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January 2, 2006

Rich Rodriguez

Steve Slaton

Pat White


Q. Steve, what happened on the final run when you broke it big to put you back up by 10 to give you a little cushion?
STEVE SLATON: I think it gave us a big spark for our whole team and our fans, that little spark that we needed gave us a little bit more oomph.
It just opened back and I seen the safety was over to my right and I just ran away from him.
Q. Were you surprised how quickly you jumped on Georgia, and what did you see that in their defense that gave you so much success early on?
PAT WHITE: We planned on getting off to a fast start, going fast tempo, and I think that kind of tired them out a little bit. We're in pretty good shape, do a lot of running. Just if you execute, things are going to happen, and that's what we did.
STEVE SLATON: Same thing as he said. We've been working all week, all year just on our conditioning and I felt that just our speed, they couldn't match up with us. So just use that to our advantage.
Q. If you can, what does this win mean, with the BIG EAST taking some knocks this year, maybe some credibility as far as a BCS team?
PAT WHITE: It gives West Virginia a lot of confidence, but I don't think anybody is still going to give us any respect. We've got to start working in the spring again and get ready for next year.
STEVE SLATON: I feel how he feels. I still think we don't get the respect that we need. I feel that we're still going to be a sleeper and I think we've just got to keep working hard and this gives us a bit more confidence for each year.
Q. What is it going to take for you guys to get that respect, do you have to go undefeated to get what you want?
STEVE SLATON: I think so. Like the USC and Texas, are blowing teams out and beginning of the year, we had a couple close games. I think we just need to be more outright in our winnings and that will push us forward a bit more.
Q. Steve, could you talk about the team's fast start, all of a sudden it's 28-0?
STEVE SLATON: We just jumped out on them. We capitalized on their mistakes. The games that we lost, teams capitalized on our mistakes and we just capitalized on theirs, so that helped us out.
Q. Are you guys talking that maybe next year is higher aspirations about National Championships?
STEVE SLATON: I think we just have to take it step by step. I think that we can compete next year for the National Championship, but just don't want to say too much now.
Q. Steve, you said this week that you wanted to get 1,000 yards but not at the expense a win; you got a thousand yards and a win, talk about those two things?
STEVE SLATON: It's a big thing for me and for the team, and especially my line, all of my blockers. Without them, I couldn't have got that. With me getting a thousand, that helped us get that win, so just proud of it.
Q. Will you both talk about the Bowl game jinxes that you've had? You haven't played well in recent Bowl games; what does this win do for you, finally getting that monkey off your back?
PAT WHITE: It's pretty big and it's a great accomplishment. We've got to work off this and keep going, do what we're doing, start a dynasty, I guess.
STEVE SLATON: We're a young team and we're hard-headed, we don't believe in that jinx stuff. The jinx is over, I guess you can say.
Q. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would have a night like this and a game this big?
STEVE SLATON: Not at all. Like I said, I have to thank my line and my team for supporting me and the coaches for believing in me, and it showed.
Q. Steve, would you like to thank Ralph Friedgen for rescinding your scholarship at Maryland?
STEVE SLATON: Yeah, I'll send him a letter in person, shake his hand. (Laughter)?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Obviously very excited, it was really -- really felt good all week that our players focus was on the game. We had so few mental mistakes in practice leading up. We had 15 practices, and I felt our guys would be sharp mentally and they really were today.
I think they took to heart some of the criticism of the league, the fact that nobody was predicting us to win. In fact, I even -- sitting by myself in the hotel room, there was a local TV show, and the so-called experts on there and the guy said not only would West Virginia lose, but they would get splattered. I told my wife Rita, because it gets her fired up, but I didn't tell the players.
Georgia gave us a great battle, they are well coached and have a lot of great athletes, it's a great win for our program.
Q. Can you just talk about what Steve did and breaking Dorsett's record?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: What did he have?
Q. 204.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Is that right? Well, he's an explosive player. We talked to Steve a lot about just making one cut and hitting. You know, when you play a team that's got a great secondary with great speed you can't make a lot of moves.
Coach Magee and I were on him, really the last two weeks, Steve, press the blocks, make one cut and just hit it. And he did that today, and I think it really helped him make some of those big runs.
Q. Where does this victory -- this is only the third time in the history of West Virginia football that the school has won 11 games in a year, the other two were in 1988 and 1993, where does this rank among your great wins?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's obviously one of the biggest. I think more because a lot of people didn't expect it and that we were playing basically in their home environment, their home state.
You know, there were a lot of times in this game and in the season that maybe our youth could have showed and it didn't. So it was a great win for us, and it was good for our league, as well. But I'm really proud of our seniors. Our senior class, we talked about that last night, the fifth-year seniors especially were here off of a 3-8 season, but yet they kept holding the rope. It's nice to start their end with a Sugar Bowl win and hopefully a Top-10 ranking.
Q. It's gotten to the point with national rankings that where you start in the preseason makes a big difference. How disappointed would you be if you were not 5 or 6?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Unless you're No. 1, I don't know that the other ones behind that are as important. But I think it's good to be in the Top-10.
Sometimes, I've said before, that you should not really rank anybody until mid-season. I didn't know what kind of team we were going to have. We lost a lot of guys from last year. I knew that as the season went along by mid October, we had a pretty good football team. I think we kept getting better and better, and again, this is a very, very talented Georgia team. If anybody saw what LSU did to Miami a couple of nights ago, and then remember what Georgia did to LSU, you know we are one of the best teams in the country. For us to come down and do this gives us a lot of confidence.
I'm also leery of saying what this is going to project for next year. I think there is too much made of success or lack of as far as what you start with the following year.
Q. Was there any thought process in terms of the fake punt; how much pause did you have before you made that or were you ready to hit it?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We actually almost called it two times earlier, but we didn't -- I didn't think it was a manageable fourth down. Both times were fourth and 15. So we've practiced that, really, for a couple months. It was a manageable distance, fourth and sixth and we have pretty good athletes, so it's a check for us. We call it, if they don't give it to us, we can go to two other checks, both a regular punt and a roll punt. They came out and gave us the look that we wanted, and our guys executed very well.
That was obviously a big key, and then Pat White getting the first down at the end, that was big as well.
Q. You look at the list of stars on offense, you've got freshman quarterback, running back, wide receivers, just talk about the young guys and what they did?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: The thing I was pleased about, just from the very first possession, those guys were not intimidated or overly excited about the environment at all. They were just -- you know, they are excited to play, but nothing overwhelmed them. Really this was the case for them all year.
Our goal and our next order is to get these guys to get better and better. Pat is going to keep getting better. Our seniors played pretty well, too; Josh, the tight end, both of our tackles, Travis and Garrett, because Georgia's defensive ends are pretty talented.
Part of our intensity on the sidelines on all three phases was at an all-time high and why wouldn't it be in this great venue.
Q. Georgia has a tendency not to come back, at what point did you see that tendency, was it in film or earlier in the game?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We saw it on film. Our punt is unique so it's hard to see what you're going to see until you play them. They did some things to us punt-wise so you get an idea how they are going to attack it.
I was upset on a couple of penalties on our punt team, I may need to refresh myself on the rules but you cannot jab off a punt guy and cause them to jump off sides. It happened twice to us and I was trying to get clarification on the rules. We knew they were going to play us on kind of a run-return type of mode. Fortunately, we had a manageable distance to get it and it was obviously a risk, but we had problems stopping them the last few times they had the ball anyway.
Q. Were you trying to get speed out there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: A little bit. Minter is a good field player, but our offense, the way the system is set up with some of our runs, the quarterback makes a lot of decisions. A lot of those little bubble screens he was catching, it was a run called with a bubble screen added on to it. Pat made the decision to throw it, and if he has the run, or he can fake the run, so he has really a triple-read on most of our runs. I think that's what has helped us today is that Pat made a lot of great decisions on when to throw the bubble screen, when to keep it and when to hand it off.
Q. Did the team's intensity level fall after scoring 28 points so quickly, did you ever worry about scoring that many and not being able to match what they are trying to do?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: The momentum is such a big thing, especially when the crowd is going, and you've got to do something to stem the tide. Even though they were coming back, I really was not panicked and I think our kids were okay because our offense was still able to move the ball. We stubbed our toes a little bit with some penalties and they killed us on some drives but we were not getting three and outs. We were at least able to stem the tide with our offense getting first downs.
Q. Is Brady really fast? Has he done this before?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, in practice. He did it last year in the were Pitt game, if you remember, and it was a different call. But Phil is a really good athlete and he's also a pretty conscientious guy. The way we run it and spread people out, we had three big guys leading, so it was a pretty safe call at that time.
Q. On that play back to the fake punt, was there a feeling that their offense started to take a little bit of control of your defense and you just didn't really want to give them the ball?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, that was a tough question that we had a problem stopping them and D.J. was just creating so many plays, scrambling around, making big throws and we could not get pressure on them. It was one of those deals where we felt comfortable with our offense, but they are so talented over there, we were really scrambling. Yeah, there was that thought in my mind.
Q. Will you talk about your passing game and how effective it was?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, the stats, let's see, 11 for 14, 120 yards, that's not bad. A lot of those were bubble screens and people say easy completions, but we did enough I think to keep them off-balance and we also did some of our bootleg or naked passes, Pat kept it and got positive yards on that. They were playing us in the 2-shell and they would bring down a fourth defender and our guys were able to see that when it happened. There was probably a few more pass plays out there, but when you run it as well as we did, you really don't need to call them.
Q. The fake punts, does that call come from upstairs or the sideline? Can you just walk us through that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Both. Seems to be the hot topic.
The coaches upstairs see it and Coach Jones, who coaches our punt team was alerting it to me all game, and, in fact, the coaches were kind of calling, saying, "hey, we need to run it up to the fourth and 14," made me a little nervous, thought you could react and make the tackle then. The fourth and sixth, really there was a little bit of debate but it wasn't much. It was kind of a consensus thing. The coaches in the box said, "hey, let's do it." Butch said "let's do it" and I said "let's do it, it looks like it's there." I talked to our guys, I don't know how many we gained, 10 or 12, something like that, just enough.
Q. When you punted back to the five-yard line and Pat almost tripped on the first play, coming out there and you were facing 3rd and 10, what went through your mind as far as that call went? Obviously you wanted to be the first down there because he didn't want to give them the ball, short field?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That was really the only time in the game that we had that poor of a field position. That was one of the keys, we had great field position because of the turnovers, our offense was able to move the ball. We were backed up with their fans right behind us. I wanted to play relatively conservative but when Pat White runs on a draw or something, that really is -- he's an explosive player anyway. We wanted to take care of it. That was key, I think we scored a touchdown on that drive and more than anything, we were hoping to change the field position. To get a touchdown was a bonus.
Q. Most of your players said that it was not really sunk in where they are right now, has it sunk in for you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Probably not yet. I mean, we were scheduled to go out like 6:00 in the morning to go recruiting tomorrow, but I think we have an 8:00 press conference, so I'll have to move that up a little bit.
I don't know, I have to talk with our recruiting coordinator. I'll have to talk to him and readjust that. I feel so good for the State of West Virginia. It's a tough day in our state. I'm not sure many of you are aware that the coal mining business is a big deal in the State of West Virginia, my father's a miner, my brother and uncles, and to have 13 miners trapped, I saw that before we left the hotel, that was weighing on everybody's hearts. I didn't talk to the players about it, but I talked to Lynn Swann and some of those guys, obviously our prayers are with them. So it's a tough day for the state and hopefully this victory, because we have so much pride, will help people feel good about themselves tonight.
Q. In your mind, having won a BCS Bowl, having gone 11-1, where does this team rank among West Virginia teams?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's probably not fair for me to judge that, other than the four teams I played on in the early '80s and the five I've coached at West Virginia. Obviously this team has achieved more than any I've been involved with as a player and coach. Where it ranks in history, it's hard to say.
We had two great teams in 1988 and 1993, were undefeated and didn't win the Bowl games and still were great teams. Hopefully this propels our program and gives us some national respect and gives the Big East some national respect and people can quit talking about the Big East doesn't have good football because it does. We played a lot of good football teams in the Big East and the teams are going to continue to get better and better. Maybe they lost their Bowl games, but they are pretty tough, Rutgers, South Florida has got great defense, we don't have a big conference but it's pretty competitive.

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