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Bob Stoops Press Conference
December 16, 2013

Oklahoma Football
Head Coach Bob Stoops
Sugar Bowl Preview Press Conference
December 16, 2013

Opening Statement:
“I guess I should go back through and recognize some of the play of our players against Oklahoma State. A lot happened for us to win like I had thought.

“First, I thought that special teams, we would have to make a play or two. There usually is a play or two made in that game that usually makes a difference. We made a couple of big ones with Jalen Saunders. We had a punt return for a touchdown and then the field goal that was a touchdown instead of three points. Then I really thought that Jed Barnett did a great job punting the ball. We had a couple downed inside the two. That was big. Then he kept the ball away from their guy, who is an excellent returner. I thought that was pretty big as well. The rest of it was very good.

“I also thought that possession downs would be big. We hold them to 2-of-14. So we stopped them 12 out of 14 times and especially the goal-line stand, the fourth-and-goal. Gabe Lynn has a huge, physical play on that to keep them out of the end zone. Again, I thought that was a big part of the game. We ran the ball at times pretty well. We still have about 10 minutes of possession time on them and again I thought that was a key to us having a chance to win.

“Defensively, I thought we really played well, obviously with all the third and fourth-down stops throughout the game. They get hot and go down the field at the end of the game throwing the football. Then we answer right back and go down the field throwing the football. I thought Blake Bell came in and did a great job on that drive. Jalen Saunders did a great job through the day. Blake Bell had a great game of course and I was proud of Trevor (Knight) and Kendal (Thompson), too.

“We go through three quarterbacks through the game and they all did a nice job. Kendal threw a nice corner route to Brannon (Green) that I believe led to a field goal… or it might have led to the touchdown. I’m just trying to remember the timing of the throw but those guys all did a great job supporting one another. Whoever is up, they just really did a good job. Sterling Shepard had a huge game and so did Jalen Saunders. Those guys were players of the game with Blake Bell. Defensively, Julian Wilson, Aaron Colvin, and Jordan Wade were our players of the game. Those guys had great, great games. Charles Tapper and Eric Striker also, up front, did a really good job. Michael Hunnicutt kicking the ball and Jed Barnett punting it, again I was really pleased with those guys throughout the game.

“Anyway, that puts us in position to be in the Sugar Bowl, playing a great Alabama team. It’s pretty obvious what they have been able to do to everyone over the last four or five years and this year even. They are the number one team in the country right to the last second of the regular season and deservedly so with the way they have played. You see talent everywhere. They have physical players. Coach Saban and his staff do a great job of coaching them. It will be a big challenge, but one that our players have earned and will be excited about. We will work hard here getting ready for that game.

“What we have done so far the last few days is we have really treated Saturday, Sunday and today like spring ball. We have been going against each other, trying to get more reps for some of the guys who have not played as much. Tuesday, tomorrow, we will just have a special teams practice and then Wednesday we will get in and start our game plan and that will give us about seven days before we give them a break for Christmas and we will meet back up and have a normal week of practice once we get to New Orleans. That’s kind of our schedule right now.”

On the special teams play this year:
“Jay (Boulware) has done a great job. I think it is like anything. Sometimes your guys hitting the ball are a little bit better and more experienced and in some years you get caught and you are not. We have always worked them really hard. A year ago, I think we led the league in kickoff coverage and we led the league in kickoff or punt return. Jay has come in and has a lot of experience with it and has done a good job with them. We all coach them and work them hard and again, the guys we have hitting the ball have done a really good job. The guys around them have been better through the year at what we are asking them to do.”

On if he will miss Mack Brown at Texas:
“I don’t know how to say I would miss… because there will be someone else there that you have to do the same thing against. You have to practice and work and get ready to compete against whoever is there, but you have to credit Mack for the consistent success for such a long period of time. I have great respect for how he has worked his program. He has always done it in a first-class way. He has always done it the right way. I appreciate that and respect that as a coach because I know how difficult it is. I think us that have to do it, have more of an appreciation every day for the challenges that he faces. He has done it in a remarkable way. He really has.”

On why so many of the games against Texas have been so lopsided:
“I don’t know. Certain games on certain days maybe you just get hot and you played well.”

On his relationship with Mack Brown:
“I don’t know how to characterize it. Mack and I have always had a very respectful and mutually respectful relationship. When you have to do the things that each other have to do, you appreciate and respect it because you know the challenges of it. I have always felt that way about Mack and I have always felt that he does a great job with it. We don’t, as coaches, have occasion to get together very much. He’s got his job and I am working mine, but anytime we have been around each other we have been very cordial and very friendly and very respectful of each other because I think we do really respect what each of us has to do.”

On if he ever thinks that the same situation could happen to him:
“No. I am looking ahead to Alabama. That’s plenty to look ahead at.”

On the fake punt at Alabama in 2003:
“I knew when I called it. I said, ‘this is it’. I really felt, we’re talking a 14-7 game and they had all the momentum. I felt the stadium closing in on us and I said let’s make something happen. I felt our percentage chance of it working was good. The way they were storming and rushing, they weren’t covering our wing, so I called it. Now that is one where if it didn’t work you all would be calling me a bunch of things. It worked fortunately and we got a bomb on the next play to silence the crowd and that was a major play. I thought it was the defining moment of the game.”

On calling “a bunch” of fakes this year:
“Not a bunch. You guys forget about the ones that don’t work. I tried the surprise onside kick at West Virginia and it goes nine and a half yards. What’s the knucklehead doing? When they don’t work, you don’t hear about them. People don’t talk about them very much. From game-to-game it’s always a little different. That Alabama one way back when, they are coming with everyone up the side and they are not acknowledging that this guy could be open. We took advantage of that. At different times the other night I thought we had a numbers advantage on that side. Not by much but we made it work for enough. They are always iffy. A ball could be tipped and something could happen. You feel your percentage chances are better than not working and you go with it when you need to. We have had some good plays for sure.”

On if you are more likely to call those types of trick plays when you are an underdog:
“No, I think it is more, what are your percentage chances? How do you feel with what you have dialed up compared to what they are doing? That’s more than anything.”

On what has made Alabama so successful the past five years:
“It’s hard to say one reason. They have recruited well and they have great talent. They obviously do a great job building their players and developing players as they are there. Nick Saban and his staff do a great job teaching and coaching. I’m not there to say exactly why, but that is an observation from afar.”

On taking his staff to Alabama:
“We have conferred on a few occasions. Not the whole staff, but part of us. I have been there and their staff was here maybe just a year ago, the defensive staff. Mostly, defensively we have shared and talked.”

On if he still uses the things he learned from Coach Saban and Alabama:
“Some you do, and some you don’t. Some things fit what you are doing and maybe the same for them. It’s not like you are doing everything they are doing. It’s just certain ideas fit and you can add to what you are already doing.”

On the quarterback position:
“That will be a game-time decision.”

On the confidence of Blake Bell and the health of Trevor Knight:
“I feel that Blake has always had confidence. You just watch his demeanor as he takes the field on the last drive. I was half smiling on the sideline watching him. I said look at him, he can’t wait to go. He gets out there and did fantastic. Trevor has practiced the last two days. He is moving around and doing well.”

On other players that will be returning from injury:
“Jordan Evans is back practicing at linebacker, yes. Those guys (Tyrus Thompson and Adam Shead) we don’t expect to be back.”

On Trevor Knight practicing:
“Yes. He practiced and he’s ready to go, 100 percent.”

On if the QB decision will be based on the offense run or performance in practice:
“A little bit of both probably.”

On if the decision will be made prior to the game or on game day:
“I would imagine that the decision would be made prior.”

On if switching to more four receiver sets gave them an advantage over Oklahoma State:
“It’s just like they got hot throwing it at the end on us. Was it any different than earlier? I don’t know how to say that. We got hot throwing it on them towards the end because we were in a situation where we had to and we did it well. It’s hard to say that that was an advantage. I don’t know that. I don’t know that they had worked that as much with the way we had played the last couple of weeks before.”

On if Alabama preparing for both offenses will be an advantage:
“A lot of that stuff we are doing on third downs anyway. So they will prepare for that and they have a lot of time to prepare for it.”

On if they're getting maximum value out of Jalen Saunders, like they got from Ryan Broyles:
“No doubt. Jalen has been a big play guy all year. He’s been very dangerous on punt returns for sure, and he’s made great plays on offense. He definitely is that type of player.”

On if they had Jalen Saunders on their radar when he was in high school:
“Not really. I don’t recall that he was.”

On if Alabama jumps off the screen in film study:
“Oh sure. Definitely. They’re physical and very disciplined. You appreciate that as a coach, watching great fundamentals and how they play their technique. They’re definitely a very talented team.”

On if he gets tired of hearing about carrying the banner for the Big 12:
“Not really. There’s always a lot of talk because there has to be because newspapers have to be filled and air time has to be filled. You have to talk about something, but we don’t concern ourselves with it. That’s their job to do. Our job is to get ready to play and to do the work we need to do.”

On what it would mean to recruiting to beat Alabama:
“Sure. Usually it does to some degree. Nobody is going to base their decision on any one game, but it never hurts.”

On what a win would mean for the program:
“Sure it always helps. How could it not? When you look at what Alabama has done all year and for the past four years. It’s definitely something that could boost you.”

On the senior class wanting to win to boost the program and its future:
“You love that kind of character that that matters to them. That is good to hear.”

On Gabe Ikard:
“Gabe Ikard has had a great career here on-and-off the field. He’s been a leader up front there and our quarterback at the line of scrimmage. You look at the person he is and everything he’s accomplished off the field and the leader he’s been and a student. He’s got a bright future for sure beyond football.”

On Ikard naming him one of his biggest influences:
“I think it is a good example of you can get the education you want if you work on it. Regardless of who you are. I speak for all coaches in today’s world. With the facilities and the investment and the support structure we have around our players, if you will use it, you will do well. You will succeed and earn your degree. Unfortunately, not everybody is that interested in it. We do all that we can. At Oklahoma, if you miss a certain number of classes, you are suspended so we back up that you are here to go to school first. Gabe is a guy that has really used it in the right way and a number of other guys have as well. Travis Lewis was here going to graduate school in his last year. Trey Millard has been in grad school. We have a lot of guys that really take advantage of the opportunity to get their education and we love it when they do. We all, universities around the country anymore, we have great support structure now that supports our athletes.”

On recruiting AJ McCarron who was leaning toward Oklahoma before choosing Alabama:
“I know we had had an offer to AJ and I guess before he made a commitment to Alabama or the day before he signed, I didn’t realize that (referencing the story that he was going to sign with OU until the night before signing day). We weren’t on the phone with him. I was surprised to read that as well. In the end he has chosen Alabama earlier in the year and we were continuing to recruit other guys. He was one of the three or four guys that we had offered,”

On if AJ McCarron is overlooked by the media:
“Well they won’t miss him when it comes to the NFL draft I’ll bet. I am not missing him. The guy is fabulous. He throws a great ball. He is very wise and intelligent in how he plays, how he throws and how he manages the game. He is a leader for their team and he makes very few mistakes. He throws the football well to great receivers. He is all you want in a quarterback.”

On CB Aaron Colvin:
“Aaron has been a major factor in our defensive improvement this year. He has played great. He had another huge game last week and on a turf toe. He has been fighting through that the last couple of weeks and he really did a great job. His return this year has really helped him in his draft prospects. I know that everyone that has been coming through here has been paying special attention to him so hopefully that happens for him. I believe that it will.  I think it has really improved his position.”

On offensive linemen Derek Farniok and Nila Kasitati:
“Nila continues to come on and we really feel good about the way that he is playing and Derek has done a good job. He can be better, but he hasn’t played much. He is young and he is just going to keep getting better. He’s practicing hard and he will just keep improving.”

On if there have been any young guys standing out in practice:
“There have been some, but I am not going to talk about them right in the middle of recruiting. As soon as somebody hears that, ‘Yeah, he was just bragging about this guy and he’s freshman and you play the same position’. It doesn’t do me any good to brag about guys today, but I will at some point down the line. We have seen some very exciting things the last couple of days from some guys.”

On Aaron Colvin’s health:
“Aaron is getting better. He was on crutches leaving the Oklahoma State game. He is better every day and we are resting him until probably later this week when we start our usual (schedule) before break we will have a usual Monday through Thursday game week in our preparation and we will start him them. He is getting better and hopefully he will be at full speed for the game.”

On if sitting out helped quarterbacks Blake Bell and Trevor Knight:
“Probably a little bit. All cases are different. Defenses are different and the people you are playing are different. From game-to-game it is going to be a little bit different in execution and how the other team is performing, but I think you are right in that even in the last few games, when you get your chance again you might see things a little bit better. I think you become more accustomed to the situation even though you are not always out there. They are experiencing it on the sideline. They are at the game and they hear the calls so they are still participating in a way.”

On the change in perception of the program with three straight wins since the Baylor loss:
“For you and the perception that you guys orchestrate (it is different). For us, everything is the same. We didn’t change, we didn’t do something different and we didn’t change how we practice. That’s what I meant about riding the wave. We do the same things daily, monthly and yearly in how we continually work our program. The guys in the locker room and the coaches? We never lost faith. We felt that we could finish the year strong. There were some areas, whether it is inexperience or injuries, sometimes we didn’t manage them, as well. As things went on, we started to manage them in a better way. That’s going to happen from time-to-time. That’s for you guys to paint the picture and it changes from week-to-week. Our picture doesn’t change.”

On if he feels better about that process after the last two wins:
“Sure. In the end does it change how we operate and what we do and our mindset with the team? No.”

On if he likes to be the underdog:
“No. I would rather be a 28-point favorite every week like we have been in some years. Those aren’t all that bad, either.”

On the NFL draft process and if any juniors might consider coming out:
“They will be working that process this month and into February.  We have filed paperwork for several guys.”

On how Nick Saban has evolved as a coach since he played him in the 2004 Sugar Bowl:
“I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I would imagine he is the same in how he approaches things and how he works and game-plans and goes about his method. You’d have to ask him.”

On if he is “very good friends” with Nick Saban:
“He is a very good friend and has been for a long time. People don’t realize that back in his days as an assistant at Michigan State he actually, at the time, recruited Mike (Stoops), maybe. Then he may have recruited Mark (Stoops) to a certain degree. Then at the time he would travel through our school and my Dad being an assistant would be at the school a lot of course and my Dad got to know Coach Saban really well. There was a time or two, maybe Mark’s senior year playing up at Michigan State, Coach Saban and his wife Terry invite my mother and my father and whoever is with them to their home after the game. From there, when Coach Saban was at the Browns, I remember my uncle and I going up there to watch them practice and study their defense and what they were doing. That’s a long time ago so he has always been very good to me and my family and my dad and my uncle and my uncle Bob was a coach, as well. Allowing us to be around and study what they were doing and for him to invite them to his place, that’s where it all started and as we’ve been at coaches conventions or call each other to trade ideas, we have done that. Through the years it has become that.”

On Coach Saban’s likeability:
“I don’t know how people respond to him and again, I don’t know why someone would not like someone that they don’t really know. I guess it is just because they just win all the time or win so much. That happens. I’m sure that Nick could live with that if people don’t like him but don’t know him all because he wins o much. When you are in that kind of situation you don’t worry about it. In the end he is a great family man and you can’t deny or look past the way he has worked and developed that program and the success that he has had. The people that do know him I think do like him.”

On if that relationship and his winning ways makes him prefer he not take the Texas job:
“It doesn’t matter. Someone is going to be good down there so you have to go compete against them.”

On if Saban ever gave him advice about coaching in the NFL:
“Not really.”

On if Steve Spurrier ever gave him advice about coaching in the NFL:
“Coach isn’t much on giving out advice. Unless it’s about my golf game.”

On if would expect Texas to give him a call about the job:
“No, I wouldn’t expect that.”

On what he would say if they did call:
“Let’s not go there. No sense in going to that question.”

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