Friday, January 2nd, 2004



Opening Comments:

“Before I get started, I want to talk about our seniors which are the best group of young men in the country. They have done phenomenal things, not only all season but they’re entire career. What they have meant to Ole Miss and our program, they have raised the bar.”

“I also want to congratulate Oklahoma State on a great game that they played and the great program they have. They’re first class in every way. We couldn’t find a way to slow down Rashaun Woods. He’s certainly a great, great player but this was our day. As we have done all year long, we played physical. I think to play as physical as we did is what made the difference in the end.”

On Ole Miss’ last scoring drive:

“We felt confident offensively. We were taking the ball 97 yards on the previous score. We’d been moving the football with a good combination of running and throwing. Eli (Manning) did a good job of getting us into the right runs. Tremaine (Turner) and others did a good job of running the ball. I can’t say enough about our offensive line and how physical they were down the stretch.”

On how he will vote in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll since Southern California won the Rose Bowl:

“There are a lot of good football teams in the country every year. There are a lot of teams that are probably deserving of being called the best team in the country. I’m a big believer in the BCS. I think the system was worked better than anything we’ve done in the past. I’m just anxious to see how the whole season; how it’s going to end up. There are a lot of good football teams out there I believe in what we are doing with the BCS.”

On the drive in the fourth quarter:

“At that time we made the decision we were going to keep the clock running. We decided to run the football with the draw. We talked about along the sideline. We felt like they would pressure us; they really didn’t pressure us. Eli did a good job again. He can do a lot of things out there.”

On adjustments made at halftime:

“We made some adjustments offensively because of some of the rotations they were doing. From the secondary standpoint with their support system, we put a lot of it on Eli to do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. We did a lot more at the line of scrimmage in the second half. From the support standpoint defensively, we didn’t get perfect but we got better. The biggest thing as we did all season long is we challenged our football team to make a difference in the third quarter. We knew they were getting the ball first and I think the way we started in the third quarter was ultimately the most significant part of the game.”


On settling down after the first couple of drives:

“I think early we had a couple of guys open on the first play and then I threw behind those guys. But we finally got settled down. It takes a little while to get used to the speed of things; everybody running around, a lot of contact. After we got things settled, we didn’t stop ourselves anymore. We made plays and came back, made some big catches at the end and had a good game.”

On winning the game and getting the Offensive MVP award:

“Everything about this year has been great. The way it’s been, the way the seniors stepped up and really played well together. It’s been a team that’s been supportive of each other in every game. To come to the Cotton Bowl and have your last game with all of those guys and get out a win, that’s the most important thing going to a bowl game is to win it, is something I will always remember. It’s been a great run.”


“We knew coming into the season we were going to have a good football team. We knew we had the capability of it happening. We stuck to our business, we stuck to our plans. When you get into these situations (bowls), the worst thing you can do is change. Your kids aren’t used to doing that new stuff, and it creates problems.”

On raising the bar: “Once you get somewhere, you know your kids are going to want to come and do it again. If you’ve never been there, your kids never believe wholeheartedly they can get here. They had never experienced it. But we’ve got a taste of that honey. We’ll work this offseason and we’ll try to do it again. I hope we’ll have this opportunity again. Injuries play a big part in it, but our kids have been there now.”

On increased expectations for Ole Miss: “We want those kinds of expectations for our fans. We want those kinds of expectations for our fans and players.”

On final drive to run out the clock: “We were able to run the ball. Tremaine (Turner) had a big run. We kept the ball on the ground and kept the clock running. They used all of their timeouts, and that was critical.”

On the gameplan for Oklahoma State: “The best way to execute is to do the things you’ve done all year long. You bank a lot of reps. We only practiced 15 times for this game, even though we had a little more than a month. We were ourselves. And that’s critical in bowl games. We went into the game knowing they had an outstanding defense and great team speed. There are a lot of great defenses in the Big 12. But we play a lot of them in our conference. That just gives us a chance to go out and know we can do it.”


On his sack on Oklahoma State’s fourth-down play in the fourth quarter:

“They went into ‘backfield’ so we have a call called ‘wack it’. Everybody had to adjust. I heard the offensive tackle telling the guard he had me but the guard wasn’t paying attention. So I went in and ran through the gap. I got back there pretty fast.”

“I think it was very big. I heard their coach say that if they had made that first down they would have scored, and they think they would have won the game. That makes it a lot bigger than I was thinking it was. I was thinking it was another big play.”

On getting this win:

“It is very important. It was one of our goals we set for ourselves to get that 10th win. That’s a thing a lot of people don’t get to do. It was very important for the team. Everybody winded up playing hard and putting on the line.

On his day overall: “It was a pretty good day. I went out there and played my heart out. I knew it was going to be my last game playing for Ole Miss. Basically, I was raised with those boys (his teammates). They’re like my brothers. I knew it was going to be the last time I was going to play with them, so I went out there and played my hardest.”

On the accomplishments of this senior class: “It’s like a whole new era. We knew this was the last time we would play together. It was just a great season. We’re like brothers.”

On the whether he could tell Rashaun Woods was having a great day: “You’re rushing the passer and trying to get to the quarterback. Once he throws it, you might see him catch the ball. But you don’t see him making those moves. We had great coverage on him. We were right there on him, but he made big plays. Congratulations to him.”


On having Eli Manning as his quarterback:

“Eli is great. Eli does a great job of spreading the ball out. We just have to do our best to get open. You never know who’s going to get the ball. We just work hard at getting open and who knows who might get the ball.”

On the success in the passing game on third down:

That was one of our biggest focuses coming into the game. We knew we could make plays against their secondary and we really worked hard on completing our passes. Coach always puts a lot of emphasis on completing balls on third down, so we went out with the mindset of doing our jobs.

On why they thought they could make plays against the OSU defense:

We’ve been watching them on film since we knew we’d play them in the Cotton Bowl. We studied them hard and we saw them give up big plays against teams. We knew we could make plays against their secondary.

On if Eli checked off much in the game:

Coach did a great job in the press box of calling plays. He keyed in on what they were trying to do defensively and he did a great job of calling plays against their defense. Eli checked off a few times. If we were going to run it one way and there was one guy on the other side that they couldn’t block then he would check it to the other way. He did a great job of calling what he had to make the right play.

On this game being his last game at Ole Miss:

I kind of thought about it in the fourth quarter that this was my last time to play at Ole Miss. It’s a bit emotional, but I knew it had to come to an end.


On covering Rashaun Woods:

“That’s the way I play is physical. Both of us were being physical. He’s a good receiver. I was kind of pushing too much to give me room to make plays. Both of us were just being physical on the field.”


“I think I had a great game, one of the best games of my career.”

On charges that Ole Miss lacked a quality running game -- how this game changed that: “It made me feel good. I feel like there’s a light now for the younger guys to realize the job can be done once you put your heart in it, work and stay focused.”

On his individual performance today: “I knew the offensive line was behind me, they were helping me, they were going to get the job done. I told them, ‘I’m behind y’all. We’re going to do this together.’ É The offensive line was calling for me (when he was out for a few plays). They really made me feel good. That had a lot to do with the big run I had at the end because I knew if we got the first down we would win the game.”

Did his running help open up the passing game for Eli Manning: “I really don’t care much about that. We’re all a team. Eli is a great player. Everybody knows that. É We just want to do whatever we can do to help the team win. É We just wanted to come out and show we can be physical and get the job done running on the ground.”

On the offensive audible calls at the line:

“That’s just different play calling. Eli’s so smart. He recognizes the defense so well. He put us in position to run the best plays.”

On his play and the play of the Ole Miss running backs in this game:

“We just took it as a challenge. We knew they were going to be physical around the ball. We take pride in what we do so we wanted to be physical too and also come out and show them we could run the ball too.”


On stopping OSU’s running game:

We take stopping the run personally. If a team runs the ball on you, that means they are a better man than you. We stepped up to the challenge today. A lot of our young guys played great. Our safeties came up to give us help on the run. We penetrated and shut their run down.

On the play of the secondary on Rashaun Woods:

We asked those guys (the cornerbacks) to do a superhero’s job by going one-on-one with him. They were using max protection and using one-man routes with Woods. We asked them to do something you really shouldn’t ask defensive backs to do. They stepped up to the challenge like men and got the job done.

On shutting down OSU’s offense in the middle of the game:

“I think we upped the tempo. Everyone played a little harder. We saw they were trying to get on our edges. We penetrated into their backfield before they could get to our edges. We made some big plays and we fed off what our offense was doing.”


On shutting down OSU’s offense in the middle of the game:

“We knew we had to keep our eyes on our assignments. We played great assignment football and we made great tackles in the open field.”

On how they contained OSU’s running game:

“We came into the game concentrating on stopping the run. We knew if we could stop the run we could predict that they would pass the ball. We contained the football all day.”

On the play of Rashaun Woods:

“We watched film and came into the game knowing he’s a great receiver. We hoped we could stop him before he got started, but he had a great game. We felt like we covered him pretty well but he came up with some great receptions.”


“It feels good. Last year we went to a bowl game, but our season wasn’t as good as it should have been. This year, we only had three losses, and I think we should have won those three. É. A 10-win season is something that a lot of teams around the country can’t say they had. Of course, it raises the bar. Anything less than this next year and we’ll be disappointed.”

On Manning: “Eli is a great quarterback, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football. But I believe the challenge we have is to go out and show we can play without him.”

On his drops early in the game:

“I would turn around and (Eli) put the ball right on the money and I should have caught it. But that helped me today because I wanted to go out there and redeem myself. The other guys told me to get my mind right, and that was that.”

On his touchdown catch:

“It was a play we knew would go for a touchdown and I’m just glad they gave it to me. I needed it to redeem myself. It was a post route and Eli put the ball on the money and it was a touchdown.”

On the play of Eli Manning today:

“Eli played great. He’s a great quarterback with his know-how and his ability to audible at the line into the right play. He checked off a lot. Most of runs by Tremaine Turner were plays called by Eli.”


On the final drive to run out the clock:

“We just stayed focused. Sometimes teams get too comfortable out there and think the game’s over and then they make a mistake that changes the game. We just focused on finishing the game by getting first downs.”

On Ole Miss’ exploiting the middle of the field with the passing game:

“We watched film of them and saw they left the field open. It was good by Eli to check to the middle of the field.”


On covering Rashaun Woods of Oklahoma State:

“The first half they threw to him a little bit. And then in the second half, they kind of adjusted the way they were lining up. They kind of lined him up more toward the middle of the field. É They adjusted to get him in great position to make plays, and he made plays. I didn’t make the plays a lot of the time, but I think I did good. É He’s a tall receiver, and they were throwing the ball quick. I really couldn’t tell where the ball was thrown. All I could do was try to stay on him. He made plays He’s the best I’ve seen. I’ve played against a lot of great receivers He’s got great hands. I give him credit. He went out there and did the job, but we came out with the win. É I wasn’t frustrated. He was just making the plays.”