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January 2, 2006
PETER IRWIN: We're going to take questions for the players for a few moments until we get everybody else assembled. So if you'll put your hand up we got a question on the I'll and then we'll move around.
Q. For Brodie. Just talk about your emotions. They score, it looks like this may be your last drive of your senior season, just talk about your emotions taking the field on the last drive?
BRODIE CROYLE: Coming into it, coming into Alabama that's what you dream of. Your last game, in the Cotton Bowl, you got two minutes to go score. And that's -- I'm still speechless right now. But I went over to the defense, I said, man, you're all right, we got it. I don't know if they believed me or not. But luckily it worked out.
Q. Jamie, did you know your kick was going to be good when it left your foot?
JAMIE CHRISTENSEN: Actually I didn't know if it was going to be good. I didn't know until I saw the referee's hands go up. But what happened was I just kicked a little bit of the ground so I just didn't get the height on it I wanted to. But I'm just glad it went in.
Q. For Brodie, earlier in the week you had said hopefully if y'all came out and did some stuff well that people would talk about your offense instead of Tech's. What do you think now, the final verdict on how you did today?
BRODIE CROYLE: I don't know how long we had the ball but we said all week we wanted to control the ball and keep it out of their offense's hands. And that's what we did. We didn't score as much touch downs as we obviously wanted to, but what can you say about our defense? They're awesome. They have been a pleasure to play with.
Q. Can you stress how important this game was for you guys as a for the simple fact that a 0-3 finish would have been remembered more than a 9-0 start or is it more than that?
ROMAN HARPER: Yeah, it was good just to go out and win. We were focusing on that and that's how we talked about it's all about what you do for me lately. We didn't want to go out and have sour taste in our mouth and finish strong and get 10 wins for the season.
LE'RON MCCLAIN: I came into the game that the game is for the seniors and everything, so that's what I was playing for out there. All the seniors that we came out to win for
Q. Brodie, that last drive, a couple guys that haven't really seen a lot of offense were your targets, Matt Miller and Brandon who had a tough game. Talk about how the three of you guys have been around a long time and seen a lot. And those are two of the guys that really helped out on that final drive.
BRODIE CROYLE: Matt's probably one of the toughest guys on our team. He plays everything, he doesn't complain. That he doesn't get enough repetitions or whatever. But when it comes crunch time, he's there. And he made one heck of a catch in front of two of the best safety tease we played all year. And just to see Brandon kind of be able to come back and make that catch and make the first down, right, after you said, after a rough day, and just the fact that those two guys are seniors, and that's awesome.
Especially Matt. Because I grew up with him since I was three years old. So he's been one of my best friends ever since then.
Q. Any defensive guys, can you talk about what you did successfully to get them out of rhythm on offense?
ROMAN HARPER: I think what we did, Coach had a great scheme coming into it. We knew we were going to play a lot of man, throw a lot of different calls at them. Coach made all the right calls in there. We played fast and we couldn't get the quarter back down a lot of times, but he's pretty athletic guy, but overall we had a great scheme and we went out there and executed.
Q. Brodie, can you guys compare the defense of Tech against some of the other SEC defenses that you played this year?
BRODIE CROYLE: Well, not really to the SEC. They ran a lot of the same stuff that Utah state ran and some of the same stuff that we played in the season opener against middle Tennessee State. In the SEC you're basically going to get man coverage and they're going to blitz you. And against Texas Tech we didn't see that many blitzes. And it was basically they might have went man two times the whole game. It was just cover four, cover three the whole day.
Q. Brodie, you had your fair share of injuries and all, you were the butt of a lot of jokes, after the Auburn loss, was this a statement game for you being your last game?
BRODIE CROYLE: You know, that's all we have heard about, since the Auburn game was everybody wanted to forget about our nine wins before then. But I don't care what people have to say about me. I'm the least individual person you'll meet on this team. And just the fact that we can go out and say that we were the Cotton Bowl champions and all this group that we came in with did it. We had a rough go of it. But just to say we went out 10-2, won our last game and got it going back in the right direction, well that will make the rest of our lives a lot easier.
Q. Roman and Charlie, couple things. One, did you believe Brodie when he said we got it, and two, Coach Shula talked about the media forgot about Alabama's defense. Did you all have the seasons that the media or people had forgotten about Alabama's defense coming into this game.
CHARLIE PEPRAH: I'll just say first when Brodie talks, I never believe anything he says. But just the look in his eyes, I mean going and the poise he had for that drive, he's done it before, and I just for some reason I just had this feeling this belief that there's no way we were going to walk off that field with a loss.
I just knew that Brodie was going to take us down the field, whether he had to run the ball every play himself or hand it off or make pass sores, whatever. But Brodie just has that calm necessary about him and he just has that comfort and he gives us confidence and makes us feel that the ball in his hands anything can happen. So I think we knew we were in good hands.
Q. My question is for any of the players who want to respond to this, when we talked with Coach Shula early in the week he said of course there were those calling you guys the underdog. Can you talk about your response to what was said now looking at the score board for how people felt that you were not going to come out on top?
BRODIE CROYLE: We like playing in that role. But we kind of took it as an insult. We feel like we played some pretty good teams throughout the year and had done pretty well against them. And to still come down here and be called an underdog, that kind of ruffled a bunch of feathers.
But that's a tough Texas Tech team. They fought and fought and fought. That was, that might have been the most fun game I ever played in.
Q. For Kenneth Darby. Was this one of the most -- was this game more physical than you expected?
KENNETH DARBY: Yeah, it was. I knew that they were going to read our run most. Because they knew we were more of a running team. But that kind of took me by surprise their strong safeties, because they had some pressure from the safeties coming down and so it was pretty physical but at the same time it was fun, so.
Q. Brodie, can you talk about your overall protection today and LSU working with a new center?
BRODIE CROYLE: There wasn't any problems with the center. We had that down two days after he moved there. But those guys, to go through the criticism they went through after giving up all the sacks against Auburn and everybody kind of counting them out, to be able to do what they did today, no sacks, I got hit once, and that was a late hit. And it was amazing. You got to take your hat off to Coach for getting them ready. But it was just a fight that those guys had in them to come out and kind of reestablish themselves.
Q. Jamie, right here, how much did the end of this game mirror a couple other games that were decided by your foot? Did it kind of feel the same right there at the end like you knew it was coming and obviously the post game reaction?
JAMIE CHRISTENSEN: Right, I definitely had the same mindset as I had for the other kicks, but this definitely was the most special to me because we sent the seniors out on a good note. And I'm just glad to be part of this whole thing. And it's not often that someone kicks a game winning field goal and I had three chances and I feel like I'm blessed to have that opportunity.
Q. Kenneth, it seemed like that the Texas Tech defense was wearing down in the game. Would you talk about how you and the offensive line started to take control of that?
KENNETH DARBY: We know they were a running team and we had a stronger running game. So we felt like we could run at them and we knew that they weren't expecting us to have us really run into them. So we had confidence knowing that we could run into them and wear them down and that was just as good.
And that was what happened. We just kept throwing the ball and that gave our passing game the opportunity to open up too.
Q. Coach, early this week you talked about how people might have forgot that you guys had an offense as well. How surprising was it that you guys came out on that first play, proved that you guys have an offense.
COACH MIKE SHULA: It wasn't surprising at all to us. We talked about right before the game just playing with a great attitude. Especially on the offensive side. We struggled a little bit the last couple weeks against some real good teams with some young guy, when J.B. got hurt, it's hard to substitute for a three-year starter on the offensive line, especially when you got some other young guys that are still learning, still growing, still maturing.
We felt like if we come out with a great attitude and get after these guys and play physical type football then we could move the ball. And the second play, right after the KD got a bunch of yard on the first down we hit Keith on a quick screen and both our linemen had to make block answer Keith set them up great and not many people will catch Keith Brown in the open field.
PETER IRWIN: We're going to introduce the chairman of this 70th annual AT&T Cotton Bowl, Mr. Gayle Earls, who is going to make some trophy presentations.
GAYLE EARLS: Thank you. We feel very fortunate that we had Alabama in our AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. At this point it gives me great pleasure to hand the offensive player of the game trophy to Mr. Brodie Croyle. Brodie, if you'll come up here.
(Croyle accepts trophy.)
GAYLE EARLS: The defensive player of the game who had an outstanding game, Mr. DeMeco Ryans. Come on up here, DeMeco.
PETER IRWIN: Congratulations to both you gentlemen. And we will personalize those with your names on them a little bit later, obviously. So we'll take questions now again.
Q. Jamie, someone suggested Jamie -- someone suggested earlier that your last field goal might have been blocked or tipped a little bit. Did you see that at all?
JAMIE CHRISTENSEN: No, actually I didn't see that at all. I just, when I hit the ball knowing I hit it solid, I hit the ground, the grass was a little bit thicker a than I'm used to and I hit the ground, I got under it a little bit. And I'm glad it just had the distance and I got it there.
Q. Mike, when Tech came back and scored and makes it 10-10, you had a decision to make and that decision was either run the clock out, go into overtime or go ahead and try to move it down and kick the field goal.
COACH MIKE SHULA: Yeah. I didn't really say anything to the players, but we weren't going into overtime. We didn't want to do that. I didn't want to do that. We wanted to go win this game and offense and I didn't have to look at Brodie I know what he wanted to do. We made some plays, made the big third down.
Matt Miller, he really drilled that thing in there against a tough coverage. And that got us going. And Keith Brown made some plays after that. But I can't say -- Brodie talked about our offensive line, they did a great job with the game on the line and the crowd got a little noisy and gave us real good protection and it wasn't real pretty, we had a lot of yards, and but we didn't have a lot of points. We didn't take advantage of some opportunities in plus territory, but we found away. And we have done that a few times this year. This guy's kicked three game winning kicks. And what a great way to finish the game and to finish the year.
Q. DeMeco, when you talk about the tech players in here just talked about their inability to ever get in sync about the game. Can you talk about the game going in and how well you felt like you guys were able to execute?
DEMECO RYANS: For us on defense we just had to do what we had been doing all year. We didn't have to a make any big changes or anything like that just because we were facing a high-powered offense. So for us it was just doing what we do and doing it well. And we were comfortable doing it. So it wasn't a problem for us.
Q. Mike, D.J. Hall didn't play, obviously, can you comment on how if any that changed the game plan you had for Keith and what Matt gave you and why D.J. didn't play?
COACH MIKE SHULA: D.J. didn't play because for violating team policies. Which obviously we like to keep in-house. The one thing that we had some other guys step up, Matt Caddell, the one thing we did that nobody recognized during the course of the three or four weeks and nobody asked me about although they asked me about D.J. they didn't ask me about Keith brown playing D.J.'s position. So you guys missed that for two weeks out there on the practice field. So we wanted to move Keith over to the other side so we had better chance to get him a few more balls, because of the style of coverage that they played and Brodie was able to take advantage of Keith being over there and getting some one-on-one.
Q. Can you could you talk about Closner and Cardwell?
COACH MIKE SHULA: We talked about that. The other thing too, you guys asking me what we're going to do, there's a reason sometimes why we tell you things and there's a reason we don't. If you go ahead and make an announcement on a change and all of a sudden it gets in that it gets back to them then they can maybe do some things. I know we do that.
We heard some things coming out of through the media from their personnel situation and we changed some things because of that. But whether or not that helps you win or win the game or not, so, but having Antoine at center like Brodie said, he felt comfortable with him. He taken some snaps earlier in the season. Earlier in the year he would have been one of our centers if we needed to go to him earlier. But Antoine's a very good football player. The next time we take a snap on the offense, he might not be playing center. So he can play guard, he can play center, he can play tackle. But he's tough, he's got very good ability, he's still real young, he's just a redshirt freshman and he's going to be a very good football player for us.
Q. Mike, how much did time of possession and field position factor into the whole outcome of the game?
COACH MIKE SHULA: I can't say enough about our offense and the way they controlled the football and helped us with field position. We heard a lot about you're going to have to maybe go for it on fourth down because they like to go for it a lot. Points scored and that. But we played the field position, we played -- we wanted to establish the running game. Come out with a physical attitude. We converted more third downs probably than we have in a long time towards the end of the season. And that helped us stay on the field.
Again we didn't get any points out of it. That was the frustrating thing. But you just got to keep playing. Obviously when they are not on the field, they can't score. And we all got a little bit nervous here when they blocked the field goal right before the half and gave them a chance to get points back on the board.
But overall real happy about the way our offense played and a good way to finish there. And especially even though we had the lead, we still had to find a way at the end to win. And we took the offensive type of attitude and got a two-minute drill going and won the game.
Q. Coach, it's been USC and Texas all year long, you hung with them for 10 weeks, do you think that there was a lack of respect, even when you guys were winning and do you think you guys were playing for a label today, whether it be fair or unfair?
COACH MIKE SHULA: Well, these guys, they're mature kids. They get motivated because they want to go win 10 games. And they get motivated because they play at Alabama and they put on an on Crimson jerseys and they play for each other. Things like that help the motivation part. We realize that a couple weeks ago, yeah, we were you know defeated, but with a couple weeks left in the season. But we hit a rough spot and lost some games. And we had to find a way to finish strong. We hadn't done that in two years. We hadn't won a game at the end of the year yet. And we wanted to do that for our football team and especially for our seniors.
Q. Mike, after Keith caught the long pass that put y'all in field goal range, did you consider taking another shot down field or were you thinking field goal at that point right away?
COACH MIKE SHULA: Yeah, we kept our four wide package in I think for one more play and tried to hit another quick out and get the ball a little bit closer. We didn't get it completed. Then I kind of realized, hey, we're inside the 30. This guy's made two already this year, let's try to make a few more yards, run the clock down, and we, where we have a chance or nobody has a chance. I think we made a couple more yards and maybe should have centered the ball, but after you look at the way, where the ball went in, we were probably better off keeping it on the right side, right, Jamie?
Q. This question is for DeMeco. Were you ready for Cody Hodges to run out of the back field as much as he did today?
DEMECO RYANS: We were ready for it. We didn't think he was that fast. He's pretty quick. So, but, I mean we were ready for it. We were prepared for everything that they did. Our coverage was great. That's why he had to run the ball. We knew our defensive backs were going to lock them down all game. So we were ready for him to come out.
Q. Coach Shula, you came here two and a half, three years ago in some pretty tough circumstances and 10 wins, did you, can you talk about the change and progression of the program between when you got here and when it was pretty low.
COACH MIKE SHULA: I think that the last few years have been tough for these guys right here, we have been through some tough times. They're looking at me coming from the NFL, and the way that a third head coach in one season, heck, we couldn't even meet together over the summer. We had the first time they got used to the offense was in the fall. We played some real tough games. Had some tough losses. Oklahoma in that first year in multiple overtime game losses we hit a low point I think after the Ole Miss game. I think every one at this table would agree. But we just found a way to be determined, circle the wagons, so to speak, after that first year, and just keep fighting.
Last year was tough too. We had a lot of injuries. Starting with this guy and lost a couple other guys up on this table that were playmakers. Just again continued to stick with it, believed in themselves, this guy worked himself off in the off season. KD did too to get back healthy. Had some other guy that is were hurt. And we stuck together. And when you go through some tough times together you find out a lot about each other. There's a lot of different ways you can go, and this team pulled together. And this was the result of it, 10 wins.
Q. Question is for Brodie and Mike, you guys got them, they had you guys third and seven, third and eight and you were able to convert on those. How much did the fact that you were able to wear down their defense, how much do you think that that played into you guys beating them?
COACH MIKE SHULA: Making the third down conversions? Go ahead.
BRODIE CROYLE: Well, that's basically what we were going to try and stay out of. But we ended up getting ourselves into them more than we wanted to. But it goes back to the offensive line. If you're going to have third and long, you got to have protection. And those guys fought their tail off, held them out, and a lot of times we hit underneath the first down route and we had guys to make plays. And we had some running plays called on third and long that we ended up making. It was just a good day.
COACH MIKE SHULA: I think that just to add to that overall, maybe more so the last few weeks we were running the ball maybe more on first and second down. Back to back runs. And that takes the ball out of his hands a little bit. But he's fine with that. He has a great attitude and he knew that was going to be our thought process a little bit. That's hard when you run on first and second down as a quarterback. And now when everyone knows we're throwing it and this is how we throw it on third down it takes away the advantage from the guy like this.
But we thought overall for our football team offensively that was going to be our approach.
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