Sooners Looking Forward to Fiesta

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
DECEMBER 07, 2007
 December 7th Press Conference
 Video  Coach Stoops Press Conference
 Video  LB Curtis Lofton on Playing the Mountaineers
 Video  Auston English Previews West Virginia's Offense
 Video  Center Jon Cooper on OU's Running Game
 Video  QB Sam Bradford on OU's Success This Season
 Sooner Fiesta Bowl Central: OU vs. West Virginia
 Your one-stop destination for everything you need to know leading up to the Fiesta Bowl.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Head coach Bob Stoops reviewed Oklahoma's win over Missouri in the Big 12 Championship and looked ahead to the matchup with West Virginia during his press conference Friday in the Kerr McGee Stadium Club. The No. 3 Sooners face the No. 11 Mountaineers at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Wednesday, Dec. 2. OU will be making its fifth appearance in a BCS game in the last six seasons.
Juniors Jon Cooper and Curtis Lofton and sophomore Auston English also met with the media Friday. Transcriptions of Coach Stoops' weekly press conference and player interviews are available below, courtesy OU Athletics Media Relations.
  Head Coach Bob Stoops

Opening Comments:
“I haven’t had a chance to see the championship game against Missouri. My thoughts aren’t much different than after the game. I left immediately Sunday to go out recruiting and haven’t had a chance to go over it yet. I was obviously pleased with the overall play of our team. I thought we did a great job of taking care of the football with no turnovers with Sam (Bradford) passing, along with no fumbles. I was displeased with some of the penalties.

“I thought the play overall was excellent. Offensively, we had great balance and executed well both running the ball and throwing it. We really did a great job running it in the second half.

“Defensively, we played just an outstanding game. I thought Coach (Brent) Venables did an excellent job with his plan. Our guys executed and tackled well in space and pressured the quarterback, along with great coverage. We had big stops when we needed them and created big turnovers, which was huge.

“I think a big part of the game for us was scoring in the red zone. I thought our running game was particularly effective in the red zone. We were able to run the ball and score when we needed to. Also, our defense being able to hold them to field goals was another big part.

“Our kicking game was also outstanding, averaging over 40 yards punting the ball and Garrett Hartley was excellent. We were solid in our returns, so it was a solid day to win the Big 12 Championship against an awfully good football team in Missouri. They have done an excellent job and have had an excellent year.

“We are excited to be in the Fiesta Bowl playing West Virginia, who is another great football team. I think Coach (Rich) Rodriguez and his staff has done an amazing job over the last several years in playing the way they play. They play very hard and have some excellent athletes. It is a big challenge.”

On if he would like to see his team playing for a National Championship:
“Of course you are always wishing you were in the title game. It is about everyone’s opinion and there is a good reason for everyone. You can make a case for everyone to be in it, and you can make a case for everyone not to be in it. That is the way it goes. I am not going to sit here and complain about it.”

On his reaction to four coaches ranking Missouri ahead of Oklahoma in the Coach’s Poll:
“Well, it probably just doesn’t give our poll a whole lot of validation. I think it takes a little bit away. Whether there is a strong agenda there or they are not paying attention to what people have done, I don’t know. They would have to defend that.”

On his relationship with West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez:
“It is a good and positive one. They were out here a couple of years ago with their staff. There was a group of different staffs here, mostly offensive. They shared ideas and went thought some of what they do and how they do it. I know Kevin Wilson and some of our staff have close relationships with Rich and his staff. I have gotten to know Rich through that, and actually we traveled back together from Pittsburgh where I spoke at a coach’s clinic. He is a great guy. He is from the same area and I like the way he coaches, very aggressively. We seem to have similar styles in how we coach and prepare our players, I feel. He has done an excellent job.”

On what West Virginia does to have an effective run game:
“They use all of their players and they use their quarterback a great deal. They have great discipline in defending. Any time someone is really effective using the quarterback, then there is an extra guy that you have to account for. You have to find different ways to account him. They do a great job of using the quarterback in the run game, and that is a big part of it. Then they have great skill players. They are guys that even when you are in good position, they can make you miss them or outrun people. Again, they are creative in how they do run. They find ways to outnumber you or where they feel they have the advantage.”

On the defense stepping it up the last two games versus Oklahoma State and Missouri:
“We have played well a lot of games. You have 13 of them to go over and see how we have played in them. We haven’t had a lot of bad quarters. I think we played really well earlier in the year, too. There are times in the year where we feel we played in a really good way. Were we perfect? No. But were we better in some quarters than other, then yes. We have also felt we played well in a lot of other quarters throughout the year as well.”

If not having a playoff is an advantage in being able to work with younger players during this off time:
“Absolutely, that is a good point that hasn’t been brought up much. We get the opportunity to work with a lot of young guys and try to improve them even before spring ball, which makes a big difference.”

On if going to a playoff system would take away from the positive bowl experience for teams:
“It is a great experience for a lot of people, not just the student-athletes. Believe me, these guys haven’t had a weekend off since August. You don’t think they like going home this weekend or having Christmas break and being able to go home for five or six days before we meet up for the bowl? I think our administration and all of the people in the athletic department and academic advising offices get to go to the bowl game and enjoy the experience. They all look forward to that. They are great experiences. There are valid arguments why bowls are good and why people that go to them really enjoy them. The players really enjoy them. I understand clamoring for a playoff and why. There is a part of me that thinks it would be great, but there is still a part of me that thinks it would take away from a lot of what is really good for the individual school that goes to the bowl games, and the number of schools that get to go. It would sure limit the experience if those bowls were gone and we just had a playoff.” 

  Junior LB Curtis Lofton

On his reaction when he heard they would be playing West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl:
“I was pretty excited about the chance to play another team that was up for the National Championship. West Virginia is a great team. It is always great to go back to the Fiesta Bowl. It is a great venue. I love it down there and it is always a great time.”

On West Virginia:
“They are a great team. They have a great quarterback in Pat White and (Steve) Slaton is a great running back. They do some good things. We are looking forward to playing them.”

On the year that he has had:
“It has been a really great year. It’s been like a dream year for me. I think it is a testament to the system we have here and what it does for linebackers. It lets you come in and it makes us into great players. I think sitting out two years was good for me too. I learned a lot from those guys in front of me. It has just been a really good year.”

On the defense playing without Reggie Smith in the Fiesta Bowl:
“You know when we lost Auston (English) it was a big loss, but the other guys came in and took care of business. It will be that way with Reggie. It will be a big loss, but the others will have to step in and they will.”

On the way the game has changed for linebackers:
“With the spread offense becoming so popular it just means that linebackers have to be able to protect against both the run game and the passing game.”

On last year’s Fiesta Bowl loss:
“It will be a great feeling to be back there. It will be good to get out there and try to beat a great team, get the win and erase that memory.”

On the possibility of a shared National title:
“I don’t read into the BCS that much, it is a system and it works. We may not like it, but it is a system. I think we should definitely be considered as one of the top teams, but we controlled our destiny a few weeks ago when we didn’t take care of business.”

On playing a team that runs the ball the way West Virginia does:
“I compare the way they play to Texas A&M, the way they run so much.”

  Sophomore DE Auston English

On playing a team (West Virginia) that runs the ball a lot:
“Well they’re obviously a great team. Great players, explosive players that can break at any point. It’s going to be a complete defensive effort, just like it was against Missouri. It just puts that much more emphasis on us playing better. When you play an option team like that you just have to play assignment football. When everybody’s going their job you’re alright, but when you have guys doing too much or trying to take this or trying to take that, that’s when you start getting gashes in your defense.”

On redshirt freshman defensive end Jeremy Beal playing in the Big 12 Championship:
“It paid off big time having fresh little legs in there to go chase after him (Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel). You like to play a lot and you like to stay out there and fight through everything, but I’ll take a fresh set of legs anytime. I’m really excited about that now, especially since it’s the end of the season. I look forward to next season getting out there with him. He’s going to be great. He almost had two sacks in the same series. The guy is explosive and he’s showed signs of it the whole time. It’s really good to see him cut loose.”

On preparing to play again in the Big 12 Championship:
“After we beat Oklahoma State here, I got with the trainers and figured out how I was going to step it up every day, gradually progress and step it up every day. By the time I got to Thursday I felt pretty confident, took a few steps and I figured I’d be ready by game time. I’d say the only time I noticed (anything different in his game) it was cutting, turning, changing directions. A lot of their plays they liked to get out on the edge real quick it and it was hard to get out there. But for the most part I was happy to get out there. Definitely expect to be full capacity by the Fiesta Bowl.”

  Junior Center Jon Cooper

On how the approach of the offensive line has changed over the past couple weeks:
“It has really been the same. We have just had more of a running the ball mentality with Coach Wilson saying, ‘we are going to run it 50 times’ against Oklahoma State and then towards the end of the game with Missouri. When they tell us ‘hey we are going to run the ball, we are going to put the game on your shoulders’ it kind of gives us a confidence where we can go out there and really try to control the game.”

On when the offensive line began to feel confidence in the game against Missouri:
“We had confidence coming in after the Oklahoma State game and we had seen those guys before so we kind of knew what they were going to do. We had confidence going into it. Then we kind of got off to a rough start with a lot of penalties, kind of got behind the chains and then we had to throw the ball, but then we got back into running the ball and we got confidence with each run.”

On if they are going to keep the same mentality they have had the last two weeks as an offensive line:
“I think so. I think it works so we are going to keep trying to have that mentality as an offensive line throughout the whole month and during the bowl game.”

On going back to the Fiesta Bowl:
“I think it is a great time. It was a great venue to play at last year. I had a great time against a good Boise State team and we are looking forward to playing a great West Virginia team.”

On whether or not he has seen West Virginia play throughout the year:
“I have watched them play a couple times. I had their game against Pittsburg on my TIVO for some reason so I went back and watched that again.”

On the most fun he has had on a bowl trip:
“The games are the most fun for me. I also always like the thing where the teams come together and eat lunch too. I think that is a good deal and it’s always is fun.”

On whether he has thought about the Bedlam rivalry in Arizona:
“We had a chance to go watch the Insight Bowl last year with the Texas Tech game and that was a fun time. Hopefully we will get to go see them play too.”

On whether he would cheer for Oklahoma State:
“Yes I would. Zach Robinson is from Colorado and we have done a lot of things together. We are pretty good buddies.”

On the West Virginia defense:
“They run that 3-4 defense, and they have good front guys. They bring some different pressures too. They move well and their secondary guys are really fast, so they have got a great defense. They have held a bunch of different people to not so many points.”

On whether or not Sam Bradford’s awards are rewarding to the offensive line:
“I think it is really a testament to our whole team and how we have played this year and especially to Sam, how he has come along, and how he has stepped up when we really needed him to.”



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