Saturday, January 1st, 2005


THE MODERATOR: Coach Franchione has joined us. Coach, would you give us your read on the game.

COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, I like the way we played this year in regard to taking care of the football. And you can't help a team like Tennessee by turning it over like we did. Three of them in the first I imagine 17, 18 minutes of the game. I'm not trying to take anything away from Tennessee's effort, they're a good team, deserve to be ranked where they are.

We moved the ball in the opening round, going back down to tie it. Turn it over in the red zone. Gosh, we got them stopped on the opening drive on third down. We're off sides. Give enemy another chance. They go down and score.

We had a great Aggie crowd today. We just couldn't get any momentum going to get the crowd into the game to help us. We really appreciate the crowd that was there.

Q. You talked about the turnovers. How did it change how you had to approach things when you got behind so fast?

COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, you know, you have to alter your game plan. Obviously, you can't be as patient as you would like to be.

Q. Did the turnovers really more than just take you out of the game plan, but alter the offensive continuity? Was everybody kind of tentative after the first couple turnovers from what you say?

COACH FRANCHIONE: I don't know if we were tentative. It did get us out of rhythm. When you don't have the ball very much, your defense is on the field, you get behind. It forces your game plan to alter a little bit.

We moved the ball decently at times. We just didn't hold on to it long enough to do what we needed to do. We had eight turnovers all year. You have five today. Go figure.

Q. Can you talk about your defensive effort today? It seemed like there were times when they came to the line of scrimmage, you guys were still jumping around, they snapped the ball quickly. Did they give you some problems with that?

COACH FRANCHIONE: I think we went into the game wanting to move around a little bit, just like their defense did. Sometimes you can get caught moving if they're on a quick cadence.

I don't think that had a great deal to do with the outcome of the game. I think they physically won the line of scrimmage, and that had more to do with it than that by far.

Q. Could you talk about the Tennessee game plan, especially early on. They seemed to really have a good game plan in terms of going after you guys on offense. Secondly, could you talk about the physical nature of their play on defense.

COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, we moved the ball right down the field on the opening drive. We got a little stymied after that. But, again, I believe the next drive or the one after that, we turn it over again in our end of the territory.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Tennessee's game plan or effort, but sometimes we met the enemy, and it was us as much as anything.

What was the second part?

Q. Physicalness of the game.

COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, I think we can look back at this season and we've come a long way in strength, being prepared to play the physical aspect of the game. But when you play a Top 20 team, I don't know if we're quite there yet. We need more time to get there.

We were way behind when we started two years ago. We made some giant strides. But I think the Texas game, the Oklahoma game, this game, those are games that we've got to continue to develop that strength to be able to control line of scrimmage better.

Q. Can you talk about Clausen's performance, what his ability to complete passes did to complement their running game?

COACH FRANCHIONE: I thought he played well. They kept us off balance. You know, they had too much success early in the game on first down. We got behind the chains. They didn't make any mistakes today. I mean, one of those days where if they made one, it didn't look like one anyway. We weren't good enough to make it into one.

Q. Dennis, you mentioned the strides you've made, but you still have more to do. Is speed also in that equation?

COACH FRANCHIONE: I think so. I don't know if it's as big in that equation as strength yet, but it's always part of the equation. Good football teams have lots of speed.

Q. Much is made of using a ballgame as a springboard to the spring and next season. How do you take it from this point now?

COACH FRANCHIONE: Oh, I think we're not going to sit around and tarnish completely what this team achieved this year. I don't think anybody planned on us being in the Cotton Bowl first week of September. You know, we don't feel good about the way today ended. You know, you live with the last game of your season probably a little longer than any other game.

But we'll learn some lessons from this game in regard to things that we need to do and certainly I think it will be lessons that we can take into the off season and build on them.

Q. Can you talk about your senior leadership, like that guy sitting to your right? Seemed like they picked it up when you needed them to pick it up, led you do a pretty good season this year.

COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, they really did. You know, this group coming together as a team like they did, that would not have happened without unselfish guys and the seniors, leadership council, the tone that they set for that to happen.

Geoff and Mike and Terrance and Keith and so many of these guys made major impacts on that. You don't have good seasons without leadership. You don't have good seasons without seniors that lead. We don't have very many, but they did a good job.

Q. What did you see Tennessee doing in the passing game early that at times looked like was confusing the secondary a little bit?

BYRON JONES: Well, first of all, I don't think what they were doing was confusing. I just think we weren't thinking, pass as much, we were probably concentrated on the run a little bit. I think it probably surprised us a little bit they came out and started throwing the ball.

Q. Coach, I know you're pleased with practice during the week. This was the first Bowl for so many players. Looking back, do you have any concerns about them being a little overwhelmed, distracted or anything by being the first experience?

COACH FRANCHIONE: You know, we'll certainly go back and analyze everything we did. We've had success with our plan before.

I can't say that I feel that way right now.

Q. Reggie, I see you have a pretty long face. They got after you today. Can you talk about what happened today and how you'll learn from that for next year?

REGGIE MCNEAL: Well, today, didn't execute. Had too many mistakes. We had, what, seven or eight turnovers all year, then come in here and we have five. I mean, so we just got to continue to make an emphasis on that at practice, I mean, just get bigger and stronger during the off season.

Q. Mike, can you talk about the battle up front with their offensive line and what you guys went through today?

MIKE MONTGOMERY: Well, up front, we was coached to play run first and pass second. What they was doing in the beginning was kind of threw us off, they were passing on the couple of first drives. Kind of had us off for a little bit. We wasn't thinking pass.

Q. Reggie, tough to get a running game going today. Did the fact that you guys got behind early obviously hurt, but how much what was Tennessee doing taking away your ability to run the football?

REGGIE MCNEAL: I mean, it was I mean, once we got down, we had to get back into the game. I mean, we didn't have I mean, we couldn't have came into the game just wanting to (inaudible) anyway. They had a good football team. We got into a situation where we had to throw a little bit more than what we usually do.

Q. Geoff, similar question on the defensive side. Were they doing anything that was confusing you at all or was it just a matter it seemed like they were getting a good push on a lot of the plays. Was it a matter of them pushing you back or something you weren't seeing?

GEOFF HANGARTNER: I don't think we were confused. We were prepared for everything they came with. We didn't obviously execute well enough to win the game.

Q. Geoff, can you talk about your senior year, how much different it is to end it in a Bowl game versus what you had to do the last couple of years?

GEOFF HANGARTNER: Yeah. It was nice to come to a Bowl game this year, but it's always probably going to be a sour feeling for me. I never envisioned my last game, you know, going out and playing in the Cotton Bowl and losing. I mean, I never even thought about that.

That will hurt a little bit, but I'm happy I got the opportunity to go to a Bowl game my senior year, for sure.

Q. Reggie, if you could, could you take us through the first two turnovers on the pitch. Was Courtney not where you thought he was? It was not a perfect pitch. On your fumble, what happened when your helmet kind of came off? How did that contribute to it?

REGGIE MCNEAL: Oh, well, on the pitch, I mean, I'm going to take responsibility for it. But, I mean, we usually on the same page. Me and Courtney. It's something that never happens, but it did.

On the other one, I mean, I just had to hold on to the ball and I didn't. We work that every day at practice. I mean, it's just something that didn't work for us today.

Q. A loss like this, is it going to be hard not to let this diminish what you guys accomplished this season as a whole?

REGGIE MCNEAL: No. I mean, it's just going to make us work harder in the off season. I mean, when we get back to this point next year, we don't want it to happen again.

It will stay on everybody's mind. You can't just sit there and dwell on it.

Q. Can you talk about their quarterback, what he did? You said you guys were really maybe thinking more about the run than the pass. Did he surprise you guys? Just talk about the way he played. That guy was a third string quarterback a month or so ago. Can you talk about his performance.

BYRON JONES: Well, first of all, he's a real good quarterback. He threw the ball really well today.

But if you look at what Tennessee did in the past 11 games, they were maybe running the ball better than they were passing the ball. They have two good runningbacks. We thought they were going to come out and use them. Unfortunately, they came out throwing the ball and kind of caught us off guard a little bit.

Q. Coach, when you have such success in limiting turnovers, are you able to attribute it to something, then when you don't have success, are you able to inversely attribute that? Do you understand what I'm saying?

COACH FRANCHIONE: I think so. That was a complex question (smiling).

Well, we've been good at taking care of the ball because we've worked very hard at it. I mean, it's a little hard to explain today because it's not been our characteristic, and we really haven't changed anything.

You know, I don't have a good answer for why they happened really because, you know, we had good practices. We continued to do the same things. It just was not our day in that area.

Q. Japhus, was their speed on offense as much as you guys have seen this year? Did their speed affect your tackling as a club? Seemed to be not as good as during the year.
JAPHUS BROWN: Looking at the offense, I think they were real fast. But as far as tackling, I think we could blame that on ourselves. I mean, we came out and missed a couple of tackles. I don't think their speed was the blame of that. But I think we just missed tackles. When you miss tackles, you lose ballgames.

I guess that's what happened today.