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December 30, 2014
MODERATOR:Â Coaches, if I could start, get an opening statement from you.Â Coach Freeze, we'll start with you.Â If you could make an opening statement on preparations, how your Bowl week experience has been this week and how it's compared to other trips that you've taken.
COACH FREEZE:Â Like we've said all along, to be part of the New Year's Six, and particularly at the Chick‑fil‑A Peach Bowl, is an honor for us to represent not only our conference but our great university and our great fans and administration.Â Working throughout the week with the great volunteers that we've had and throughout the week, it's just made the experience all it could be.Â I can't say enough about the volunteers and their attitudes and the willingness to help at every turn, and the events that they've had planned for our kids was as good as we've experienced anywhere.
So I'm honored again to lead our team against a wonderful TCU team.Â I've gotten to know Gary even more this week and continue to have great respect for him and even more after this week, just hearing his philosophy and the way he does things and sharing some time with him and his wife.
So it's going to be a great football game, a great challenge for us.Â But we're certainly honored to be in it.
MODERATOR:Â Coach Patterson, I know this is your first trip to Atlanta for a Bowl, and our first Big 12 team in the Bowl.Â What's the experience been like for you and your team this week?
COACH PATTERSON:Â First, I wanted to thank Gary and the Chick‑fil‑A Peach Bowl.Â Along with the sentiments that Hugh has, I think we feel the same way.Â The experience has been unbelievable.Â Our kids have had a great time.Â The facilities have been great to practice, all the things you want to give yourself an opportunity to be successful.Â My sentiments the same way.
Coach Freeze and I were talking last night at the Bobby Dodd Award just about how our philosophies and how we do things with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.Â I think that's one of the reasons why Ole Miss and TCU have risen to where they are.Â Simple reason that you have two coaches that want to be successful, but they also want their kids to be successful off the field.Â They want to graduate.Â They want to become somebody in life besides just a football player.
To be a part of this Bowl game, one of the Six, I think that's what your goal is every year is to make sure that you're one of the top 12, you're one of the top 12 schools, that you can be what you want to be and keep pushing for tomorrow.
One of the things that's hard when you play against friends is that it's too bad they don't let you win in ties.Â It's always about who wins and loses.Â I don't think there's going to be any losers tomorrow.Â Having been around their kids and our kids, I think both are class acts.Â They go about their business the right way, they play hard on the field.Â And just speaking for our university, our alumni base and everything else, we're very thankful to the Chick‑fil‑A Peach Bowl for allowing us to be here.
I have a little bit different philosophy than a lot of people, being at TCU and being outside the circle for many years.Â Of all the things that had to happen, to just get into a Rose Bowl where it had to be written in the bylaws that the Pac‑10 team had to play for the National Championship.Â You had to be the highest ranked team.Â You had to go undefeated, all the things you had to do to get yourself in that point and still I was sitting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Friday night before playing the ball game, knowing if Boise State won, we were going to go undefeated, and we wouldn't play.Â We'd be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, which would have been fine.Â For us, we always take a standpoint of understanding, we're very appreciative of the way we get treated, what we're trying to get accomplished, the way our kids should play and Gary and his group, it's been no different.
To get an opportunity to be at a Bowl game is so much easier and so much more enjoyable when you get a chance.Â When we sit in Ebenezer Church where half the pews were filled by Ole Miss people and our players and half were filled by TCU and for us to learn and acknowledge what Atlanta is all about, what Martin Luther King was all about, and this experience was all about was fantastic.
So we want to thank you.
MODERATOR:Â Thank you, coach.Â We'll open up for questions.
Q.Â Coach Patterson, the Ole Miss coaches and players have talked about your defense being an SEC style defense.Â Does that mean something to you?
COACH PATTERSON:Â Hopefully we played defense before we got here in other years.Â I took that as a compliment.Â Obviously they're big and physical and can run around.Â I don't think they can pay any different compliment.
You know I'm not a conference guy.Â I think there's good teams in conferences, there's bad teams in conferences.Â I take it as when that was said, it's we're one of the good SEC defenses so we represent the Big 12 and are honored to do that.Â Obviously, I thought that was a positive.
Q.Â For both coaches, there are always players that emerge in these Bowl practices, maybe that we haven't seen throughout the year, certainly that you're excited about not only for the Chick‑fil‑A Peach Bowl but for 2015 as well.Â Can you identify players who have stepped up or maybe units on your team you've been impressed with the last couple weeks.
COACH FREEZE:Â The first name that popped in my mind was Rod Taylor.Â Everyone knows we chose to go ahead and have surgery for Aaron Morris, our starting guard, and that's going to thrust Rod into a must‑play role as a freshman.Â And just I love the way he practices and he loves the game, plays it very, very hard and physical.Â He'll make his mistakes, I'm certain.Â But been really impressed with the Bowl practices with him.
I would also say also Quincy Adeboyejo.Â He's had really good prep in getting ready for this game.Â We're obviously going to need him to make some plays with the loss of Laquon and Vince.
Defensively, been really, really pleased with Christian Russell.Â I think he's a guy that can really help us with the things we're going to have to face and he's really, with the loss of his position coach, wasn't quite sure how that preparation would go, but Corey Battoon has stepped in and done a wonderful job in teaching our plan to those guys and think he's had a really, really solid prep also.
COACH PATTERSON:Â For us probably the running back position.Â B.J. Catalon, I chose to‑‑ after seven weeks worried about putting a guy back into a ball game of this magnitude.Â Just Aaron Green and the running back position, how they stepped up, and hopefully the way they do things.Â We'll have to be able to run the football against this group on defense even though a lot of people haven't had success to give yourself a chance to be even keel as far as your offense is concerned.
Offense in general, I thought that we did not play as much with an edge probably the last four, five ball games.Â Kansas State, I think the offense got back to that point of trying to get back to playing with an edge.Â I thought after we got through the first ‑‑ probably maybe after the Texas Tech game, I thought we've had to grind out ball games.Â And so really our whole push was to get back to a little bit up tempo, more speed, doing the things we need to do.
Defensively, really, guys have played well.Â Two of the guys probably made a difference for us has been our two line backers.Â Marcus Mallet was a guy who really hadn't played and has had a tremendous season as a senior.
Paul Dawson, a wide receiver out of high school, who has ended up being a Walter Camp All American.Â Without the plays they made, probably we wouldn't be where we are today.
We're fortunate to have two guys that have been three‑year starters at our punter and kicker.Â Outside that, we've been status quo.Â We haven't had any injuries getting to anything where somebody had to step up.Â So it's been a group that's kind of filtered all the way through and worked hard in the Bowl practices.Â They knew the kind of competition they had to play against here tomorrow.
Q.Â I'd like to ask both coaches, with the new Bowl selection process this year, leading to more, for lack of a better word, competitive matchups, have you been inclined to change the distribution of the snaps that people are getting in practice and going with your number one guys, whereas in past years, I know you used the Bowl practices to work with a lot of the younger guys.
COACH FREEZE:Â Prior to our break for the Christmas season, we had mixed practices, basically.Â We would have probably a 30‑minute period that was dedicated to prep for TCU, quite a bit of indo, and then the end of practice would be young kids solely.Â So we've kind of kept the same.
Once we got here, it was all TCU.Â So we've kind of had a mixture.Â Our schedule is set up pretty good for this, really, because we had seven practices before we left.Â So you're getting, even though it's split, you're still getting a good prep work for the game, at the same time getting‑‑ we had seven practices and we had a seven‑game series for our young kids and it was a lot of fun.
Of course, us coaches, we make sure it goes to the seventh game somehow, and it was fun to watch that and see those guys compete.Â Once we got here, it all turned solely to preparing for TCU.
COACH PATTERSON:Â For us, every year is different.Â This year, because we played until the 6th of December, different than either the Fiesta Bowl or the Rose Bowl, where we were done around Thanksgiving, where we had 40 some days.Â For us it wasn't so much the young guys.Â We just decided the ones that we would have, because you have to go practice.Â You have to be able to go recruit and do things.
Really, it's been about getting back good on good, trying to get our bodies back, get back in the weight room, get back to running a little bit because never at the end of the season are you in as good a shape as you were when you started.Â Our philosophy has always been to go back to the basics, get things ready to go.Â As you know, Gil, we don't practice during finals.Â And so our finals were later this week.Â It was the third week.Â So we had to wait through Sunday through Wednesday, until Thursday night before we could start back up.Â Just like coach, we got in seven or eight practices before we got here and then we've had three or four since when we end.
So everything's been basically towards Ole Miss, besides just going good on good against ourselves.
Q.Â Coach Patterson, what do you attribute the turnaround or major improvement on your offensive point production this year?
COACH PATTERSON:Â I think there's a lot of things.Â Number one, obviously, we changed coaches.Â A lot of people say, well, you just went out and hired guys that ran an offense.Â Head coaches, I think Coach Freeze is the same way.Â There was three or four points that I wanted to be able to hit because you don't want to bring in guys that are one‑hit wonders and they're gone.
So first off, I was looking for chemistry guys, two guys, because we'd always had great chemistry.Â I had to move two coaches around that would help me win a Rose Bowl and play in a Fiesta Bowl and have been with me for 14 years.Â This is one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.Â They had to be able to recruit Texas.Â Then they also had to have chemistry where they could come in and take the coaches we had in our room and make it work and it's been fantastic.
So I think chemistry, starting with the offensive group and having patience, because at the end of spring, we weren't very good.Â I talked to A&M when they put in the offense.Â They told me the same thing, they weren't very good at the end of spring about running this offense.Â So we have had patience.
I think, number one, the quarterback play.Â I think you have to look and see how he played a year ago.Â This offense fit him a lot better as far as what he tried, his reads, what he did in high school and how he did things.Â We've tried to go back and use some of the things he also was good at in our previous offense.Â Because both, you know, you take a guy like Rusty Burns that goes along with him, he's coached nine NFL quarterbacks.Â You have a guy who has unbelievable knowledge that's coaching part of our wide receivers.Â But you had the quarterback play.
Then you also had the offensive line step up.Â You got a guy back, Fabuluje, that was 6'5", 360, 370 pounds that you didn't have a year ago.Â We were probably the smallest offensive line in the Big 12.
Then Big V steps up.Â You have some guys stepping in place and all of sudden you become one of the biggest ones.Â Then we didn't feel like ‑‑ you could go back and look, and it's well documented, we didn't feel like we had a go‑to guy.Â All of a sudden you have a Josh Doctson who steps up.Â You have Kolby Listenbee, who was 10.17 in the Big 12 Meet, but he didn't ever catch the tough ball and he's been‑‑ this is one of the things he's transitioned into.Â He's become a better‑‑ he's been a better ball catcher.Â Just he wasn't the guy who did those kind of things.
So you put where you were a year ago, where you couldn't run the football‑‑ we've always had good running backs.Â B.J. hadn't played the last part of the year, but our offensive line, our wide receiver and quarterback play were marginal.Â So really, it took a new philosophy, took all three areas and I think that's how you go from being average to being very good at something.
They give coaches too much credit.Â I think Jimmy‑‑ still about the Jimmys and the Joes.Â So we'll let all of us believe that we become the magician, but there's a couple things that Trevone does that we can't teach.
Q.Â Hugh, kind of on that same line, obviously, number one, defense versus the number two offense.Â How do you feel your defense matches up against this offense?
COACH FREEZE:Â I've always, all year long, you guys that have covered us know that I have felt like our defense was good enough to keep us in every game that we've played.Â And if we took care of the football, played good on special teams, made some explosive plays when we had the chance to, would feel like we would have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.
The defense, I would think, I can't remember a time this year that I didn't feel like they played well enough, if we did those other things, that we wouldn't have a chance.Â So it's hard, you know, not to feel that way going into this game.Â I don't know that we've played a team that has the tempo and the athleticism at the skill positions, that combination that TCU does.Â I'm not quite sure we have faced that exact combination yet.Â So that will be a great challenge for us and when you're playing them, you can have a great call and look like you have everyone covered and all of a sudden it's an extended play by the quarterback and turns into an explosive play either with his legs or you can't match the coverage that long.Â So he presents‑‑ they present a lot of problems to you.
I think our defense is solid.Â I know we'll have a good plan and, hopefully, it turns out like the others have.Â If we do the other aspects, I think they'll be good enough to at least give us a chance to be in the game in the fourth quarter.
COACH PATTERSON:Â Let me answer it for him.Â They're really good.Â He's just being nice to me.Â They played against a guy at Alabama who's really good.Â He's just being nice, but they're really good.Â I'm just telling this.Â It's a positive for Ole Miss.Â They've got some great front people.
We're excited about it.Â I think when you play somebody like that, for us it's an unbelievable measuring stick.Â It's an unbelievable measuring stick to play against somebody the way Ole Miss plays defense going into next year because we get an opportunity, when we get done on New Year's Eve, of finding out where we sit and how good we have to become so we can get back here.
I think both him and I feel the same way.Â One of the things about playing as good a team as what you have here is you've got an opportunity to spring board yourself going forward to become what you want to become.Â So not speaking for Coach, because he's being nice to us, but they're really good.
COACH FREEZE:Â I should have answered his for him.Â That tempo offense.Â I don't know why I voted for tempo.Â I should have cried out against that stuff, man.
COACH PATTERSON:Â I'm still down deep a defensive guy.Â It's real close to being‑‑ it makes me not sleep at night.Â I just want to be honest with you.
MODERATOR:Â If you guys want, we wan try something different.Â You can answer each other's questions the rest of the way.
COACH PATTERSON:Â I promise you this is the only Bowl matchup where you'll have two coaches act like that.
COACH FREEZE:Â It has been‑‑ talking with Gary, it's been‑‑ I think we're both made somewhat of the same cloth in the fact that tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 or 12:37, whatever kickoff is, I want our kids and our staff to absolutely want to put a dagger in our opponent who happens to be a friend.Â He'll be the same way.Â I've seen him on the sideline.Â I don't know if there's many more intense during the three hours than he is.
But leading up to that point, I mean, this is a game and it is more about the quality of individuals that we're producing, and I think you've seen all week long the way our kids have interacted and our staffs have interacted, and it's the way it's supposed to be.Â We've had a lot of fun texting back and forth and all that will end tomorrow and we understand that.
But when it's over, we'll still have the friendship.Â We'll still have the respect for each other and each other's program.Â It makes the Bowl experience better for me when it's like that.
COACH PATTERSON:Â By the way, texting head coach to head coach is not an NCAA violation.Â I want you guys to know that.
Q.Â Hugh, how has the layoff affected intensity, if at all?Â And can you talk about the advantage a Bowl layoff brings in terms of preparation and study?
COACH FREEZE:Â We've had plenty of time to study, for sure.Â I don't know that there's anything else I want to go watch.Â I've had enough of that.Â I probably will, but I don't know why.Â I've seen everything that I think I can see and our staff has and I feel good about the plan.
As far as the layoff, I think our intensity has been good here.Â I've been pleased with that.Â I have a concern about just how the conditioning will be when we hit the field against a tempo team like these guys, particularly it's just hard to simulate that over and over again, and particularly the closer you get and we've had a Christmas break and you get here.Â You certainly want to have fresh legs when the game starts.
But the energy and the emotion that will be involved when it kicks off will no question have an impact early on with some fatigue issues probably.Â So we'll have to be smart, how we rotate our kids and I think everybody will regain that shortly into the game.
You're just never quite sure, are we doing everything we need to do to make sure physically they're the best they can be.Â But there's no way that five weeks ago and today, it's probably not the same because of the dynamics of a Bowl game.
Q.Â Coach Patterson, [inaudible] do you still feel your team is having a playoff type experience this week?
COACH PATTERSON:Â Oh, yeah.Â Number one, in my going on 18 years, I've been part of four inaugural Bowl games, where wings of hotels were just being opened up for the team at different places I've been.Â I promise you, I've never been to a bad one.Â This experience is as good as any you'd ever be part of.
For me, it's been really enjoyable coming East.Â I think coaches like new experiences, new tests.Â Obviously, we get both of those here in Atlanta and against Ole Miss.Â But yeah, everything that you want to be, the heart of college football, you know, the southeast is just like the state of Texas.Â It's very important.Â So you like being a part of all the experience that you do that.Â So I don't think there's been any less than anywhere else I've ever been and anything else I've been part of.
Gary and his group work great.Â I've rode up the elevator with the staff of the Chick‑fil‑A Peach Bowl at 10:30, 11:00 at night and they make sure they make the next day be highly enjoyable for us.Â So I know they're working very hard to make sure that all happens.Â Coaches, like all of us, we're just glad we finally got to this day because we're tired of being in charge of 250 college kids, from players to equipment people, everybody else and we want to get it to where finally the game's over with.Â And hopefully you get a chance to win and they get signed off to somebody else and can go home for Christmas vacation and New Year's and the rest of it.
It's been a great experience.Â Like Coach Freeze talked about, I think the Bowl experience is so much better when there's some humility to it and the groups get along, knowing how you've got to play on game day and both teams play like that.Â So it's been a great experience for me.
Q.Â Gary, I want to ask you about one of your former assistants, Justin Fuente, doing a good job at Memphis, rebuilding that program.Â What are your memories of him on your staff and your thoughts on his rebuilding job?
COACH PATTERSON:Â Justin was new to my staff.Â I chose him to be our offensive coordinator over a couple other guys because I thought he was a great listener.Â He was a guy that would come in the room, chemistry.Â Actually, when he first came to our place, he was a two‑back play action guy.Â Rusty was the one‑back read option guy.Â We had done it in play action.
So he's a great listener.Â He's a great leader.Â He's been taught well, and he knows how to roll his sleeves up and I think he and his staff at Memphis have done an unbelievable job recruiting, get the kids to play hard and do things you need to do.
Everybody, it's kind of like when I want to learn something on defense, I don't go to somewhere where they have better players.Â I go somewhere where they're doing more with less.Â And for me, I'd look at Justin Fuente as if I was an AD or I was a president and look at this is what he's done for Memphis, this is what he's trying to get accomplished.Â Not that I'm trying to get him to leave Memphis.Â I don't want the Memphis people to be mad at me.Â He is a high quality person that cares about kids and also a guy that knows how to roll up his sleeve.Â Anytime you get that combination, you put a good staff together and can recruit, you'll have an opportunity to build a program.Â I think they're on their way to doing that.
Very proud any time you get somebody that leaves‑‑ got a guy, David Bailiff, the same thing, went down to Rice, taking a program where they weren't winning very many ball games and is doing the same thing right now.Â Any time a guy leaves, you're always proud of what they do.
COACH FREEZE:Â We played Memphis.Â He's doing a phenomenal job.
Q.Â With where both of you have brought your programs, and Coach Freeze the journey you've been on the past couple years, how would you describe what the Peach Bowl does as far as validating the success you've had this year and the journey you've been on with your respective programs.
COACH FREEZE:Â To be here in year three of our journey, I think, is validation for us.Â You guys again that follow me know that I'm a big picture guy, and I don't make too much of one win or too much of one loss.Â I don't think I can afford to do that where we are.Â I just stay on the big picture.
And again, for us, in three years to have gone to three consecutive Bowl games, and this year being a New Year's Six Bowl, I think is validation enough that we're on the right track and we were very, very competitive.
Our resume, we had some hurtful losses, obviously and some difficult injuries and some adversity.Â But our kids overcame that.Â Beat two number one teams this year and I think four conference champions and four teams that had ten wins.
I couldn't be more pleased.Â I think I've said it this year.Â I think we're ahead of schedule and I think our kids will compete.Â But win/lose, I think validation has been made this year that we're on the right track.
COACH PATTERSON:Â Well, same thing.Â Before we even started in the Big 12 with all the new facilities, going into the Big 12 was already a win‑win situation for TCU to get inside the circle.Â Everybody else's job got easier.Â My job got harder.
I understood it.Â But to be honest with you, it's been awesome.Â You wouldn't want it any different.Â This is where you want to be.Â It gives you an opportunity to be greater access to get a chance to go play for a National Championship.Â And so to be honest with you, we probably had a couple teams back in '08 and '10 that probably were better than this team in some ways.Â They weren't thought of as such and playing in this league would have probably made a difference.
But for us getting back here in three years, having a chance to be co‑champions of the Big 12, probably just like Coach Freeze, in the state of Texas where you have a lot of people, the recruiting slogan was they wonwhen they played in leagues where they didn't have to play anybody, and then it was now they're in the Big 12 but they can't win and now you do.
So you just keep‑‑ which is one of the things I like to do, you just got to keep proving people wrong.Â So validation, I think our kids have gotten to that point.Â But the thing I think that we‑‑ I think as a university, as a program, I don't think we've touched the iceberg.Â We've only recruited to the Big 12 two years.Â So for us to be able to go forward and recruit and do things as we go forward, as we move down the road, I think, is going to be pivotal in how we do things.Â But I think we're going to just keep getting better players, guys that still want to get degrees and want to do things.
I think TCU has an opportunity to keep planning.Â We have 27 in our junior class.Â Seniors.Â So we're going to have a dip where we'll become a little younger probably here in two years.Â So we've got to be very‑‑ it's got to be very important how we recruited last year's class and this year's class then the following class to be able to make up for that class.Â Losing 27 seniors that have played as much, it's part of the freshman group that came in that we had two years ago that we had to play 17 true freshmen because different things had happened on our campus in our programs.
So we'll have to be very careful about that, but we're excited about what the road in front of us leads.Â We know it's tough.Â We know that we've got a lot of work to do.Â I don't know why you would want it any way else.Â Anything that's been great is always going to be difficult so we're going to keep rolling with it.
Q.Â This is for both you guys.Â The Ole Miss defense versus the TCU offense is getting all the headlines, but what about the other side of the ball?Â Freeze, if you would talk about their defense.Â Coach Patterson, if you would talk about Ole Miss's offense, I'd appreciate it.
COACH FREEZE:Â Gary's defenses have always been good and this is no exception.Â With the exception of one game this year, I think they've been as sound as any in the country.Â It's no mystery why they're good, because they're always in the right spot.Â They have a great understanding of what you're trying to do and trying to take your strengths away, and they play the game like it's supposed to be played with kind of a snot running out of their nose running to the ball.Â These guys are fanatical about chasing the ball and play physical and never sit still.Â They're going to create some difficult things for you up front because of all the movement that they give you.
He doesn't have to blitz much to get pressure, which is always an advantage when you can do that.Â His secondary tackles as well as any in the country I've seen.Â You don't get many missed tackles.Â He's got special players at certain positions, but it's overall the coach's philosophy of how we're going to play defense.Â They've done it year after year after year after year for years.Â People, when you talk about defense, even Dave, when I hired him at Arkansas State, want to go talk to TCU, want to go talk to TCU and see what they do.
So he's got‑‑ they may get overshadowed because of the numbers that the offense puts up.Â That doesn't mean anything negative toward their defense.Â They play with a chip on their shoulder and they're have a very talented unit.
COACH PATTERSON:Â Offensively, I'm glad that I've had time to do it.Â One of the things Coach Freeze does that's unbelievable with their offense is all the different tempos.Â Him and I were kidding last night, I had to pull off TV copies just to watch how they do the huddle, close to the line of scrimmage and do things just because it goes so quick you don't necessarily get it on game film.Â You have to be able to study all those kind of things.
You always worry about somebody that always coach and game plans like they have less.Â And they don't have less.Â But that's the guys I've always worried about.Â I've always worried about the guys that always come in feeling like‑‑ because that's the way I've always coached on defense.Â No matter what kind of players we've had, you always try to understand the only chance you've got is if you put the best game plan together and do things.Â That's what they've done.Â They throw the ball around.Â First it starts with the quarterback.Â I don't know if there's a tougher guy in college football that will play hurt, play with pain, and try to lead.Â And when he's on, he's really on.
The running backs, if you watch, it doesn't matter if you turn on LSU, Auburn or any other games you watch, they're 190, 200 pound backs but run like they're 220.Â You see a lot of missed tackles.Â You have to be careful about trying to tackle them high.Â They've got big wide receivers that go up.Â He's lost a couple very good players on the outside.
But the younger guys, the young man from Cedar Hill played for them.Â Then the guy that, you know, number 17 they call a tight end which is really not a tight end, and we won't treat him like one.Â Him and I were laughing.Â He said he's not any good.Â I said why is it I keep turning on the film, I see all the explosive plays and he's in three‑quarters of them.
So you just have to understand.Â And then always as head coach, it's the worst thing to watch 20 Bowl games because you watch a game like Memphis/BYU where there's nine fumbles so you're talking to your kids about ball security and stripping and doing all the things.
He creates problems because you have a lot of misdirection, you have a lot of play action.Â When you're going fast, then they've got reverses.Â And so your kids have got to be disciplined to play an Ole Miss team and I think that's why they've been successful in their first three years in the SEC is because they do all of the above.
Q.Â This will be for Hugh, but you're welcome to answer it too, Coach Patterson.Â Could you assess sort of Jaylen Walton's progress, especially this year, and you mentioned after the Egg Bowl that you had done a lot of things to the game plan, specifically, because you wanted him to have a big game and then, you know, with a couple of our play makers out, how important has he become?
COACH FREEZE:Â One of the things that I'm probably guilty of this year is I feel like we have several backs and I know that the rushing numbers this year were down and we get those questions all the time, why is that, why is that.Â Lot of us, we're playing some really good defensive fronts.Â And I know our offensive line has to get better and all those things.
We made just a decision, going into the last game, that he's our best option.Â Let's get the ball to 6 and we wanted to get him a certain number of touches and thought he ran extremely physical, made explosive plays, and we always knew he could and we believe the other can too.Â But we just made a decision that he's our most mature guy.Â He's had the most experience in our offense.Â He's good in the pass game.Â He's good in understanding protections.Â You'd like for him to be bigger in some of the protections and we've tried some of that.Â Just seemed like we just made a decision that, hey, this is going to be the guy that we kind of ride with for the large percentage of the game.
He produced really, really well.Â We'll do the same tomorrow.Â I don't know that it's been so much that he's done anything different.Â I think he's always been that way.Â It's probably us just making sure he got the number of touches that he got.
MODERATOR:Â Coach Patterson?
COACH PATTERSON:Â No comment.Â I agree with everything you said.
Q.Â Gary, as you said, you've proven a lot of things that you could do a lot of things that people said you couldn't.Â Checked off a lot of boxes.Â Do you feel like you still need to beat an SEC team?
COACH PATTERSON:Â I'm a different philosophy guy.Â I said this earlier, the team, just because they play in a conference, doesn't make them a good football team.Â Ole Miss is a good football team, no matter what conference they played in.Â For me, this is about playing Ole Miss.Â It's not about playing the SEC.
So I play in the Big 12, but we're going to represent the Big 12 tomorrow, but it's not about Big 12.Â It's about TCU.Â TCU is trying to get to a point where we can play for a national championship and so tomorrow is one of those ball games where both of us are playing a very good football team.Â One of the things about playing against them, they do play in a very good conference.Â They do play against unbelievable competition, especially on their side.Â And so we understand if we can play at that level and somehow we can score one more point, then we feel like that we're on the right direction of doing the things we need to do.
Obviously, watching some of the ball games was not very fired up about how a couple of them have turned out so far.Â It's still about, when it's in the grand scheme of things, it still comes back to that.Â Every year, that changes.Â Every year, it's a different senior group.Â Every year, there's different group sitting at the top.Â And so you have some very good football teams left in the Big 12 that are going to play.
But to me, this is‑‑ for me, it's about TCU and against Ole Miss.Â It's not against any of the above.Â We want to win because we think they're a very good football team, not because they're from the SEC.
Q.Â Hugh, on Friday, you had a couple guys with flu‑like symptoms.Â What's that situation like within the team now?
COACH FREEZE:Â Everybody practiced yesterday.Â Don't anticipate anybody‑‑ everybody looked well and moved around good.Â So anticipate everybody that is physically able to play to be ready to go.
Q.Â Coach Patterson, do you think people see you inside the circle now because you're here?
COACH PATTERSON:Â I don't know.
COACH FREEZE:Â I'll answer for him.Â Yes.Â He's one of the most respected coaches in the country.Â When the Coach of the Year ballots come out, he's always on every one of them, and I voted for him twice this year so he should give me a turnover or something tomorrow.
COACH PATTERSON:Â That was his text, just so you guys know.Â I voted for you so I deserve at least one take‑away.
COACH FREEZE:Â Now it's changing, but for years he has done more with less in quality of depth at least, maybe not the first 22, and I don't know the facilities and all of those things and budgetarily where he stacks up with the nation's top programs.Â But I know this.Â On the football field, they've stacked up fore years and will continue to do so.
I don't know how the media perceives it and he probably doesn't matter how he's perceived because he's confident in who he is and what he does and how he does it.Â I know in the coaching world, there's very few more respected than him.
COACH PATTERSON:Â I think that's ditto.Â Thank you.
Q.Â Hugh, Gary said he doesn't put much stock into the conference issue.Â How about you?Â I mean, is there some pride there?Â I'm curious within the context of the team.Â Is there some SEC patriotism going on during the Bowl season?
COACH FREEZE:Â I saw a few tweets yesterday from some of our players pulling for some of the other schools in our conference, which I'm fine with that.Â I am.Â We take great pride being in the Southeastern Conference.
At the end of the day, it's about Ole Miss first, playing a great TCU team.Â We do take conference pride also.Â It's something that I know our commissioner will be texting me tomorrow, and I know that that does matter in people's eyes that matter to me.Â I'm kind of mixed on it.Â It's Ole Miss first.Â But they'll certainly be part of it.Â Our kids, I don't know why it is, maybe it's bred into our conference, but they know we get a chance to represent the Southeastern Conference tomorrow also and that is something that matters to our kids, our program and to our conference.
MODERATOR:Â We'll wrap it up there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports