I guess our job is about preparation and repetition, and I’ve never had to make more opening statements in my life, so hopefully I get this one right.
We’re almost 24 hours within the game. It’s been an unbelievable experience. I want to thank the Rose Bowl people. It truly is a special game, and it’s been different than the other two Bowl games that we’ve been to, what they’ve done and how they’ve taken care of our team and just made this an unbelievable experience.
That’s the thing about, I think, going to Bowl games that sometimes goes unnoticed because all you see is the game itself, but I think what the people behind the scenes have done to make this experience for our players a memorable one, I just really want to thank them on behalf of the University of Oregon.
We’re excited to play the game. We’re not going to get over excited today because we’ve got one more day of preparation, and we’ll have a good practice today down at the Home Depot Center, but we’re fired up to kick it off tomorrow at 2:00.
With that I’ll open it up to questions.
What is the one aspect that you’re going to try to get your players to focus on for a game of this magnitude on the eve? You know, just to … all they have to do is do what they’ve done all year long. This game isn’t any more important to them in terms of their approach than the Oregon State game was or the Arizona game was. We were on a mission all year long, and for us the next game we play is the biggest game we’re going to be involved in.
I think sometimes during the season that’s difficult because they want to look down the road. But there’s no down the road; this is it. And what we’ve done to this point is give ourselves an opportunity to play one more time in the granddaddy of them all. So I think just try to keep them focused and stay on task. I never have to worry about our players in terms of their focus. They’re the most focused group that I’ve ever been around.
I’d imagine at this point you feel, especially tonight, that you’ve done all the preparation that you can up to this point. How do you relax and maybe not even think about tomorrow’s game, or do you? No, that’s not going to happen. We’ll be thinking about the game. You don’t sleep much, didn’t sleep much last night, won’t sleep much tonight. But I don’t sleep much anyway.
So much has been made of Ohio State’s defense, and your team has talked about speed this week on offense on your part. What’s going to be the real key for you on offense and execution to overcoming that defense? You know, I think the first quarter itself will be a feeling out process in terms of us actually getting an idea of what their scheme is going to be. Most of the time in league play, because of what we do offensively, what we see on tape isn’t what we get in the game, so there will be that first kind of feeling out process, them for us, us for them, and then just kind of settling down and getting into a rhythm. If we can get into a rhythm offensively, we feel like we’re pretty good.
I think for our guys it’s about starting to get some 1st downs. Obviously there will be some excitement early. It’s not about trying to knock somebody out in the first play because it’s going to be a battle. This thing is going to go down to the wire. It’s about playing within yourself and playing with emotion, not letting emotion play with you.
Do you think Ohio State’s defense can keep up with you, given your tempo and pace? Yeah, I do. I mean, I think it’s the best defense that we’re going to face, and we’re excited about that challenge. But they’ve all year long, I think I don’t know why they’re underrated. They have the fifth ranked defense in the country, and they’ve got on players on the outside that are very, very impressive, that front of Gibson, Heyward, Worthington and the linebackers, they can really run; they’re athletic, they’re big, they’re tall. It’s going to be a challenge. But that’s what you look forward to.
If you’re worried about your opponent … we respect all but we fear none.
You’re very good at staying in the moment and focusing on what’s next. At any point this week have you allowed yourself, holy cow, I’m going to coach the Rose Bowl moment? That’s a good way to say it. No, I mean, obviously when we got a chance to go, and I understand what this game is all about, it’s "The Game," and I talked to Kirk Herbstreit the other way, and Kirk said he thinks it hits you when you walk down the tunnel and you actually walk into that stadium and see the grass painted and see what it’s like. So maybe when we get up there today we have a luncheon today, so maybe when we have a chance to see the stadium and our players get a chance to take a team picture, we’ll understand it.
I want our players to savor the moment. That’s what it’s all about. They’ve earned this right now, and they’ve earned this opportunity, and they’re going to create memories, and I don’t want to have them so focused so they’re not even allowed to enjoy this. I think maybe just staying in the moment is enjoying the moment and not worrying about anything else.
But our players, if you watch us play, we have fun, our staff has fun, and this is what it’s all about. It’s not worrying about what’s next. And the good thing for us right now, there is no next. This is it; our season ends tomorrow.
If you had to identify one thing that maybe you were concerned about in a game like this right before the game starts or early on in that first stage, what is it? Sunlight. (Laughter.) See how that affects our players‘ eyes. We haven’t seen a lot of that in a little bit. We’ll get used to it. We’ll get a chance to practice in it a little bit today and actually how will the sun affect the ball, especially depending on when we kick off and where the sun is in the sky about 2:00 o’clock.
Following up on Ivan’s comment about the "holy cow," can you talk a little bit about your AA route and facing a coach who came from 1AA and climbing that ladder to be now at perhaps the pinnacle of college football? I do believe Oregon is the pinnacle of college football, so that’s a good point. But I never thought of that, and I’ve always learned that I think the big time is where you’re at. Enjoy what level you coach at. There’s great coaches at every single level, whether it’s high school, Division III, Division II, I-AA, I-A, the pros. I think if you worry about where you are or worry about where you’re going to be in a couple years, you have no idea.
I actually had no idea three years ago that I would be sitting in front of a press conference at the Rose Bowl as the head coach of the University of Oregon when we had lost in a playoff game at the University of New Hampshire when I was the offensive coordinator. I enjoy it. I have a lot of friends that are still there. A lot of them are coming out for the game and we’ll enjoy it together, and that’s about all it is.
But coaching at Oregon is no different than coaching at New Hampshire. I know they’ve got 11, we’ve got 11, we’re going to go kick it off and go see who can win.
It’s been just about four months since we had impromptu news conference in Eugene the day after the Boise State game, and to think from there to here, do you believe your team is the best comeback story in college football, and if so or if not, why? You know, I don’t really look at it as a comeback. I think Mark Twain once said, "The news of our death is greatly exaggerated." We lost 19 to 8 to the No. 6 team in the country that hasn’t lot a game in a long time. And I’ll say it again, and I’ll make sure I do say this, Chris Peterson and Boise State is an outstanding football team, and I think the one thing about that night that bothers me is that they got slighted and it was that we didn’t play well. We got beat by a really, really good team. And we also didn’t get beat 50 to 0. When everybody else reported that we were down and out, the only thing that happened to us, we had a really young football team that got thrown in the deep end, and we had to either swim or sink, and they’ve been swimming ever since.
The fact that Ohio State has had all Bowl season to prepare for your offense, would it have been more of an edge for you guys with what you do offensively if it had been one week during the season to get ready for you? You know, that’s a good question. I don’t have that answer. Sometimes you can talk about if you’ve got that much time, is there a layoff and there a rest factor, or if you have a too short a time that’s an age old question that will be debated. It happens in the Super Bowl when they have two weeks off or one week off, and I’m not smart enough to figure that out.
How concerned are you with Ohio State’s ability maybe to control the ball offensively and keep your offense on the sideline? Yeah, that’s a big concern. You know, part of time of possession is our defense getting them off the field. And I think just because we’re a quick strike offense doesn’t mean that our defense has to be on the field for an inordinate amount of time. That’s entirely up to us. We all control time of possession, so if we go down and score real fast, then our job on defense is get them off the field real fast. I think that’s what we’re both trying to do.
But that is a concern because if they’re holding the ball, that means they’re getting 1st downs and moving the ball. And our job first and foremost on defense is to stop them and play great defense and great scoring defense because that’s the key. The amount of yards that are picked up tomorrow mean nothing. At the end of the day it’s who’s on top of the scoreboard.
And I think our defense has been great at that, really kind of bowing their back. They played great red zone defense. I really believe we won in the Civil War because we were trading 7s for 3s, and when we got into the red zone we held them to field goals and we were scoring touchdowns, and that’s the difference. That’s the one thing about our defense that I think is kind of underrated is just what a great scoring defense they have been all year long, especially when we needed them to be.
Have you and your coaches talked at all about the idea that Ohio State has won so many of their games with Pryor throwing for 125 yards or less and therefore that idea that if you guys can get up early that it’s going to take them maybe out of the game? Has that been a discussion for you guys? No. We know, I think, first and foremost you have to stop their running game because they have two outstanding running backs and got a quarterback that can really hurt you in the running game. And obviously you just look at the statistics, and they’re a run first operation. But that’s part of how we kind of set our defensive game plan.
I don’t care who you’re playing; the notion of us getting up early, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing Ohio State or the University of Maine. Getting up early is really good.
We didn’t see LeGarrette Blount in a couple of games that he could have played and then he came on and really had an impact in the second half of the Civil War. How much will we see him tomorrow? You know, it literally will depend on the game. He’ll start off as our third running back behind LaMichael and Kenjon Barner. We’ll just see how the game plays itself out. But we don’t have anything scripted for him to get in at a certain time. We don’t have a set number of carries for any of our backs. We’ll see how it comes. If LaMichael were to get banged up, you may see a little bit more of him. But we’ve ridden No. 21 for the whole season, and we’re going to continue to do that. You’ll see L.G. tomorrow.

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