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December 30, 2019

Mario Cristobal

Pasadena, California

Q. How has the week been? Kind of the whole event as a whole?
COACH CRISTOBAL: We've been here, at the end of this thing, by the time we play the game, we'll be here an entire week. We approach it like a game week back home while at the same time recognizing and understanding the privilege, the magnitude of being invited and earning the opportunity for an event in a game like this for our players an incredible experience, and it's starting to set in that we're playing in the Rose Bowl. While at the same time not taking our focus off the task at hand which is focusing on our opponent and ourselves to be at the best we can be.

Q. One of the things that's been talked about all week, your offensive line. They're not just good players, they're cohesively good players. How have you developed an offensive line that you think is going to be able to win the trench battle?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, I feel the same way about them. I'll watch them on tape, and we haven't seen a better offensive line than what they have shown. And they're the same way, they're physical. They finish blocks. They're cohesive. They don't run by guys.

Typically you see line stunts and movements and sometimes you'll be able to catch teams just running by a guy and letting a guy go, and Wisconsin does. And they count you up and angle you up. They fit you and finish blocks and they play with great effort and great finish. And they're complemented with great tight ends, great running backs and great quarterbacks.

For us, there's a lot of pride in our guys. They suffered through a 4-8 season when they first got here. And it's been -- they've been the catalyst to the program's turnaround and certainly they feel like we haven't played our best yet. And they're looking forward to, again, getting better and better against what we feel is as good of an opponent as there is in the country.

Q. Are they similar to anybody you've played this year?
COACH CRISTOBAL: They're just the best team we've faced all year, without a doubt, in all phases, all areas. They're very well coached. That's a disciplined, tough football team that's complemented with great athleticism, guys that have range, guys that can cover man-to-man. Guys that can play multiple schemes, multiple coverages, stunts and pressures. They present a lot of challenges and our guys are looking forward to that.

Q. Is this your first time to Pasadena this whole week?
COACH CRISTOBAL: This is, yes, ma'am, my first time to Pasadena.

Q. What was it like pulling up to the stadium and seeing all the Oregon-Wisconsin stuff?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, we're so dialed in and focused, I think that stuff will settle in at some point in time, preferably after the game. We're just dialed in, the fact that we have a very important practice today and tomorrow and that we have to continue our process and get on edge and stay on edge so we can be as good as we can be.

Q. How do you find that mix (indiscernible) your players enjoying the experience and yet keeping their minds on what they're here for?
COACH CRISTOBAL: They understand what it takes. Is it really balanced? I mean, I think the fact that just being invited here, earning this opportunity is where the balance is created.

There's some really nice activities for them. The Rose Bowl does the most incredible job -- I mean, their entire committee -- an incredible job of making our guys feel welcome, providing them with a historical background of the game itself, some of the great players, some of the great games that have transpired in the past, and while at the same time giving them enough free time where they can get their rest and be prepared. Because for both teams it's like training for a heavyweight fight is what it is.

And so the balance is in practicing really, really hard and having some really good meetings, but at the same time enjoying the outings they provide for us which have been spectacular.

Q. (Inaudible)?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think he's done a great job in the two years we've been here progressing the offense, being a great leader of young men, bringing creativity but at the same time not losing the principles of what we are as an organization, where we're going to be hard workers and play with toughness and physicality. And certainly looking forward to our best game, the best game we can possibly have together here in the Rose Bowl.

Q. Do you notice any slack off trying to do two jobs?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Marcus is a professional, and in taking on these last couple of weeks. We sat down. He's very loyal and a good human being. Great family man. It's unfinished business for him and we know the challenges require every bit of everything we have and he's been completely committed to the task.

Q. Can you talk about how proud you are to be the winner of the Pac-12 and to represent the Pac-12 here?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Yes, extremely proud of the players and the coaches. All credit goes to them because when you play a nine-conference-game schedule that's difficult. To be able to go through this and just lose one time, it speaks loudly for our guys.

And to do so in the manner we did in the Pac-12 Championship game and some of the road games we had this year, just extremely proud of them. But we're focused completely at the task at hand. We'll reflect a little bit later on that stuff, but proud doesn't explain fully how --

Q. What about as far as what it's going to take to come out victorious on Rose Bowl day against Wisconsin?
COACH CRISTOBAL: It's simple. Nothing but our very, very best will be good enough. We all know that. A team as good as Wisconsin, the players that they have, the way they're coached, their scheme, their physicality, their athleticism, there's nothing, nothing in this world but our very best that will be good enough on, I think, Saturday, on Wednesday, excuse me.

Q. What excites you the most about the game and what concerns you the most?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, we never go into games with anxiety. So we don't really speak in terms of concerns. Exciting, the opportunity to compete on a weekly basis for us is everything. And our focus has always been on ourselves, always will be on ourselves.

We know this is the very best football team we have had the opportunity to play. And we respect that opportunity and we respect them, and that in itself is -- we wake up excited. There's no hocus pocus to our operation now. We don't have to put up banners or newspaper articles or trash talk to get us excited.

We're at the Rose Bowl playing one of the best teams in the country, one of the most storied programs in the country that can flat out bring it. So we are excited 24/7.

Q. As a coach how do you sleep the night before?
COACH CRISTOBAL: That's well documented, not much. But it's out of the right type of excitement. For these guys, they've earned this now. If you look deep into the story of these seniors, these seniors went through a 4-8 season. They were at the crossroads; which way is this going to go? Couple head coaching changes.

A completely different blueprint of what we've ever done. They embrace it. They embrace us as coaches. We're forever indebted and thankful to them. And because of them their effort, their commitment we are here. And -- but getting here is not the goal. It's being able to have success here.

Q. You've done quite a job doing what you've done in a short period of time that you've done it. What do you attribute that to?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I attribute that to all the people around me. I'll never pound my chest and say I'm fully responsible for this. We do this as an organization, as a family. The coaches have been incredible, committed, to a vision that is demanding, but champions really don't carry office hours, right? If they do, they probably aren't going to be champions.

And the players, the players buying into a program that is extremely rewarding as long as you commit yourself fully to it.

Q. What did you feel like was this idea of being physical up front (indiscernible) both sides of the line was important to do here in a conference that traditionally have been known for wide open offense and skill?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, you know, I think they're both important. I just think as a player I was fortunate enough to play on a team that was extremely physical, especially at the line of scrimmage.

And my most recent stop before coming to Oregon, Tuscaloosa, it was all about physicality in the trenches and what a difference that makes, not only late in the game but late in the season, right -- late October, November, when your name, you know, your football program's name has to be relevant in the conversation as it relates to championships and whatnot. You're going to have to be able to control the line of scrimmage and take over games in the fourth quarter.

And talking that is easy. Achieving that is different. So we work every day on getting better at trying to be able to control the line of scrimmage. And our trips out to the West Coast, when I was in Tuscaloosa, I felt that that was the X factor. Right, wrong, indifferent, that's that was the feeling.

Q. Do you feel like over the last almost 30 years the teams from the Pac-12 have been relevant nationally? (Indiscernible) have been like Washington and SC, Stanford?

Q. Oregon. Maybe Oregon was a little bit of the outlier in the way they played.

Q. But do you look at that at all, like the history or do you just come with your beliefs?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I always study history, because good or bad, if you're not careful it could happen again. You want the good to happen again, not the bad to happen again.

I think there's elements of all those teams and those eras that are applicable. And I think they are. I think football, if you don't continue to learn and evolve, I think you get stale and it runs right by you, blows by you.

Even though we have established what we're working towards, establishing more and more what we want to be up front. We also want to be very explosive in all phases. And special teams has been a huge improvement for us as well.

Defensively we took a massive jump, massive jump defensively because we have played with explosive players and we're putting them in position to make explosive plays, create turnovers, what not. So it's a little bit of a mixed bag but all of it points to just productive play.

Q. What's the biggest fact of (indiscernible) physicality with this game?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Without question. Without question. They're outstanding. You love to study films to see how guys are being coached. You're looking at a coaching staff, they have stood the test of time with their processes, their football teams and their product.

And what stands out to me is the way they come off the ball they come off the ball with flat backs. They get their hands inside. They knock you back at the line of scrimmage. They are exceptionally instinctive, but that's due to really good coaching, eye discipline, staying on their keys and triggering when they need to. I can't say enough about them. They're as impressive as it gets.

Q. (Indiscernible) wanted to play Auburn. Looking back at the whole season, do you feel like if you hadn't sought that game, maybe played a more manageable game you would have been in the playoffs?
COACH CRISTOBAL: We're going to play those games every year, and proud of our team because our team walked in there with our receivers not being able to play due to injury, our starting tight end not being able to play to injury, and still managed to put up a really good, physical fight, and albeit 9 seconds, had a chance to win that football game.

And we don't regret any of it because we learned about ourselves. We learned we could physically hang with the best of the best in the country, and it sparked us. That was a catalyst towards us scoring on a nine-game run where we just got better and better.

But due to the belief and the things that showed up in that game that we had worked on all offseason.

Q. When Justin officially declared he was coming back last year, can you walk me through what the conversations were like to help him arrive at that decision this past year?
COACH CRISTOBAL: We had a lot of data. We always present data to our players, all the data so they can make the best decision for themselves. If they ask our opinion we give it to them as well. And I had prepared everything.

And the data was great either way. He could go and be an NFL player right now; you could come back, establish your legacy and get even better, improve your draft status.

And in the middle of presenting it to him and his family he was, like, Coach, I'm coming back. So all that stuff there was -- look, Justin Herbert is as special as it gets as a person and player, and he had a lot of unfinished business and part of that was also self-improvement, gaining ground towards the player that he wants to be. But a lot of it was driven by the University of Oregon, how much he loves his teammates, the program and to leave a legacy.

His grandfather was a phenomenal player at the University of Oregon, phenomenal. And Justin has exceeded all expectations.

Q. When you talk about legacy, what kind of big game in the Rose Bowl do you have to have to put an exclamation point on the season?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Our players, when we talk to them we don't get into predictions and stuff like that. They know the game. They know what's at stake. They understand the magnitude of it. You prepare, you show it in your preparation. That's what he's done.

Q. Where has he made that progress this year to take that next step, not only for you guys but (indiscernible) --
COACH CRISTOBAL: Just complete command of the offense in every phase, not only throwing accurate passes and being able to flop and flip protections when he knows that he's short-sided on one side or the other, and get us in advantage runs when he knows we could get ourselves an opportunity have a big play on the ground as well.

He's like having a coordinator on the field is what he is. And he's just unfazed -- things are going well, things are not going so well, unfazed. And I think on the road this year in Seattle, against Washington; against Washington State, as the clock's ticking down to go on a 40-second drive to win the game, I think he's proved it time and time again that he's that kind of guy.

Q. (Inaudible) posted on social media (indiscernible) was the win, 50 years ago. How special is that for the entire family? And does it add any additional pressure to win the game?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Here's the thing. I haven't even seen the family because we've been grinding and working. I love my in-laws, they're awesome. Miss Pamela, tremendous amount of pride being the Rose Bowl queen in 1969.

But it has absolutely no bearing on the preparation for this football game. But it's good to have them in town so they can be a very special moment for them as well.

Q. Have you had time to think of a New Year's resolution for 2020?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I haven't had time to really do anything but get prepared and help our players get prepared for this game. But if you have any suggestions, I'm more than happy to take some. We'll start with having less coffee.

Q. What's your resolution for 2020?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I don't have one yet, but we might start with less of this and more Cuban coffee in my life is what I need.

Q. How do you contain Jonathan Taylor?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I don't think anyone has. He does it all. Some backs can run by you. Some backs can run through you. He runs by you. He runs through you. He goes over the top of you in short-yard situations. He's extremely dangerous in the passing game as well. He's a great blocker.

You have to be at your very best and you have to play with great effort. And that's the best way to describe it. He's that kind of a player. He's a game-changer.

Q. The playoff system changed the bowl system. In your sense does the Rose Bowl still mean what it meant before?
COACH CRISTOBAL: It means everything to our guys, yes, sir.

Q. From a coach's perspective when is (inaudible)?
COACH CRISTOBAL: He became more of a seasoned football player. Now he has complete ownership of the offense. He's a guy that can take over a football game. He can take control of a bad play, make it a good play.

He also knows where his help is, from a protection standpoint, where it's not. From a leadership standpoint he has taken another step as well which is such a humongous part of one's development. He's established his legacy. And he's not finished yet and still has the most important game of the year coming up. Just has left an unbelievable impression on those to come behind him.

Q. People talked about his leadership and his development. Is that something you cite, when you're talking to them about the NFL, you want them to do what's good for them but it's a positive particularly those guys in leadership position?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Without a doubt. When guys leave here they go into -- it seems like it's a shark tank out there, when they go on to the NFL and whatnot. So you have to practice those skills. I don't think people come out of the womb ready to be great leaders of the world.

I know sometimes guys come out and are natural at speaking or whatnot, but leading is leading. And leading is by example. It's leading by making sure that other guys are being held accountable. And he's been doing that since the beginning, and he just continues to grow more and develop more and more, so incredibly impressed with what he's done and he's going to play for a long time at a high level.

Q. He talks very complimentary about you and what you've brought to the program. What's it meant for you coming into the program having a quarterback just sitting there waiting for you?
COACH CRISTOBAL: To me it's the ultimate compliment how those guys, they fought for me. So I'm indebted to them forever. You always try to squeeze out more seconds and minutes in a day to do whatever you can for them.

And that's the way we have always been as a staff. We're very much a "we" operation; you won't hear many "I" this and "I" that. We don't want to be that. But for him and the entire senior class to accept a staff after 4-8 season, everything they've been through has been the ultimate compliment. So the ultimate compliment to get back to them is to hold them to a high standard and bring everything we've got to help them be successful.

Q. What's it like to have smaller children here like experience this with you. I asked Alex and he said yesterday his kids got to go to the zoo, and tomorrow go to the parade. Not only for your kids but your wife, who he said is the backbone of this family who raises (indiscernible) the way you're doing a busy life. What's it like to have your kids here and your family here with you?
COACH CRISTOBAL: They're living their best life. There's no question about it. I mean, they're being raised Oregon. And the Rose Bowl is something they've always kind of seen. They're 8 and 10, but they're football junkies. They wake up as early as it gets so they can turn on "Game Day" and memorize every single game that's being played and whatnot.

So the Rose Bowl, the events they have provided for our families, the hospitality that they have shown, the fact that our wives, really at this time of year, they're almost like single parents because we're not around, tremendous.

I think it's awesome for them. They love being around the players. They love seeing the cool gear. But they're looking forward to getting in that stadium in front of 90,000 people and being as loud as they can be.

Q. What's it like for your wife to be here and you're here together and she's a single parent. To do this together what's it like to have her with her?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I hope to see her sometime before the week's out. We've been grinding on football and preparing our guys. But it's special because our wives are, they're the ones, they're the MVPs of this whole thing. Our wives, our coaches' staff wives, they do so much and carry such a huge load. They're always in the background behind the scenes. They're our angels is what they are.

For them to be able to be here, take part of this, have an enjoyable week with the other wives and the families, it's incredible for them, it really is.

Q. If you had to judge what would be your favorite uniform combo for this season?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Nike does an unbelievable job with the unis. Everyone thinks that I make the uniforms and that I choose the uniforms. I want to make it real clear; I don't. Nike does the best job in America. No one has what we have. And then the players get together to figure out the combinations with the consulting of Nike and our people, our professionals.

So if I had a uniform combination -- I'm the wrong person to ask. That's why I eliminate myself from the equation in choosing the uniforms because I'm the most boring dresser of all time. I'm not even going to get into how boring I am of dressing. But I just want to take myself out of that equation so I'm not involved in the discussion.

Q. How much does your wife help you with deciding --
COACH CRISTOBAL: What to wear? There's about 26 Oregon polos sitting in different colors in my dresser and then three different color pants. So, she's out of the equation. She's just -- I don't think she's ever seen me for a day where I'm not wearing some kind of "O" -- green, yellow, white, gray. Is that bad? It's bad, huh? It's awesome. Let's go Ducks.

Q. Throughout your career, people have doubted you. Even getting this job, people may have questioned (inaudible). What do you think you've proven and continue to prove?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I don't know, like I never base my life on doubters. My parents came over from Cuba and had to work two jobs and learned a language at night, never saw them just so they could teach my brother and I how to work as hard as humanly possible to never play football, to earn a scholarship to go play and win a couple national titles.

We never had anything handed to us. We just grinded and worked. Together with a couple of the staff members here, we took over the worst situation in Division I football, made it a conference champion.

So when this thing -- learned that from Nick Saban and never thought of it as an "I" thing, always a "we" thing. So in terms of doubters and noise, I couldn't even comment on that because it's just not part of the process. You get up at 4:15 and we go. And we go as hard as we can to the best of our abilities to do the very best by our people, as servants.

We serve our guys as best we can to make them the best future fathers and husbands they possibly could be, and have absolutely zero concern about anything else. And it's resulted in our highest graduation rate, our highest GPA and a really big silver trophy downstairs that calls us conference champions. I'm good with that.

Q. You mentioned where you've come from, your heritage. How cool or unique is it to have a coaching staff with a similar Hispanic-Latino background?
COACH CRISTOBAL: We have a couple of guys, I wish a couple more of them spoke Spanish so I could continue practicing my Spanish. My mom, every time she hears me speak, thinks I'm butchering the language now. But I think what's great about our place is we don't look at backgrounds, ethnicity, skin color, none of that. We hire the best people for the job.

And I think that's important. That way everyone's given a fair opportunity, and you always look for the ones that are going to impact your players and the program in the best manner possible. And we've been very fortunate in the hires we've made that we've been hitting home runs. And we've got to continue doing that, because you really can't think that a single hire is not important.

Everyone has an impact. Everybody in some way shape or form affects people in our organization. And we want to make sure we continue along those lines. But Coach Mirabal right now is the only one I can have a legitimate Spanish conversation with.

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