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December 31, 2019

Mario Cristobal

Paul Chryst

Pasadena, California

COACH CRISTOBAL: Again, thank you to everybody involved with the Rose Bowl and the committee, because such a welcoming feeling. Incredible hospitality. Our players have had an amazing experience, and so have the families and whatnot, and while at the same time you guys provided us with incredible facilities to be able to work and stay focused on the game.

So just very highly anticipated for everyone, and again just very thankful, very grateful, and looking forward to a great game tomorrow.

COACH CHRYST: It's been going great, actually, and appreciate, like Mario was saying, that so much was done by the bowl and all the people, the hotel, the facilities. You truly do feel welcome.

And it is great to have the opportunity, especially for this team, this group of players, to be able to participate in a game such as the Rose Bowl. And I've appreciated how they've approached it from the day we found out, through finals and preparation in Madison, and then coming out here.

And the best is yet to come, and that's the opportunity to play in this game against a really talented, well-coached football team in Oregon. So it's a great experience and very grateful.

Q. Mario, realize the expectation is that Mycah would play; officially, will he play tomorrow?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Mycah will be playing. He's been practicing with us. We always mention that there was a good chance he would. He has been cleared, and we're excited to have him back.

Q. Mario, back in the day, obviously, you played in the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, and recently coached with Alabama in the National Championship. Can you drawn on that experience to get the guys ready for a stage like this environment, or is it something you have to go out and experience together and see how you react?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think it ties in more the preparation of playing an excellent football team that's not only extremely talented, but the way they play the game, as physical as they are, as well coached as they are, all the focus has to be on ourselves getting better but also understanding the caliber of opponent we're playing against.

But at the same time, I think everyone really appreciates and has a good understanding of what an honor it is to be here, to having earned the opportunity to be here and not for a second taking it for granted -- I think you saw that from our players yesterday in the presser. They feel it, but at the same time they know that all focus has to be on the game itself.

Q. Coach Cristobal, how do you balance all the events and things going for the team during the week, how do you balance, keep them focused on the task at hand in terms of the game?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Is there balance in college football? I don't think there's such a thing that exists, the balance. I think you're looking at a couple of programs that they understand this is a business trip, that the newness and all the festivities and everything all going on -- again, the pageantry is incredible. I've never seen anything like it.

But it's not for the players. It's not part of their process. They understand that. We also schedule. We're pretty regimented as to the hours we keep, what we do and how we do things, and we put a lot in the leadership council as well.

I think in games like this, I don't think anyone remembers how many times you bowled a strike over at Lucky Strike or -- they remember how you played the game, the way you played the game. So it's been evidently clear in the way we presented this opportunity. So we expect our players to do and play their very best.

Q. Mario, just curious what your final preparations will be after today. You lock down the hotel, lock down the players. What will happen, say, beginning from noon until tomorrow's kickoff?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Like any road game. It will not be any different at all. The only difference is you have more players traveling. So you just make sure that there isn't any extra fluff to the preparation or any type of distraction. But it's typical road game lock-down mentality.

Q. Mario, over 30 players on your roster played high school football within 70 miles of the stadium. How do you think playing in this game affects recruiting?
COACH CRISTOBAL: We've always made Southern Cal a priority for us. For us, this is home state. That's what it is. We've made it a priority. We think that the coaching here, the high school football here is off the charts, as good as it gets in the country.

They're coached well. They're part of disciplined programs. They play high-caliber football. High-caliber athletes, and big guys as well. So every opportunity that you have to show that you can earn the opportunity to be in a big game like the Rose Bowl, I think it certainly helps recruiting.

I'm happy for them that their families and friends and their coaches could come out and see them practice and see them play in a game and whatnot.

Q. Mario, on that note, what is the reaction you've gotten from some of these So Cal players that have been able to see their families kind of come home during this holiday and experience all of this with their families at home?
COACH CRISTOBAL: It was good early. We had that break, but we got here on Christmas Day and went right to a quick lift and a run to get ready, get our bodies back into it.

But it's more of the message it's been it's great, we're happy you get to see your families; but, again, that feeling, that newness, that was for our first day here, maybe a little bit of the second day here. The rest has been making sure as it relates to all of us, every coach and player, you've got to put aside family and friends and realize what you have to do. You have to be mentally and physically ready. You have to be at your very best.

The best way to put it is nothing but being at your very best is going to be anywhere good enough when playing a team like the University of Wisconsin.

Q. You look on almost NFL roster, including the Rams, and there's a Wisconsin offensive lineman on that roster, and there's such a tradition of that. How do you -- in a short way, how do you develop that type of lineman over the course his four or five years? And, also, how happy are you to see two big, physical teams playing in a game like this in an era when everybody talks about the spread and the passing game?
COACH CHRYST: I think I've been fortunate to be around a lot of really good offensive linemen, and I think the biggest thing is that and you talk about in the question was development. Guys work and develop. You don't put on a uniform or a helmet and that makes you a great offensive lineman. And I think we've had a combination of really good players and really good coaches, and they work at it.

And I do think it helps when younger kids in the program at any position, when younger kids in the program see someone ahead of them that plays at a high level, and it kind of sends a message this is what needs to be done to be a really good player and also that it's attainable.

And I think when you look at it, we're not going to be the only good offensive linemen on that field. And what Oregon's done, it's impressive. And yet I think that, the original question, it's the people. It's the players and the coaches.

But I do think there's something to when you're in an environment and you see it, it's attainable, and you see the work that needs to go in. And I think if you look around, that's probably true at all the positions where I sure as heck hope that our young running backs learn from Jonathan, and I know that he's learned from others.

And that's -- for a coach, that's the neat thing about being in a college program, is you can see and be around the development of people and players.

Q. Mario, second year in the program, Pac-12 Championship, Rose Bowl. What does that say about the state of the program, and where do you see it going from here?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, it's progress. It's what we had hoped for. We always want to keep it on that kind of a trajectory. But I think it's a tribute, testament to the players and the coaches to buying into a blueprint and a regimen that's very difficult and demanding but can be rewarding. It gives you a great opportunity as long as you stick with it and do your very best.

But we're so focused on this game because it's the most important game of the year, because it's the very next game. And we've become so process-oriented that we'll assess that at the end of the season. But certainly proud of the way the guys are working, the fact that they're improving as students, they're putting an ungodly amount of hours in the community, and that we're progressing, again, as football players.

We're getting better. But we do think the sky's the limit. As long as we stick to our principles and values and stay humble and hungry and driven and realize that this is a tremendous privilege that can never be taken for granted, if we stick to that, we've got a chance to continue moving forward.

Q. Paul, the last time you guys played in Oregon, December 6, December 7, obviously the recovery is good, but is it tough to get the guys to lock in, especially with everything going on, with all the pageantry adds in as well, and how are you guys accomplishing that?
COACH CHRYST: No, I don't think it's hard to lock in at all. And I think when you know that you get an opportunity to play in this game, and along with playing in this game you know you'll be playing against a heck of a football team, and when you watch the film of Oregon for our players, when you watch the film, you have to lock in. And you get to lock in.

And so I think our players have done a good job of kind of balancing everything. Through this bowl preparation, they've had final exams. They've had some time in Madison where there's nothing but the bowl preparation. And then, like Oregon, we came out Christmas Day. And you've got a mix of everything here.

But I have appreciated the way the guys have prepared, and you need to prepare. But it hasn't been hard. When you get to prepare for this game, against a team like Oregon, I'm not saying the game's going to be easy, but the preparation and the motivation, that's not a challenge.

Q. Coach Cristobal, I was watching Troy Dye next to you at the team photo yesterday. He was so silly, having so much fun. When I talked to him, he said he was having a lot of emotions right now in his last game. How much would it mean to send out this class of seniors with a win?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think the seniors know that -- and we all know what they went through, right? Their first year here was a 4-8 season. There's not a ton of them that are left. It was a pretty big class. But I think it's a compliment to them, how they've just decided to put their foot on the ground and work hard and be resilient through change and make adjustments and whatnot.

And I think they also realize that the emotional stuff has to be put aside and exchanged for passion. The way that they play the game is going to be the ultimate difference in how they feel about themselves and about the football team when the clock says zero.

But I love the fact that he is enjoying it because, again, these guys have been through a lot. I think the fact they've been through a lot makes their experience a lot more rewarding, a lot more of a learning experience, a lot more applicable to life later on, because it's another example of if you just keep chopping wood, if you keep pounding the rock, if you just stick to working at it, that there's a chance things will work out well for you. So really happy for them.

Q. Mario, how has the time off helped this team overall get healthy and just the legs back after 13-game regular season?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think we look good. I thought we played pretty well in the last game against Utah. And our strength and conditioning department and sports science people do a great job. Half the stuff I don't understand. They come up with these graphs and all this data with this -- what is it, a GPS catapult and all that, and they try to explain it to me. I'll figure it out one day.

But the numbers point to us being in really good shape while maintaining a really high level of conditioning so that -- but we kept the pads on now. Football still is, right, a series of collisions and whatnot. You have to stay physical.

So I feel that we're where we need to be physically and ready for the game.

Q. Coach Chryst, as you know in football offensive balance is real important. You have this All-Star running back, Jonathan Taylor, pretty much 100-yard rusher. What are your thoughts on offensive balance going against Oregon? And if they slow down Taylor, how do you feel about achieving offensive balance to move the ball?
COACH CHRYST: I mean, you said it at the end: The goal is to move the ball. And I think any offense wants to be able to do that a number of different ways. And we're going up against -- it's a heck of a defense, and nothing will be given to you.

And I think no matter what, you're going to need all -- I think what I like about football, and if you're talking about offense, it takes 11 guys to be doing their part to give yourself a chance for success. And I think you're going to have to do it both ways. You're going to have to be able to run, be able to pass. That's the game.

So I think if you're going to have success, which is not easy, like I said, against a really good defense, it's going to take everyone doing their part and really everyone doing their part on all the plays.

If you're going to run the ball, you need all 11. If you're going to throw the ball, you need all 11. But certainly I love having J.T. and we think he's really good. And our opponents know that, too, so they're going to do things to take that away. And so you have to be balanced.

Q. Have you talked to Jack Sanborn about his family connection with Oregon? If so, how do you think he's handled the emotions of getting ready for this game?
COACH CHRYST: I think it's unique, right? And we've talked about it a number of times, once we found out we're playing Oregon. It's special. And for his family, there's a unique tie to it.

And yet I think it's all about this moment, and they've done a good job. The family's out here and taking it all in. But it certainly is unique. And I don't know that it tugs any more or less -- you're talking about his dad and all he went through, and he was younger. But it certainly is unique.

Q. When the current playoff contract expires and they look at expansion, both of you guys, if it was an eight-team field, probably would have been in this thing. I just wonder when they go to a new format, would you be for an eight-team playoff, or are you okay staying at four?
COACH CHRYST: You go, Mario.


COACH CRISTOBAL: Talking about for today or for the future?


You know, I'd like to see everything that goes with that. I think sometimes -- I know that decisions are well thought out and whatnot, but you'd like to see -- you'd love to have obviously a six-year cohort and get all the data and see how it worked out and how it really played out.

But I think I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. So I want to make sure that part is clear. I think there's a lot of teams worthy of playing it out. We take pride in being such a competitive sport and determining who the winners on the field. I think anytime you could include more, right, in that particular -- in that party, I think it's a good thing.

COACH CHRYST: I think there's a lot that goes into it, and we're fortunate there's a ton of people that care about it. And so I'm going to let them figure it out. And like Mario said, this experience that our players get to be a part of, I think if you asked every one of the players, this is very unique, and I know both teams were grateful for it.

But just tell us what the rules are, and we'll work and try to do all we can to be the best team we can be. And if we earn the right for whatever it is, you're grateful for that.

Q. Mario, how important has Juwan been since being here and this whole process of being at the Rose Bowl, considering he has been here before?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Yeah, he's an older guy, isn't he? Right? He's seen a few things. He's brought a lot to our football team. Whenever you take a grad transfer, you always want to find out pretty quickly is he going to embrace the culture and is the culture going to embrace him. And mutually that thing was very quick to happen.

He provides a lot of experience and leadership. His heart is as big as it gets. He wants to do well for his teammates. He wants to do everything he can to help elevate the program.

He's become a favorite with the fans, certainly. So having him around, having him speak about his experience and what he has just gone through has been extremely valuable for our football team. It's been priceless.

Q. Mario, you've said a couple times this season a phrase I wanted to get the origins of. You say: We play football at Oregon. We're going to play football. Numerous instances you talked about that. For you it clearly is rooted in toughness and physicality, but it could have been something else. You could have been rooted in something else. What are the origins of why playing football to you is what it is?
COACH CRISTOBAL: You're going to have to say that question all over again.

Q. You've used the phrase "playing football"; that "we play football at Oregon"; that that's what it means to you. And it's rooted in physicality, but it could have just as easily been something else, it could have been --
COACH CRISTOBAL: I'm with you. I understand.

Q. So why does playing football to you mean what it clearly means?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I felt that football was always the best classroom and teacher that I ever had. I think the principles and values that come with it, lessons learned and taught, both coach and the player, vice versa, I think are incredible. The values of being committed, of showing toughness.

And toughness is -- I think sometimes toughness gets thrown out there as a guy that can really hit hard or dominate a play. Toughness is being able to get up every single morning and getting to the facility early and rehabbing, getting taped and making it to your meals on time and getting in your playbook and showing up at practice with a great attitude.

I think values and principles like that are part of what I mean by playing and being involved in football, because those principles and values carry over to life when you become a provider, when you become a future father and husband and all that other stuff.

But I hope I answered that question. I tried to answer it as best I can. Look, football, my high school coach was the best coach I've ever been around. And there wasn't any compromising, doing things a certain way.

And it's our job, it's our obligation to make sure in the short window we have with these guys to be able to do that. And through scheme and through meetings, through community service, through the classroom, through the actual playing field, you can do that.

But it does involve grit and toughness and resiliency and being able to find a way to fight through adversity, understanding that you are going to get knocked on your behind. You are. When you play good teams. And it's going to happen more than once, and you just have to keep getting up just one more time than your opponent does.

So I can go on and on on that question. I know it's a short presser. I'll cut it off right there, and hopefully I answered your question.

Q. You talked about the College Football Playoff and how encompassing it is for the fans and for us, and when you have a bump in the road during the season and all of a sudden it doesn't look like it's likely to get in the playoff, how do you guys kind of get your players up off the floor and convince them there is something to play for? Or are they more resilient than we are?
COACH CHRYST: Well, I think that to me you get an opportunity to play out a season, and it's no different than a game. When you play a game, you'd love for every drive defensively to stop the opponent and to score a touchdown every time offensively.

And it doesn't go that way. And the season's the same way. We both to this point have played 13 games. A chance for a 14th. Depending how the games go. That's life. And I think everyone is so focused on winning and losing. And if you're a player and if all you were worried about was winning and losing, that only happens at the end of the game.

And yet I think for a player the best part is playing the game. So why would you miss the best part to get to the end? And I think the season's the same way, and do we want to -- every team wants to go undefeated. And you know what? There's teams that haven't, and hats off to those who do that.

But enjoy the journey and appreciate the journey. And I think everyone else worries a lot more than we do, because we know the reality of it. And everyone is focused on the end. And I think if you focus on the end, you're going to miss the best part, and that's playing the game or playing out the season.

COACH CRISTOBAL: Amen. I agree completely. Nowadays, it seems that every single game is a playoff game, right? Whether it relates to the College Football Playoffs or as it relates to your conference also.

And players are a lot more resilient than what we think. We always think, man, these guys are going to be down. No, they're a lot smarter, a lot more resilient and a lot tougher than what we think. So again, wouldn't trade anything as it relates to the season for where we are today.

Q. Coach Chryst, I know comparisons are difficult to make between teams, but this week some of your guys, including Jonathan Taylor, talked about Oregon and their size and their speed. And he compared them to Ohio State. Is that a fair comparison? And maybe would you talk about that a little bit and also your thoughts on facing Justin Herbert.
COACH CHRYST: I think when you see Oregon's defense, you see a really talented defense and a team that -- a lot of different players make plays. I think you see a great job, as good as any team we've seen, as far as getting off blocks and playing physical. And I think that's where I do see when J.T.'s talking about that, you're talking about a high-level defense.

And every team's going to have differences as far as -- but when you say look at that, absolutely agree and see what he's seeing on that.

And then obviously offensively, I mean, he's as good a quarterback as there is in the country. And I know there's a lot of really good quarterbacks. I'm not trying to make news that way, but he's talented. And I think he's got a great sense of what they're trying to do offensively. I think seems to me he's a guy that will do all he can to get everyone else involved and certainly talented and presents a ton of challenges. But he's a heck of a quarterback.

And I mean they've got a really good football team. It doesn't just happen. You've got to have players. And they've got it. And they're extremely well-coached. And as I say they play with technique, and they play fast and they play physical. They know what they're doing. And so it's a really good football team we get a chance to play against.

Q. We talk a lot about the College Football Playoffs, that started in 2014. The Rose Bowl has been around -- this is the 106th game. Why is this game so special?
COACH CHRYST: I mean, this game's -- it's special for a number of reasons. I mean, obviously there is great tradition. And I remember as a kid myself and our players, this is New Year's Day was watching the Rose Bowl.

And I think everyone that was affiliated with football, there was a dream, a goal to participate in it. And we've been fortunate -- and I've loved hearing our players talk about it.

There have been teams before, Wisconsin, have had an opportunity to play in this game. And certainly there's a ton of respect and admiration for those teams that have had a chance to play in it and certainly those that have won it.

But I think it truly is, it's an unbelievable venue. But I think it's more than that. It's just a place -- it's the Rose Bowl. When you say that to our players, I hear them talking about it, it's the Rose Bowl, and that kind of says enough.

COACH CRISTOBAL: When you have a game that's known as "The Granddaddy of Them All" kind of speaks for itself, right? Our players, our West Coast players, this has been their dream, always, to be able to not only to get here and play here and whatnot, but to have a chance to be successful on January 1st. They can tell you about all the games, all the games in the past, the players that have shined in a big-time way.

They can tell you about the tough games, the close games, and they're learning about the pageantry that surrounds it and everything, the incredible events that go with it. But they've been watching this for a long, long time, since they've been knee high and playing little league football, this has been a goal for them. And now it's a reality. They also understand they have to get focused.

But it really speaks loudly within our locker room, especially when those guys realized, coming out on the field in the game on December 6, that we were going to have the opportunity to be here. So it's an unbelievable moment for our football team.

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