Tuesday, December 30th, 2003



Opening statement:

“I want to congratulate Coach Miles and Oklahoma State for the great year that they had. When you watch tape and study an opponent you learn a lot about them. The one thing I will say is they’re talented. They do a lot of things well. They’re an extremely well-coached football team offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. It’s a great challenge in front of us.

“I want to say thanks to Rick Baker and his staff, Fin Ewing and the entire Cotton Bowl family. This week has been fabulous. We’ve had a great deal of fun. Your hospitality is second to none. The SBC people, what a great sponsor you have. Everything here is done first class. The SMU facilities have been tremendous and we’ve had good work all week long. There’s still a lot to do but we’re looking forward to finishing the week out and as Fin said we finally get to play a football game on Friday.”

What it means for Ole Miss to play in the Cotton Bowl:

“I want our staff and players to experience this type of bowl game, this type of hospitality, this first class setting. Hopefully it makes them hungry to do this every year in the future. This is our fifth year there and we’ve had goals that we’re reaching more and more. This is something you can build on. We do have the opportunity to raise the bar and that’s something we intend to do.”

Does the extra week of preparation work to the advantage of the offense:

“I’ve coached in bowl games where we’ve had a hard time moving the ball. Most of that was because the defense was so darn good. It’s the make-up of the teams. I know there seems to be a trend that a lot of points have been scored in certain bowl games but it’s a long time off for the offenses. With timing and all those things sometimes you feel like the defense, in some ways, can be ahead of the offense much like early in the season.”

Importance of this game with regards to recruiting:

“We haven’t done a great deal in Texas. This certainly may open some doors for us. But playing in a bowl game the magnitude of the Cotton Bowl, the national exposure, all the things that come with it, will help our recruiting regardless of where we’re recruiting. That’s what the name of the game is in college football. We certainly intend to try and use this platform to improve our recruiting.”

On interaction between the two teams during the week and the incidents at other bowl games:

“I think it’s a shame that we’re seeing it. I can tell you this, at all of the functions our teams have had no problems. When you watch a team on tape you don’t see any of that type of behavior from Oklahoma State and certainly we don’t expect it from our players. I don’t anticipate it being an issue at all.”

On how you prepare yourself to be a head coach:

We’re all a product of our experiences and the people we’ve been around. As a long time assistant coach I worked for really quality head coaches and with a lot of quality assistants. I’ve taken a lot from all of the people I’ve been associated with. That’s where our background comes from. I knew I wanted to coach when I was in high school. I go back to my high school coach. I draw on years of talking with him, from experiences with him. I think we’re really just a product of our past. You take the good and the bad and try to apply the good. But nobody can quite prepare you for these jobs. There is still on the job learning that’s going to occur.”

On Eli Manning and the senior class:

“Eli has been a part of an outstanding group of fifth-year seniors that we recruited when we when we came in December of 1998. They’ve been program builders. It’s been important to them to make Ole Miss football better than it was when they got there and they’ve certainly done that. It’s been fun coaching a player that’s as dedicated and committed to the game as Eli is. It’s certainly a lot of fun to coach talented football players. We always remember those talented players but Eli carries it to another level and we’ll certainly miss him. A lot of what he’s done is a part of our program. He’s set a work ethic for those quarterbacks and the other players in the program that will follow and carry on. That’s what a leader should do.”

On being identified with the Manning family:

“I think it’s always good to have a run like that as a coach.”

On preparing for Rashaun Woods:

“What a playmaker. He just makes the play. We just need to minimize the damage of those plays he’s going to make. He’s a tremendous looking football player.”

Challenge of facing Oklahoma State runningbacks Tatum Bell and Vernand Morency:

“They’re both tremendous players. As the game goes on two backs of that caliber wear on a defense so it’s going to be extremely important from start to finish that we maintain our energy and our effort on defense because it’s going to be a challenge to stop them for four quarters.”

Are you concerned about how the layoff will affect your defense:

“There’s always a concern for a bowl game when you haven’t played in over a month how you’re going to play on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. We’ve had good quality full-speed work and we’ve had a lot of contact. You hope you’re as ready you can be. You never quite know. But you do know this. When you’re playing in a bowl game of this magnitude the opponent you’re playing is going to be outstanding and you’ll have to play your best game.

What kind of bounce do you get from winning a bowl game like this:

“I think it makes it a lot more fun to recruit. Certainly it’s a lot more fun for the players to be excited about their off-season conditioning program. We look at it as momentum. It’s the last game we’re going to play. We don’t get to do it again until next fall. It’s extremely important. It’s the position you want to be in and the opportunity you’ve been looking for so you make the most of it regardless of the outcome.”

What elements of the Oklahoma State offense concern you the most:

I think balance is our biggest concern. There’s no way to stop Oklahoma State’s offense. You just try to slow it down, minimize the big plays and their ability to run the football so well. Their ability to make big plays in the passing game is very difficult to defend. They have a lot of weapons to try to defend. You just try to slow them down.”

On this week’s experience in Dallas:

We had a hospital visit and that is a meaningful experience. You gain much more than you give. It’s been wonderful week and the hospitality has been first class.”