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December 31, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Coach Frost, if you could just give us an opening statement and maybe talk about how your Bowl Week experience has been so far and how it's maybe compared with other bowl trips that you've had.
SCOTT FROST: It's been a tremendous experience for me, for our football team. We're delighted and honored to be here. Some of the things that we've gotten to do as a team this year are special, and this Bowl game ranks right up there with them.
Really thought the deal at the church with the guys, the civil rights leaders that got to speak to our team was a great experience for our guys. They are having a great time in Atlanta and we're grateful to be here.
GUS MALZAHN: First of all, just like to thank Gary and his staff. It's been an excellent Bowl experience for us. I know our kids have really enjoyed it. It's been a great balance of things to do in the evening, some competitive things that the kids always like, and then at the same time our meetings in the morning and practice has been very good.
So it's been a very good Bowl experience. I know it's just right down the road from us. We come to Atlanta quite a bit. It's just a real special experience and hats off to Chick-Fil-A.
Q. Has any part of this experience been bittersweet for you because you so enjoy spending time with your players, but win or lose tomorrow, you're going to say good-bye to them one more time?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, we said our good-bye once. This has been a really great experience, this Bowl game, to spend some more time around them and be around them one more time. It will be bittersweet tomorrow. This certainly isn't an ideal situation for the players or for me or for my staff, but we all care about each other, and I don't know what the alternative would have been.
So we're doing the best we can and the guys have prepared well, and it's been an honor to be around them one more time.
Q. Can you update us on the status of Carlton Davis for this game, and also, his status with your program moving forward?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, Carlton Davis will not play in our Bowl. He had an illness earlier in the week. Has not gotten better. Went home yesterday. Just felt like he would be better off there with the illness he has.
As far as coming back next year, with all those guys that are considering or trying to get their draft grade status, we'll talk about that after the Bowl game.
Q. You did it as a quarterback at Nebraska, 13-0; how difficult is that road and what would it mean for to you do it as a coach if you can win tomorrow?
SCOTT FROST: Well, it's hard to go undefeated. It's hard to have an undefeated regular season, much less win a Championship Game or a Bowl game.
I was with Coach Malzahn last night, and we talked about it, a game we were both coaching in, where Auburn was undefeated and Oregon was undefeated and only one could come out of that, and they kicked a field goal at the end to beat us. They were undefeated that year.
There's not very many teams in the country that can run the table. I'm so proud and happy for our players that they were able to do that this year. And you know, this game, like I said, it's an honor to be here. We're playing a really good football team. I know our guys are going to battle. They are fighters and they are looking forward to it. But win or lose in this game, this is a special group of guys and it was a special season.
Q. Can you discuss what the impact of Jarrett Stidham has been on your program this season in?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, Jarrett, first of all, he's a great leader. He came in this spring. He really won his teammates' respect early. I think that's really critical for a successful quarterback. Won the starting job. You saw him getting better and better throughout the year. He was an experienced guy when he first got here and was really playing his best ball towards the end of the year when we played some of the best opponents. He's in a good spot leading our team, and I've got a lot of respect for him as well as his teammates do too.
Q. Can you think back to when you took over at UCF when you were taking over the 0-12 team, what did you have to do to sort of build the team back up from that and juxtapose that atmosphere to what you're seeing now?
SCOTT FROST: Seems like a lifetime ago. You know, I said this a bunch. First thing we had to do was get them to enjoy playing football again and to believe again.
But we had a lot of guys with fight in them, and when I met with them, they all thought the team should have been a lot better than what it was, and they thought they could accomplish a lot. And I think that spirit, a little bit of chip on their shoulder, and the confidence that they could prove that they were a better team than what that record had indicated, I think that drive is a lot of what got us to where we are. Because without that motivation, I don't know if they would have bought in as fast to what we wanted them to do. I don't know if they would have come together as a team quite as well.
But talking to the players this week, it's light years from where it was then, and I love where the program is right now and where the team is, and I look forward to watching them win a lot going forward.
Q. Just wondering, what are some of the messages you've been hammering home to this football team since you've been here in Atlanta as the game draws near.
SCOTT FROST: Well, we always prepare the same way, and our kids understand that good preparation leads to good play. By the time you get to the game, the game is pretty much already played, depending on how prepared you are.
You know, this is going to be a tough game. These guys are really good at every position; exceptionally good on the front lines on both sides of the football. So we have to be ready to be physical.
I know our kids and our kids have a lot of fight in them and I think they are excited to play.
Q. You talked towards the end of season about how you thought the team had started to play championship-level football and the type of momentum that you had built throughout the season. In a Bowl game like this, where you have the gap in between games, when you have the sorts of things that have happened in that meantime, what's the key to kind of helping these guys refocus and recapture the type of play, the type of focus that they have that led to 12-0, and the type of play that you had towards the end of the season, especially.
SCOTT FROST: Well, that's always a challenge. It's a challenge for us. It's a challenge for everybody playing in a Bowl game. You try to manage your schedule in between the last game and the Bowl as well as you can.
We certainly prepared well. But there are a lot of circumstances surroundings the game, and when you watch the Bowl games, a lot of teams that had coaching changes and other unusual circumstances, they are not faring very well.
Bowl games are about match-ups more than anything, and depending on what kind of match-up you get and probably just as much about who is motivated to be there and who is not. Hopefully, our guys are excited to play. I think they are. We'll see how the match-up goes with Auburn. They are a really good team.
But I know our players, like I said, are prepared well and excited to play football.
Q. With the seniors in key positions in this Bowl game, what type of leadership and excitement have you seen in those seniors going into this week and this game?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, seniors going into Bowl games, I think, are very important with the motivation that goes with each team and all that. They usually set the tone.
Sometimes you see these Bowl games, this day and time, that groups are already kind of looking ahead, but our seniors are locked in. We weren't happy the way we finished the last game, matter of fact, in the same stadium. After we got back and after all the hurt and everything was over, they rolled up their sleeves and said we need to win this Bowl game. This will be our 11th win if we do get a victory, which we've only done six times in school history.
So they started talking about that and the future, not just this game, but if we were able to win, to give us momentum for the future. And I think we're in a great spot for the future. This group has really set the foundation. You know, we're playing a very good team, one of the best teams in college football, the only undefeated team.
Got a lot of respect for their players, their coaches, and Coach Frost. I've got a lot of respect for him from the standpoint that, you know, he's taken another job, but he chose to do the right thing, and he chose to be there for his team. And I think that's a great example for coaches in the future. You see college football changing and all the job changing and all that, but very impressed with him.
Our seniors have done a super job, and I believe they will be ready, and they need to be, because we are playing a very good team.
Q. What's the payoff going to be for you personally for putting yourself through this month? How is it going to shape you as a coach?
SCOTT FROST: You know, through this process, it's tough. It was tough during the end of the season. It was tough when I told the team. It was tough trying to balance a couple things.
I think the payoff has been being around these guys for one more week. Through all that, you know, we tried to make every decision in a way that we were doing the right thing; not the selfish thing, not the thing that was easiest for us, but what the right thing was.
It's certainly not ideal to be wearing two hats and to be flying back and forth to two places, and those things are hard. But the right thing to do was to be here and try to help these kids as much as we could, and hopefully us being here helps a little bit.
But I just don't know what the alternative would have been. I think the payoff for all of that is going to be that, this Bowl week, and being able to spend a little bit of extra time with the UCF family and this football team. They are people that are going to be special to me for the rest of my life, so that's probably the best part of this whole thing.
Q. Without Carlton, can you address what the plan is at corner in there's lots of players with reps but I believe we saw Javaris in a non-contact jersey. What's the plan without Carlton?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, of course, like we've done in similar rotations when we hadn't been in. We do have some depth. Javaris is one guy that has experience. He's healthy. Matter of fact, all of our other guys will be ready to go. That's a good thing. This rest has been very good to heal some of those guys up that were banged up in the last game.
I mean, obviously Carlton is a great player. He's done a super job for us this year. Any time you lose a player like that, you know -- but the good thing is we do have some depth on the back end. We've got some experience on the back end. But Carlton's had a big-time year.
Q. There's going to be a lot of college football fans tomorrow who are seeing your team for the first time this season, checking in to see the only undefeated team. What team do you hope that fans see tomorrow and what kind of team do you hope kind of takes the field and reveals itself?
SCOTT FROST: I hope it's a football team (Laughter).
I think a lot of people have seen us play this year. We played two really good teams at the end of the year and had two unbelievable games against USF and Memphis. I think a lot of people got to see that.
I know a lot of folks are going to tune in and see this one. We have a big challenge ahead of us. Like I said, these guys are as good as we've seen at almost every position on the field. So our players know they have a challenge. They are excited for it.
But I know when people tune in, they are going to see a group of guys that love being around each other and play for each other. And as long as I'm coaching, that's the type of team I want to have.
Q. With the early signing period, how much did that impact your preparation for this game? I know it's past the three-day period, but did it feel like it had a big impact on how you prepared for this game?
GUS MALZAHN: I know for us, it was different. There's no doubt. We're trying to recruit as we're preparing for the SEC Championship Game, and, of course, then trying to finish that up. It was different. It was challenging. Then, of course, once we got into Bowl prep and all that, early on, we were really focused on our young guys developing, and we did a little bit on Central Florida.
So it wasn't as big a deal as far as preparation but just the newness of it and playing a Championship Game, that was a challenge.
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, I think it was a challenge in my situation, even moving to another university, another institution, and trying to balance all that out was tough.
But like I said before to you guys, we use the same formula that we've used at Oregon and Nebraska and other places I've been when we've played in these New Year's Day Bowls. It's tough to balance recruiting with preparation, but we had the same number of practices to get ready for this that we did at Oregon when we were getting ready for a Fiesta Bowl or a Rose Bowl. So it was tough to balance all that, but we definitely didn't sacrifice the preparation.
Q. We hear Scott Frost talk about Bowl games are all about match-ups. After seeing film, studying film, what are your thoughts on UCF and match-up that you have with them tomorrow?
GUS MALZAHN: Well, you can turn the film on, and it doesn't take you long. You can see they are a very good team. Offensively, very impressed. A great scheme. It really matches their personnel. They have a lot of speed on offense. Defensively, they play extremely hard. They have got some impact players.
They are a very good football team, so that's what happens. I mean, you don't get to a Bowl like this unless you're really good, and probably one of the things that really stands out to me about them, too, is they won some close games. They find ways to win close games, and you know, that's a trait of a very good football team.
Q. Coach Frost, you talked about how turnover margin is the most important stat in football. Just talk about the significance and how much emphasis both coaches are putting on the turnover battle in this game?
SCOTT FROST: Well, turnovers are always the biggest stat in football. We've been really good at that this season. This game is going to be the same way. We can't turn it over to these guys. We have too big of a challenge on our hands, anyway. We don't need to give them any extra short fields or points.
Listen, our guys need to be ready. They are playing a bigger group than we've probably played all year, and this group probably hits harder than any team we've played all year. We have small, fast guys, and they have big, fast guys, so our guys need to take care of the ball and protect it. I'm sure turnovers will play a big part in this game just like every one.
GUS MALZAHN: Earlier in the year we didn't do a very good job protecting the football the first few games and then we kind of got in a rhythm. Did a really good job protecting the football. Obviously the last game, that's really what stuck out to me. We had two critical turnovers, and you know, the better opponent you play, the more important that is. It's hard to overcome.
This game is no different, and it will be very important.
Q. As the American Conference tries to push itself to be considered one of the power conferences, what would a win tomorrow mean for the state of the Conference, the future of the Conference and the perception nationally of the American Conference?
SCOTT FROST: It would help a lot until next year when everybody forgets about it, and they look at all the games next year (Laughter).
Like I said, these Bowl games come down to match-ups, and people are going to put the onus for the entire Conference on us to see if the Conference deserves to be in the conversation and if the Power Six deserves to be in the conversation or the Group of Five. There's been games where Houston beat Florida State, and USF beat somebody good, and Utah beat Alabama, and there's also games where you don't win.
This game is about this game. This game is not really about that. People try to make it about that, but it isn't.
Q. With Auburn being without an All-American cornerback, what are your thoughts of them not having one of their best players and does that change anything heading into the game?
SCOTT FROST: That's the first I've heard of it, so I was taking notes under the table. (Laughter).
I was hoping the list would keep growing, the four defensive linemen maybe and the running back.
Listen, they have got good players everywhere. They have a bunch of good players in the secondary, and you know, we're missing a player or two, as well. You know, Aaron Evans has been a big part of what we've been doing and been the anchor on our offensive line. He fought through a back injury all year and just couldn't do it anymore.
So inevitably in these bowl games, there's one or two situations like that, and I feel bad for both the kids that don't get a chance to play in this game. But I'm sure they have got plenty of good corners.
Q. How has the transition been with moving Jake Brown out to left tackle and the with left guard with Ty Hudanick and Sam Jackson. What have you seen from them in practice and what you do feel like with them going into the game?
SCOTT FROST: We have a couple different ways that we're going to play and try to solve the issue there, and a couple different guys who can play. But these are guys that have been in football games and I think are excited about the opportunity to play.
Auburn's front four, like I said, is as good as we've faced. So I think the guys are excited for that, but they need to be physical. A couple of them are going to have to grow up fast and play well in roles that they haven't really spent a lot of time in. So let's rock. Here we go.
Q. Your team has done it twice before going against a team with a 0 in the loss column. What does that do for your team going up against an undefeated team?
GUS MALZAHN: Well, you're exactly right. I think this is the third game in the last five games of the year we've played an undefeated team. I don't know very many programs have done that. It's a huge challenge.
The good thing is, we do have experience with it. But you know, that's also the challenge; that there's only one undefeated team left right now, and we happen to be playing them. It's a huge challenge.
Q. I know speed is a big part of this game plan. Talk about the impact it's going to have on this game, the impact that it plays overall in your program, and as far as recruiting for the next level?
SCOTT FROST: It's better to have fast guys than slow guys. We're going to keep looking for them. (Smiling).
GUS MALZAHN: I'll second that. (Laughter) it's better to have fast guys than slow guys, and we're going to keep recruiting, too.
THE MODERATOR: So we've established that fast guys are good.
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah (chuckling).
Q. Sean Beckton in so many ways has been UCF football dating back to when he played in the 80s. What's it meant to have him on your staff?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, when I got to UCF, I must have gotten 2000 messages to keep Coach Beck, and I didn't know who Coach Beck was at the time. I got to know him and it was obvious to me that he was somebody I wanted on my staff after I got to know him. He's one of the best men that I know, and he's a really good coach.
Leaving UCF, I thought the right thing to do was to give every one of the coaches an opportunity to come if they wanted to, and I extended that offer to Coach Beck, as well. Wasn't sure what he was going to do, but decided he wanted to keep the group together and stay with us in Lincoln. It's good for us. I'm kind of sad to see him leave UCF, but I'm excited to have him with me as well. He's going to be a big part of what we do.
Q. I think when you recruited McKenzie, you said if he was a couple inches taller, every team in the country would have wanted him. This stage, tomorrow, for him, what do you think it would mean for him to put on a show and finally maybe get some of the credit that he deserves?
SCOTT FROST: Well, he'll put on a show. He's going to make some plays. We've got to protect him. We've got to run the ball a little bit to make sure they can't tee off on us in the passing game.
McKenzie is a special player, and a lot of people around the country have gotten a chance to see that. I think some more will get a chance to see that tomorrow. We're so glad we recruited him. He took a little heat his freshman year as he was learning and growing, and in one year, he turned into one of the better quarterbacks in college football. The kid is like a son to me, and I'm really excited for his success.
Q. We've heard a lot about accountability and the things that changed when you first got to the team. Can you talk about specifically some of the things, the responsibilities that you challenged this team to solve themselves, problems that you asked them to solve themselves on the roster?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, you know, coming in, I didn't want to give them a lot of rules, a lot of do's and don't's. I wanted to get them to the point where there was one rule, do the right thing, and don't do the wrong thing.
I think any time you have an organization where the players are leading themselves, the players are fixing problems in the locker room themselves, and the coaches don't have to do everything, then you have a really strong team and organization.
That takes leaders. That takes guys that are doing the right things themselves, so they can show other people the way, and it takes a lot of courage to correct one of your teammates. We're lucky that we've had some of those leaders on our team, Pat Jasinski, and Wyatt Miller, and Shaquem, and a bunch of other guys. It was an easy year for me to coach because there wasn't much I had to do because most of the problems got fixed from within.
Q. Coach Frost is going to a similar situation to what you had. He was a coordinator and then he was a Group of Five coach, and then a Power Five coach as you are now. You had incredible success in the first year as a Power Five coach. When you remember making that jump, what was that experience like, and maybe what was different from even being a coordinator at a Power Five school to being a head coach at that school?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, the transition -- I didn't get a chance to coach the Bowl game, and that's something that was pretty tough being able to have to watch the team that you coached play in a Bowl game in a hotel room. That was really challenging. That's why I was saying how much respect I have for Scott coaching the game and all that.
You know, it's a whirlwind. We had to hire a staff. We had to start recruiting and develop those relationships with your players. There's a lot of moving parts.
But you know, I have a lot of great memories with that.
Q. What kind of impact has Jordan Akins had on this team for you on the field and possibly personally, too. I know that he has a child, and I know he told me he gave you some advice, as well, having a baby.
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, he was coach to me when he was talking to me about having a baby. Jordan is the old man on the team. You know, spent some time in professional baseball before he came to us.
I'm excited that he came back this year. I think he had a -- for him, probably not as good a year as he would have liked last year coming off the knee injury from the year before. And to have the year he's had now this year, I think was great for him. I think he's going to have a chance to play at the next level. He's big and fast and has all the tools.
On top of all that, he's just great to be around and really enjoyed having him on our team.
Q. You addressed it and Auburn has addressed it, but how has Adrian dealt with the backlash to his comments and being the focus of national attention but especially in the SEC over the last couple of weeks since he said what he said?
SCOTT FROST: We try to teach our kids not to say anything that's going to rattle the other team up. But A.K. is confident. I think if we were running a track meet tomorrow, he might win, I really do. But we're having a football game tomorrow.
We talked to him, and I'm glad he's confident. But I'm pretty sure Auburn is seeing a lot of fast guys this year with the teams they have played.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports