Friday, January 2nd, 2009



Coach, you're up 14-0 right off the start.  Did they do anything differently?
"No, they really didn't.  No, they didn't.  They played in a fashion that we take a lot of pride in.  If anything, they ran a little bit less stuff than they've been running.

"I thought they executed incredibly well, both sides of the ball.  They were very simple, and it was a funny game.  That first half was funny, because you talk about, well, you're up 14 0.  Well, and it was funny for both sides.

"I mean, we marched down and score, and of course Darcel picks it and that gives us another seven.  But we hadn't really been stopping them, slowing them down some, but hadn't really been stopping them.

"And then, well, it was a strange game on both teams' part.  There was a series of over-corrections, I thought.  Both teams were trying to accomplish the same thing.  You know, both teams came in with relatively simple game plans.  Both teams set out to do very basic things.  And I know that  and we've already covered this in the previous press conference  a lot of times the media thinks that football's a series of tricks.  What happened to Vince Lombardi and execution and all that, it's execution more than it's a series of tricks.

"And so both sides, I thought, had very simple game plans.  And, you know, at key times Mississippi did a better job doing their job than we did.  At key times, Mississippi, responded.  There were pressure deals back and forth and this happened and that happened, and I thought they did a real good job responding.  And this is an incredibly high compliment to them, and it always gets follow up questions, because it just doesn't keep you guys riveted to your seats quite the way you'd like.

"But what they did a great job of is just doing their job, doing it over and over and over, play after play, after play.  Oh, well, this happened, well now I gotta do something.  No, no, they did their job, did their job, and we did that some.

"But I felt like in our case we had a series of over-corrections.  It's like (our) offense would get to rolling and then defense would overreact this way.  Defense would stop them, and then offense would go out there and frantically try to make too much happen.

"I thought in our case it was a bunch of over-corrections.  They had some and darn could should have, they had a touchdown threw into did you believe coverage and son of a gun the guy caught it.  I don't think they'll do it over and over again and play after play, but it worked out good that time.  And I think that both sides did that.  But I think they did a better job than we did staying composed at the key times of the game as momentum shifted."

Did you get their secondary to match up your receivers as well as they did today?
"They did and they didn't, I guess.  I think they did a lot of good things.  I think that I had a lot of respect for them.  You're talking about a team that beat Florida at Florida and lost to Alabama.  I kept saying two but it's four and at Alabama.

"They're an incredibly good football team.  And it's one of those things that you have to slice it pretty precisely in order to beat them.

"And I know that we had a lot of success this year.  If I had a nickel for every time somebody told me how easy it was going to be to beat Mississippi.  I never bought into that and I really don't think our players did.

"But when you're playing somebody as good as they are and they get you that day, you just gotta congratulate them.  There's all kinds of things I wish we would have done sharper or just simple things, do your job, step with this foot not that foot.  Put this hand there not there.  That type of stuff.

"That's what it came down to.  Simple basic elements I thought they did a very good job of."

Graham's 4th and 4 quarterback sneak could you take us through that call?  I don't know how much you paid attention to the defensive side, but seemed like you had a lot of missed tackles is that how you saw it?
"It's the ultimate doing your job the most important thing you do on defensive is tackle and offense is block.  There ain't nothing different about all that.  The 4th and 4 call we weren't on the same page.  He thought I wanted one thing and I thought I wanted another.

"And so miscommunication."

What did you want?  It's obvious...  
"I'm going to leave that one for the ages.  It's not one where either of us are proud of, I guarantee you."

Could you talk about Dexter McCluster and compare him to some of the players that you've seen in the Big 12 this year?
"Really impressive.  Reminds me of the running back at Oklahoma State who I think is really good.  They kind of look the same, operate the same.  They have, besides being real fast, they have some side to side and burst out of their cuts good.  I've always thought coming out of your cuts is more important than real speed.

"I mean, Wes Welker is making a lot of money proving that to people every day that coming out of your cuts is more important than speed.  Because he would be out of business if it was about speed.

"But that guy did both.  I thought he was very impressive.  He was better than I thought he'd be."

Coach, can you talk about the pressure that they got, the times they got in the backfield, even if they didn't make the sack, did they disrupt the flow?
"You know what I thought on that, and it kind of goes back to my doing your job thing, too.  What I thought on that was because there were times where we protected real well and flat out stoned them.  But the thing was there would be some key times, some key moment where Mississippi had to make something happen or needed a break, and then they'd find a way and they'd get there.

"And then somebody would break down or some guy would go through “my bad” this and all that crap.  Just played together consistently.  There's going to be pressure in the game and then play together consistently at those times, but the thing is just like you mentioned if you're as good and decorated as Mississippi's D line they're going to give you some problems, you know."

Back on that 4th and 4 play, what was the thinking, your thinking about going for it at that point?
"We weren't going to go for it, we were hoping to draw them off sides.  I didn't do a good job communicating it.  He thought something different and off we went.  It was a very bonehead play.  If I wanted a different result I have to communicate it better."

I know you guys have great respect for the Cotton Bowl, but do you think disappointment at all played a role for your players?  I mean this is a one loss team that wasn't in the BCS?
"I don't know.  If you asked me before the game I would say definitely no and I still lean toward definitely no.  But by the same token there's a lot of rhetoric on that and I don't know if somehow we were successfully brainwashed that direction.  I don't know why you would be.  I don't know why you would be.  They always make a production out of that.  I don't think so.  It's the Cotton Bowl.  This was a full stadium.

"This was Ole Miss who has some great players.  There's a whole bunch of -- they've got a bunch of players over there that you can recite their high school pedigree off the top of your head.

"And the thing is if we were that way, then we need to do a better job coaching, because that would mean we didn't reach them as coaches.  Because if you can't get excited about playing Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl, you shouldn't play football.  You should do something else.

"I would assume drop off a plane, just have a parachute, extreme skiing may be one.  How the hell can you not get excited about playing these jokers, you know?

"But I don't read articles.  I seldom read articles.  Did you hear so and so did this and that.  And I get a feeling where they're headed and where they're coming and a whole bunch of rhetoric about that.  I don't know, did we respond to some level of self fulfilling prophecy, I hope not.  But in this day and age with way too much information instead of too little, maybe not.  But as I go through my postmortem on how to improve and preparing for a Bowl; that's going to be certainly an issue I'll consider."


Jake, could you talk about the wild offense or McCluster preparing for quarterback.  Was it anything you'd seen before?
"We hadn't seen anything like that before.  We had seen something sort of like that.  But we prepared for it all week and we knew what was coming and we knew what to do, knew our assignments, knew what to do.  But some occasions maybe somebody was trying to do too much, I don't know what it was.  But some assignments were blown on that alignment.


Coach McNeill, give us your impressions of Ole Miss's offense, what they did to --
"We knew going into the game they're great going into any game we prepared for the Wild Rebel formation and that particular formation did not hurt us, if you notice that.  They caught the long pass, but I thought they did a good job preparing.  My hat goes off to Ole Miss.  I thought McCluster, we saw him on film and it was advertised.  Very quick, really good play maker.  I thought we did get some pressure on Snead, which I was pleased to see that.  The biggest disappointment was third down conversion for us.

"We had been one of the best third down defenses all year long, and we did not stop them in third down.  And you've got to give credit to them first.  But there's some things we could have done better, I could have done better.  Like coach said, when I start looking at it I'll see what we can do to make it particularly better.  We felt good about the game plan, really good practices the past two weeks, the week in Lubbock and the week in Dallas.  But my hat goes off to Ole Miss.

"I thought there was some things we could have done better as well."

All three players, you guys had a chance to pull off a 12 win season, could have extended your Bowl streak to three consecutive wins.  Just your thoughts on this loss and what went wrong.

"I think, first and foremost, we're disappointed like any team would be to play in a Bowl of this magnitude.  We were excited to play.  Like coach said, we had a good week of practice.  As far as being on the team and the mentality of me being around them all week, I really don't think we overlooked anything, and that we were disappointed in not going to the BCS or anything like that.

"We were ready to play.  They came out.  My hat's off to Ole Miss.  Their defense played well.  They ran around, did some good things.  But there's a couple key situations in the game where things didn't go our way and we didn't respond like we wanted to.

"But we're still a really good football team, and I think that obviously we wish it would have went a different way, but I know this team will rebound well and we'll be back for another go at it next year."

"Well, first, I think they did a good job executing especially in the second half better than we did.  And they made plays when they needed to.  Like coach said, we didn't get off the field in third downs, and like we said we were excited to play, you could tell by the way we came out.  We were excited to play.

"I think we let out the gas a little, let some things slip through the cracks and got a little unfocused.  But other than that they played a heck of a game.  And we were excited to be here.  We gave it our best shot and they came out victorious, though."

"Like Darcel said they converted a lot of their third downs that we needed to go our way, and they didn't.  It was a great place to play, a great Bowl.  But you've got to give them credit, too.  They did their jobs.  They made the right plays at the right time."