
Q. Talk about your Texas player on the roster and the importance of doing a showcase when you are here in San Antonio.
COACH HELFRICH: Texas has been great to us in recruiting. It's a place that high school football is I should say second to none in this room, but there are a couple other states that would argue that.
Oregon's population doesn't have the depth of athletes across the country in our kind of wheelhouse states, California ‑ Texas among them hopefully. But it's a great place to grow up as a young man and play high school football. So many great programs around the state that could compete with anybody.
The coaching, the education system top to bottom is good. You know what you're going to get from Texas. We try to sneak in every once in a while and get a guy or two.
Q. Coach Brown, with losing the game to Baylor, how do you expect the players to respond to that, plus the added distractions of everything else going on right now?
COACH BROWN: I'm not worried about the other stuff. You always worry when you lose your last game. It meant so much. You worry about creating an edge for your next game, the bowl game. For me, the team that has the best edge in bowl games is the one that usually wins. There's more upsets in bowl games than at any other times in our season.
I thought we were lucky. I wasn't sure when we got the call from Derrick, but I thought we were lucky when we drew one of the best teams in the country. A lot of teams aren't going to have the opportunity to be challenged like that. I was worried who we would draw and would our guys be excited about it. That got answered very quickly.
Just talking to them, having texts from them, our staff that's been around them, there's such a buzz right now for the opportunity to be challenged by a great football team. They respect them. That's fun.
I really think, again, this town is going to be abuzz. Oregon has great followers. Our bunch will be here in full strength. I just think it's a tremendous matchup, and I do understand and want to be honest, we got to hold up our end. They're going to hold up their end because they're really good.
COACH HELFRICH: You're really good at this, really good at this (laughter).
COACH BROWN: But it is true. I've watched them. I've sat there. In fact, when they were throwing out all the different combinations of things that could happen, I said, Huh‑uh, huh‑uh. Derrick called. I said, Derrick, we were there last year. He said, It will be so much fun. I said, We got it.
From that standpoint, I think both teams will respect each other. Our coaches like their coaches. There's a lot of relationships between the two. I think it's fun. That also matters.
Derrick could tell you, in bowl games if you're coaching against somebody you don't like as a coach, it's not comfortable because you're around each other all week. If the staffs don't like each other, it's more uncomfortable.
But this will be fun. We'll all enjoy it and have a great game. Mark has never lost a bowl game, and I have (laughter).
Q. Mack, when your back was against the wall, this team did respond against Oklahoma in a big way. Have you had a chance to reflect on why this team, with its makeup, is going to be a special one to you?
COACH BROWN: I think it's the senior class. No team has put up with more stuff than this team. You really like them and appreciate them. Whether it was early coaching changes, they responded to it, responded to me, trusted me, played their rear‑ends off.
The amount of injuries, I've never seen this many injuries. There's probably eight of our top ten players that won't be playing in the bowl games. These guys have said no regrets, no excuses. Let's just keep playing. Let's don't sit around and talk about what's wrong, let's talk about what's right.
They've been a fun group to coach. They've been attentive, played hard. We missed an opportunity at Oklahoma State and Baylor, which was really disappointing, because we turned it around since the early losses. They've given it their best. That's all you can ask a team to do.
Q. Both of your teams started out looking to higher goals, maybe championships. Now you're here and happy to be here. What does it say about your team, what lessons have they learned now that they didn't end up where they set out to do? Why is it important for them to play in this game as hard as they would in any other?
COACH HELFRICH: We're both at places where if your record doesn't end in 'hyphen zero' there's problems. Those things are exaggerated. Maybe the guy just didn't line up right. How do we fix that? Sometimes when you win, you get lucky. Okay, we need to fix that, too.
Top to bottom, our guys will be very excited for this challenge, to finish it right, to win your bowl game, whatever that is. If it's a BCS game, whatever is considered toward the bottom of the rung, is huge. It's an opportunity to work with our young guys, develop our depth. We're a young football team. Put those guys in those situations, playing against a program like this, they're going to be physically challenged big‑time. Then you want to put an exclamation point at the end of the season rather than dot, dot, dot.
COACH BROWN: We told our guys you don't get to choose where you go. You have to win to go where you get to go. So it is what it is.
If we would have won all the games, then there would have been options other than this one. We got to come to a fun place, a good place that we enjoy. We love this city. This bunch is loved by a lot of Texas Longhorn fans and we're playing against a good team.
Not everybody gets that. Not everybody is that fortunate. Some people that are in bowls that are considered maybe at a different stature don't get to play who they want to play.
We told ours, You play your way into bowls, you don't talk your way into bowls anymore. It is what it is. You are who you are. You take what you do.
DERRICK FOX: On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl, we have two of the best coaches not only as coaches but as people. We see them week in, week out. They welcome us behind the scenes win or lose. They are tremendous people. This is an exclamation point here for the Valero Alamo Bowl. Thanks for coming down.
COACH BROWN: Thank you, Derrick.
COACH HELFRICH: Thank you, Derrick
Audio Clips from 12/23/13 Media Day
An interview with:
COACH MAJOR APPLEWHITE
THE MODERATOR: We welcome the University of Texas offense. I'll introduce Coach Applewhite who will introduce his players.
COACH APPLEWHITE: We have Mason Walters, senior offensive guard; Trey Hopkins, senior offensive guard and tackle; Mike Davis, senior wide out; Malcolm Brown, junior runningback; senior quarterback, Case McCoy.
THE MODERATOR: How has bowl preparation gone?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Gone well. We got here Christmas Day. Guys had three great days of practice. We've enjoyed our time here. We're ready to get going for the game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. What is the difference between coaching in the booth and on the field?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I like the booth a lot better. A little bit more calm up there than it is down on the sidelines. You want to be down there at certain times for certain players, but then there's other things you can be up in the booth. Especially working with Case, I feel better working from the booth. With my eyes up there, I don't feel like I need to be out on the field with him. I like being up there in that environment.
Q. Major, you have had the injuries on offense, had to change week‑to‑week. Now that you've had a month to prepare, do you feel this like this unit going into the game is ready to play as well as they can?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Yeah, we still had some of those same things. We got some guys that won't be playing with us in a couple days. We've had to kind of fill those positions, build some depth at those positions, whether it be O‑line, runningback, wide receiver. So we've been working on kind of filling some of those spots and getting some of the younger guys reps so they'll be game ready.
Q. Major, and Case, you had a chance to look at film of Oregon. What have you seen about their defense? Case, you're going up against two corners.
COACH APPLEWHITE: First, I think they've got great guys outside. A lot of man coverage. They're multiple in the back end. They'll play man, zone, match patterns. Do a lot of things up front in terms of the front game, disguising their blitzes. Guys are difficult to get ahold of.
They've done a great job outside. They have great players, very athletic, fast. Their safeties are good players, too. They can play well in man coverage. Kind of reminds me a little bit of the way Coach Akina tries to train our secondary, to where all four of them can play man coverage if need be.
There's not one guy that's a tackler that's down in the box. They're all pretty versatile. So when you look at third down, they can be effective in third‑down situations, get some turnovers. I think that's why they've got so many this year.
CASE McCOY: Yeah, exactly, they're incredible athletes out there, played a lot of ball. For the most part looking at them, they play together very well. They put those guys on islands out there, trust their safeties to make plays, but also get down in the box and make plays.
Definitely you can see when you watch them on film, they played a lot of ball together and they know what they're doing back there.
Q. Malcolm, a lot of runningbacks in the last month of the regular season had a lot of success rushing against Oregon's defense. What do you see from that 3‑4 that you might be able to exploit?
MALCOLM BROWN: You know, first of all, they do have a great athletic defense. Have a great front, great linebackers.
The 3‑4, we feel like we can do a great job of running the ball right at them. Like you said, past teams have had a whole bunch of success in regular zones, powers, things like that. Just got to be more aggressive. I know our offensive line is going to do a great job, so...
Q. Major, talk about Malcolm's season, how he's done.
COACH APPLEWHITE: Somewhere early around I guess maybe the third week of fall camp, something happened. I don't know if it was an ankle or a hip or something. Got set back a little bit, not much. Jonathan and Joe were doing some good things in the first couple games. When we got to the Oklahoma game, we had some ball security issues. Malcolm always did a great job of taking care of the ball.
Really felt like that Oklahoma game, might play a big role in that game in terms of it's a man's game, you know. You got to be mature. You have to be able to handle the ebbs and flows of that game. Recruiting Malcolm, seeing him around his family, the kind of young man he is, I knew he would be ready for that opportunity.
He went out and played a great game, and the offensive line did a great job in that game. Really kind of gave us a little bit of an identity to go on a six‑game stretch right there. We did a great job of running the football, both Joe, Jonathan and Malcolm. All three of those guys did a tremendous job. We were able to kind of get in the hunt.
Give Malcolm a lot of credit. But I know that Malcolm would be the first guy to tell you to give those other guys a lot of credit, too.
Q. Case and Malcolm, you came in the starting lineup midyear, now that you've had a month with this group, do you feel like the preparation for this game set you guys up to have the best offensive game against Oregon?
CASE McCOY: That's what we're hoping for, no doubt about it. Obviously we're starters now. Obviously we filled in roles throughout the season. We've been playing these roles for quite some time now. We're expected to play like starters.
Fully expect Malcolm to go out and play a great game. I got to play great. I got to take care of the ball. When I take care of the ball, in the games we've won, that's been the circumstances.
That's our plan. Malcolm would probably give you the same answer.
MALCOLM BROWN: Definitely. He hit it right on the head. It's football. Guys go down, guys have to step up. Me and Case, we chose to be those guys to step up in those roles. We're enjoying it. We have a great team around us.
Q. Now that you've begun practicing, has the atmosphere and the preparations changed knowing this is Mack's final game?
CASE McCOY: I think we as a team, and our coaches as well, prepare hard. That's never been a difference. Win or lose, that's not a critique whether we prepare or not. I know the preparation we put in week in, week out, that's not going to change going into this game being his last one.
As we saw who we were playing, we were all in the film room the next day. This is a big game for us, no doubt about it, playing a top‑10 team that's well‑coached. Five weeks ago they were in a hunt for the national championship.
We understand what's at stake. We'll play hard. Coach Brown will coach hard. If we play that way, we take care of the ball, I think it will be a good night for us.
Q. Major, the 2000 Holiday Bowl is pretty well‑remembered by Duck fans. What are your memories?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I remember getting beat, quite honestly. I didn't get a chance to play. I was injured. I wasn't cleared to play. Maybe I'd just been cleared.
I just remember, I think it was Onterrio Smith had a great game. Joe had a great game. Rashad Bauman, corner. Just kind of vague memories. I remember we had some shots at the end zone we didn't capitalize on. I remember Victor Ike taking a kickoff return back, but nothing more than that. We came up short. I think we lost by 5.
Q. Major, the 2000 Holiday Bowl, your perception of Oregon then as a player, 13 years ago, as opposed to now?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Well, just a tremendous amount of respect for any set of coaches that can go in and raise the expectations of their program and can make it a nationally recognized program and a prestigious program. Whoever that coach may be who can do that to his program. I have a great amount of respect for that coach and his coaches around him.
That's something that Chip Kelly and Coach Bellotti was the beginning of that, now Coach Helfrich is carrying that on. They've put themselves on the map. Now kids want to pay attention and look at that school.
Q. Mason, the Oregon offense, does that put pressure on you to get off to a quick start?
MASON WALTERS: I definitely think so. Just watching film, every now and then you'll get a chance to turn on the other team's offense and see what your defense is going to go up against, seeing how effective they are. Knowing every time you go out and don't capitalize on a drive, 6 points, a touchdown. That gives them room and they're able to blow people out.
As we take the field, you have to put the onus on us. The game starts at 0‑0. That's how we'll be taking it as an offense come Monday.
Q. Major, in your game against Baylor, are there a lot of similarities between the Baylor offense and defense and what you have seen against Oregon?
COACH APPLEWHITE: You know, first of all, from the offensive standpoint, I don't study those guys as much. I know that Baylor is high tempo, runs the ball a lot. Oregon is the same way. A little bit different in terms of how they throw the football, how they approach the throw game. Going fast, trying to wear down teams, make their hay that way, very similar.
Defensively, Baylor's a four‑man structure. A little more simple in the back end. You really see, you know, Oregon's multiplicity throughout the season. When you watch a 12‑game season, you can see all the different fronts and coverages they get into. As Case and I were talking, one thing about the secondary, other than being athletic and trusting their guys in man coverage, there's a lot of ball. There's two seniors and two juniors back there. A lot of football between those four guys.
Reminds me a lot of Oklahoma State's defense. So when you talk about Gilbert and Lowe, all those guys that have played back there for Oklahoma State, you understand why their turnovers or take‑away numbers are high. They've seen a lot of routes, they've seen a lot of pass concepts, at the same time they have a lot of instinct.
Q. Mike, can you tell me how Ifo, No. 14, compares to Justin Gilbert?
MIKE DAVIS: I'd have to say he's a very good player. He is just a good football player. Can he cover, run. He's not afraid to tackle.
How he compares to Justin or Rhett, they're similar in size. From Oregon, he's a little bigger. Justin Gilbert is taller. I feel like he's probably more athletic.
All them guys are good. I'm looking forward to going against him.
Q. Case, you mentioned your preparation. I read an article that said preparation helped set you apart against that Oklahoma team. What is this pattern and routine you've gotten into? Can you describe what's helped you be good at preparation.
CASE McCOY: I mean, I take that on my shoulders being the quarterback. I didn't know what all these guys needed to do on every play. I get that from Major. That's what I've been coached to do my whole life.
Just having this long amount of time to prepare and know the game plan front and back, know all the ins‑and‑outs, the checks, that's where we're at right now. That's why I think we've had an incredible week of practice so far. We're on top of things. We've repped it. We know what we're doing. Now we've just got to go execute it on game day.
Q. Major, as far as being without Daje and Kennedy, having to leave them behind on this trip, the impact on the offense.
COACH APPLEWHITE: As we've said before throughout this season, whether it is BYU, Kansas State, where Mike had an ankle injury, whether it be ‑‑ doesn't matter what the game is, Texas Tech, we don't have Daje there. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. These guys have rallied through a whole hell of a lot this season. Really proud of them.
Obviously we wanted to win that game in Waco and be conference champions, but we didn't. Really proud how these guys made 'no excuses' their motto. It will serve them well in life.
Q. Major, you have spent a lot of time with Case over the months here now. You know him as a person, as a player. How would you describe how he has survived and thrived in the Texas fishbowl being the quarterback?
COACH APPLEWHITE: He's been tough. He's been tough. That's what it is. You're going to get a lot more credit than you deserve, a lot more blame than you deserve. You're going to have people say things about you that you couldn't fathom as a player. That's okay, though, because you want that pressure if you play quarterback. If you're a coach's son, you grow up the son of a coach, your dad's kind of the hero of the town, looked up to, expected to produce, you're kind of raised in a household of pressure.
When your older brother has already been through that position, it's like growing up in a family full of cops. That's what you're expected to do, handle that pressure and go do it.
Case has done a fabulous job. The team has done a great job of playing around him in that six‑game stretch. What we need him to do is go out and play 60 minutes of great football one more time.
Q. Mason and Trey, the front four, a lot of seniors are in there. What do you see from that line? Anybody in particular that you focused on and see as maybe their most dangerous defensive lineman?
TREY HOPKINS: I spent a lot of time watching No. 66. He's a great player. I mean, all four up front are great players. They're great athletes. They show a lot of looks for the front four up there. They have different ways of disguising their blitzes, making sure you don't get up to their linebacker level.
No. 66, he plays defensive end. He's shown he can be physical. That's something that's set him apart from people we've played before. The bottom line, when it comes to looking at lines of scrimmage, it's who can be the most physical for the longest throughout the game. It's something we've focused on. We have to finish blocks, we have to extend drives through being efficient on first and second downs in the running game.
MASON WALTERS: I'll say the same. You go against a 3‑4 defense, you have to be showing the front of that, be able to contain the gap at linebacker level. 66 and 92, guys that flash, are able to do that. Makes it tough to run on them at times, but we have seen some things that we like in their defense that we think we can capitalize on if everybody executes.
That's what it comes down to. You see some guys running the ball on Oregon at times later this year. It's simple execution. Guys doing their job in those games that other teams weren't able to do. There's really no magic or trick to it. Just go out there and execute the game plan. Everybody runs the plays we're going to run.
Q. Mason, the fact it is Mack's last game, is that more motivation or distraction? Could that possibly even be a factor during a game?
MASON WALTERS: Everybody is motivated by something. It's been a drawn‑out process since we've known he's going to retire. Getting to the game, I think all the emotions of that are going to be worn off. Maybe they'll resurface around game time. No matter any game, what's going on outside of the field, once you get on it, the only thing you're thinking about is your job and the guys out there doing it with you.
Q. Trey, people are wondering what the atmosphere is like around practices with assistant coaches who are looking for jobs, trying to hold on to recruits, get you a game plan to beat a top‑10 team. Take us inside what the atmosphere has been like with all that going on around this team.
TREY HOPKINS: I mean, you always have the excuses of distractions. We're all seniors up here, except Malcolm. When you come out there, for the two hours you're at practice, the hour and a half you're in meetings, it comes down to being a man, being able to focus on what is at hand. We still playing for Texas, we still wear the Longhorn emblem. We're still on in it to win this last game. That's where you put those things to the side. You put those things behind you when you're on the field.
You really play for each other. It's not really about you or anything else you have going on in your life, distractions. I think we've done a good job, everybody on this team, of focusing and playing for each other, not letting things on the outside become distractions for us.
Q. Major, both teams now have coaches who are going to step down. Nick Aliotti for Oregon is going to step down. Do you know Nick? What are your impressions of him?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I don't know him personally. Just a tremendous amount of respect for him. Been in the business a long time. Been at the place for a long time. Obviously, when you've done that, you've done things right on and off the field. Just a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's obviously developed a lot of goodwill in that community.
As a young guy, you admire guys that can stay in it that long and do it at that level.
Q. Trey and Mason, have you watched any of the Stanford versus Oregon film in your preparation? What was your take away from watching Stanford's offensive line?
MASON WALTERS: They're a physical front. Everyone sees that when they run that power down. It's something we've kind of tried to look at, really emulate that. One thing you see is they were able to extend drives just by being physical up front. That's something you have to do going up against a high‑powered, explosive offense, make sure you keep the ball in your hands, control the time of possession.
TREY HOPKINS: I'd say the same thing. Stanford has built their identity on that, being a physical run team. That's Stanford, that's what they do. I think they did a great job. It worked out to their advantage.
We're going to have to put our own spin on it. We're not Stanford. We're the University of Texas. We have our own identity. It might be similar, but I think we've got the people and the plays to get the job done.
Q. Mike, I know last year you thought about maybe going to the NFL early. How do you feel like this year went for you? Are you glad you stayed?
MIKE DAVIS: As of right now, I'm glad I stayed. My whole goal and stuff was to come back and have a conference championship, beat OU, try to play for a national championship. Unfortunately, we didn't get that taken care of.
I'm just proud of this team. I'm not really worried about the NFL until after this game. Right now I'm just focused on this game. Being proud of what we've done this year, how we bounced back. I'll just miss all of it.
Q. Case, how much more does this game mean as Mack Brown's last game?
CASE McCOY: Yeah, I mean, obviously we want to send him out right. The man has done a lot around this university, for college football. You can't look past that by any means. You can look at his records. You can look at what he's built at Texas.
For all of us, for the senior class, for him, for the coaches that are going to be here, for the coaches that are going to leave, we all love this university. If you came to this university, you accepted a job, you accepted a scholarship, you want to play here, you all have that pride.
There will be no doubt or no question if we're going to go out there and fight and play hard. There's not going to have to be a whole lot of motivation for that. Everybody is going to want to go out there and finish this thing right.
An interview with:
COACH NICK ALIOTTI
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. We're going to do the Oregon defense. It's my pleasure to introduce defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Nick, if you could introduce your players.
COACH ALIOTTI: To my left is Taylor Hart, defensive end. Next to him is Tony Washington, outside linebacker. In the middle we have Brian Jackson, safety. I have Derrick Malone, Will inside backer. On the end there, that's just Ifo, great corner.
One thing I will say, I've been blessed. These are not just good football players. A lot of times you're around good football players. These five guys right here, these are great young men. They represent everything that you want in a college athlete. It's been a pleasure to coach them.
Instead of getting too long‑winded, which I tend to do, ask them questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Nick, the announcement an hour ago that you're retiring. First off, what led to that decision? How long was that decision in the making? When did you decide? What were the main factors?
COACH ALIOTTI: We're going to try to keep this brief. I will try to answer this as succinctly as I can, then we're going to talk about the Alamo Bowl because that's why we're here. I'll give you the shortest version I can.
I was going to retire last season when we won the Fiesta Bowl. When the game was over, I went out to the middle of the field, grabbed some turf, put it in a plastic bag, it's still in my briefcase.
When Chip left, I decided to stay along with Mark to finish up the recruiting because it seemed like a tough time. We were on 13 kids, wanted to finish the deal. I'm not trying to be a martyr or pat myself on the back. I believe in and love Oregon. I wanted to do a good job by Mark. I wanted to do a good job by these kids without having something to say.
This is something that was going to happen last year. I told Mark I would go one more year, and therefore I did. After 38 seasons, I coached the very first year after I stopped playing, and so I've had a good ride.
It's not about me. Let's move on to the Alamo Bowl. I'll answer those at another time.
I'm at a good place. Especially when I have these five guys to my left, I'm at a better place.
Q. Taylor and Tony, can you talk about what you've seen from the Texas running game. Who would you compare it to in terms of teams you faced this year?
TAYLOR HART: Yeah, they obviously have a power running game. With that they're very physical up front, the offensive linemen. They have multiple runningbacks back there that can do the job.
I would kind of compare them to Stanford in some ways. But for us, we've faced it all. We just have to figure out the ways to stop this run and go against Texas.
TONY WASHINGTON: Same thing he said (laughter).
Q. Ifo, since we're in the spirit of making announcements, have you made a decision on your NFL future? Also, can you give us a memory of Coach Al, what makes him so effective?
IFO EKPRE‑OLOMU: At this time I still haven't made a decision of what I'm going to do. I feel that I'm going to wait probably until I have a time to sit down with my family and actually think things through.
I'm really worried about the Alamo Bowl right now and that's really it. I haven't been worried about that too much.
For Coach Al, I'd have to say definitely his everyday work ethic. He comes with that relentless passion every day to get the best out of each player. Even when players might not take it for what it's worth, he's made everybody better at this program and he's done it day in and day out. I thank him for that.
Q. Brian and Derrick, does Coach Al's retirement add extra as far as sending him out as a winner?
BRIAN JACKSON: Yeah. About this, I feel if we wanted to make this about coaches, we wouldn't be doing any game planning.
He just told us not that long ago. I feel like that's his decision and I support him in every single way.
Right now he wants us to focus on this football game. That's what we've been doing this whole time. We came here almost like it was a work visit. People who have conferences away from where they normally work at, they come there for a reason, they come to get some work done. That's why we're here.
I respect him. I'm glad he made this decision. Like he said, we need to get out there and play some football.
DERRICK MALONE: We're here to win this game, no matter what happens. We all have the mindset, we need to get things done. No matter what happens, who is staying, from coaches to players, we know we have one common goal.
Q. Nick, because you knew this year it was probably going to be your last year, did you enjoy it more? What was it like coming back for the extra year?
COACH ALIOTTI: I might have been a little softer than I usually am, but they might not agree with that (laughter).
You know, I don't think I changed in any way, shape or form. Coached the same, as hard as I always have. Same passion, same work ethic.
But I did enjoy this group of kids. This is a good group of young men. I know we're going to put our best foot forward to try to beat a very good Texas football team. That's what I hope we do on Monday night.
Q. What are you going to do now going forward?
COACH ALIOTTI: I haven't really thought that far ahead, to be honest with you. Right now, just like my men said, the focus today should be ‑‑ I know this announcement came, and I want to squelch that. This is not about Nick Aliotti. This is the timing that Mark and myself decided on. This is not, Win one for the Gipper. I want to make that perfectly clear.
This is about trying to win the Alamo Bowl. We've worked toward that before we got here. We're here to try to beat a very good, athletic Texas team. That's our goal. That's why we're here.
Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. We'll do everything as we always do till the final gun. But thanks for asking.
Q. Taylor, you're an Oregon guy. You grew up watching Nick Aliotti's defenses. What is it like to play for him? What is your favorite memory from being with Nick for the past few years?
TAYLOR HART: I mean, everything. Coach Al, he's like a second father to me. It's been an amazing experience. He always comes with the attitude that he's just got the energy, we're always going to find a way to win, we're always going to struggle. He hasn't changed at all.
That's what we've done this week against Texas, to be able to prepare for them. I mean, I can't say anything bad at all about Coach Aliotti.
Q. Derrick, you had the shoulder. Has this month of bowl practice been good for you? Do you feel ready to go?
DERRICK MALONE: Yeah, definitely. I feel real good, ready to go. Extra work in all areas with many things that I do, working out, studying film. I'm really excited about letting my preparation meet the field.
Q. Tony, what do you see as the biggest challenge with the Texas offense for you guys?
TONY WASHINGTON: I just think with so many personnel groups, they can give us a bunch of different looks. This past couple weeks, guys have been focusing on all possibilities, all different styles of plays, runs, passes, all different things. Just be prepared for everything.
They're great at running it, great at throwing it. We have to be great in all phases.
Q. Brian, so much of these bowl games are about which teams want to be there. Oregon was a team that could have gone up to the BCS. Here you are playing an unranked Texas team. What is the mindset of Oregon right now? What's the hunger factor for this game?
BRIAN JACKSON: I think that's an easy question to answer. We're here to play a good Texas team. This is more of a home game for them, if anything. Man, we're coming out here into hostile territory. We're here to do something we haven't done before: play a great Texas team, play some great football.
These two styles of football really mix up well. We're bringing the West Coast, ground and pound, throw some deep balls. I like the way this matchup is. I feel like it's hard for anyone not to be excited to play in this kind of game of this caliber.
I was just cruising around the streets with my friend yesterday, just headed over to the mall somewhere. They're advertising the game is sold out, four tickets left. I mean, people want to see this game. For us to not want to play in a game like this, we're doing ourselves a disservice.
Q. Taylor and Tony, you guys play in a program where the offense gets a lot of publicity. Their style puts a lot of pressure on your defense because they don't keep the ball very much. Could you describe how difficult it is to play defense at Oregon sometimes facing all those snaps from opposing teams.
TAYLOR HART: You know, sometimes it makes it difficult on us. But when they put up 60 points, it's pretty easy.
For us to be able to stay out there, we rotate a lot of guys. That's something that helps us out as a defense. For us to be able to play these high‑velocity snaps, play as hard as we can, the way we practice, prepare for these teams. For us, it's just all about preparation. To have the offense go as fast as it does, it doesn't bother us. It's actually a cool deal the way they can do it.
TONY WASHINGTON: Off of what he's saying, I think the rotation is always great. Me personally, I love how exciting our offense is now, how often we get in the end zone. Gets me an opportunity to go out there and play. I love playing this game. Any chance I get, I'll take it. It's great to be part of this team.
Q. Coach, how would you describe your guys' run defense the past month? Do you feel the need to make any adjustments or tweaks since the last game?
COACH ALIOTTI: Obviously the stats bear that we haven't played very well against the run the last couple games. Going back the last month ‑ I'll try to make this answer short and sweet ‑ Stanford, I don't care we played that bad against the run, contrary to what everybody might think. They ran the ball 66 times. They didn't have to throw it.
Tough to answer it this way, but we didn't play very well on offense. The fact we didn't play very well on offense, they didn't have to throw the ball. You run the ball 66 times, you get 200‑something yards, that's the nature of the beast.
Utah we played well. It was over.
Arizona, for whatever reason, you can point the finger right here, we weren't ready, okay? I didn't have them ready. We didn't play great. It's probably one of our worst games that we've played that I can remember.
But it wasn't because of these guys. Arizona had a good plan. They're a good football team, too. They're on scholarship last time I checked also. Other teams are getting scholarships, too. We just didn't play very well.
Oregon State, didn't want them to run for that many yards, but they throw the ball, so we wanted to make sure they didn't throw the ball all over the place. Maybe to some degree the fact they run the ball helped us win.
As far as this game, we've practiced a lot of things. The thing about defense, the one thing that people don't understand, on defense you don't get to practice tackling live for a month before you play a bowl game. That's for both teams. That's always something that concerns coaches. You can't tackle live for a month. You never really play a game without tackling live for a month except for a bowl game. That will affect both teams, who tackles well, who tackles in space.
Secondly, offenses can decide what personnel groups and what plays they want to run from those personnel groups. We have to prepare for war in time of peace. We have to be ready for everything. If they line up in empty, we can't call timeout and say, Hey, we didn't practice that this week, so you guys can't do that. We have to prepare for everything.
This is not an excuse. I'm answering your question.
Thirdly, we've done everything within our power to get ready to stop this good Texas running game, okay? I have no idea what the outcome's going to be or how it's going to turn out, but in every game that we've played where it was a big‑time run team, that we weren't going to stop the run, they were going to run all over the space, and they were going to score a lot of points ‑ Colorado, Kansas State, Auburn ‑ we stopped the run.
Q. Brian, what would a win mean to you personally being that this is Nick's last game? Nick, what would a win mean to you?
COACH ALIOTTI: That's a nice question, a nice sentiment. Obviously you want to win your last game or play well in your last game.
This is not about me, but it would mean a lot if we won the game. I'll be happier to win the game for these guys. These are the guys that deserve to win the game.
I've played in a lot of games. I will feel good if and when we win. But I'll feel better at how hard these guys are going to play.
BRIAN JACKSON: Yeah, you know, both teams come into this planning to win the game. We obviously want to win this game. It would mean a lot to me, especially being my last college game.
I came here, Coach Aliotti, we were talking the other day about how he went and ate at a restaurant for the first and last time when he came for my visit. I've been here with him the whole time.
It's been a great ride for me. I want to come out here with a win, just something to help me remember this better by. I really enjoyed my time here. A win would be incredible.
Q. Ifo, Case McCoy is a different kind of quarterback. How would you describe his throwing style and how to defend him?
IFO EKPRE‑OLOMU: Definitely he can run. He's able to extend plays. They have great receivers that we're going to have to be able to cover and cover for a long time.
A quarterback that can scramble. They're able to extend plays and create stuff that normally wouldn't be there. Me, Terrance, Avery, Brian Jackson, we're all going to have to play great defense every play because they have a lot of great athletes. They have players that are able to spread the ball around and make things happen after the catch.
Q. Ifo, after having such a great year, what aspects of your game do you think you can still improve on?
IFO EKPRE‑OLOMU: Every day I look at improving my entire game. I never really have been to a point where I thought, Oh, I'm good enough here, I'm doing good enough at this spot. I feel like every day I come with the attitude of trying to get better and trying to improve in everything I do.
I mean, every day I want to be a better player than the day before. That's all I can really say.
Q. Derrick, we see Coach Al as this gregarious, out there, funny guy. What do you see behind the scenes that we don't see?
DERRICK MALONE: That's kind of hard.
He's hard on us when we're not doing things right. He expects a lot from us, everything like that. But he's also there to nurture us and show us love when it's needed. That's what I truly reflect upon him.
He's not going to let us fall short of our potential. He wants to maximize our potential and get the best out of each and every one of us, no matter if you're a scout team guy, special teams guy, defensive team guy. He wants you to reach your potential.
He'll get on you hard. When you do something great, he'll be the first to high‑five you and jump up and down with you in our huddles with you and show you love. Behind the scenes you don't really get to see that. That's really what I respect about him.
Q. Nick, as a guy who just made a very big decision, what would you tell Ifo about the decision that he had to make about the NFL? Do you think he's ready right now to play at that level?
COACH ALIOTTI: First of all, Ifo is ready to do whatever he wants to do. I respect that young man enough that whatever he chooses to do, I'm 100% behind it. Whether I stayed here or not, I would still be 100% behind Ifo because the young man has to do what's best for him and his family.
When it's all said and done, if you listen to him talk, he's pretty intelligent. He'll figure it out. I support him in whatever he chooses to do.
Q. Derrick, you go up against Marcus in practice. I don't know how much you guys hit the quarterback, probably not much. How good is he as a runner, and what does he bring to the field?
DERRICK MALONE: He's real good. Sometimes I sit back and just look. Marcus has the ball. He's running like a runningback, he's so fast, so elusive. He has so many weapons. He can run the ball, throw the ball, find open receivers, do it all.
It's always a challenge when we go against our offense. It's fun to try to chase him down, contain him in the pocket, stop all his weapons. He's a really great quarterback.
Q. Coach, win or lose, are you going to grab some turf from the Alamo Bowl or water out of the River Walk?
COACH ALIOTTI: I'm not sure yet. I know this: win or lose, I'm going to make sure I see all our seniors, everybody on defense, and tell them thanks for what a great ride they've given me. I'm hoping it ends in a win so we're all smiles. But so does Texas. They hope they end in a win so it's all smiles.
We'll see how that plays out at the end. The bottom line is I want to make sure I touch every one of my guys when the game is over and tell them thanks. I hope they all have a smile on their face when the game is over. That's what's important to me.