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December 29, 2006

Glen Mason

Mike Sherels

Jack Simmons


THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with some statements from Coach, then turn it over for questions.
COACH MASON: Before I get carried away, once again, I want to state what a fabulous time we had at the Insight Bowl. We've had a string of Bowl games we've been to. We've never been treated better. I just hope that sometime we play well again and are in a position that we can be invited back to the Valley of the Sun to play in another Bowl game.
Needless to say, that game was a game of two different halves. It seemed like we played great defense, unstoppable offense the first half, were very good in the kicking game, and every break went our way. With the exception of the opening drive of the second half, we struggled on offense, we struggled on defense, gave up a big punt return. When we needed to make a play, we just couldn't do it.
Credit to the Texas Tech team. They hung in there. As all coaches preach, you know, no lead is sufficient until it becomes mathematically or clock-wise impossible for someone to come back. Conversely, the same. I want to applaud them. They did a tremendous job of hanging in there. Mike Leach and his staff did a fine job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. What did you see was the biggest difference in the defense in the second half from the first half for you guys?
COACH MASON: Couldn't stop 'em (laughter). What can you say? We knew going into the game, we were going to have our hands full. Everybody talks about the Texas Tech offense.
They struggled a little bit early last year. But they've got good receivers, they got a great scheme. Quarterback really improved as the year went on. You know, we just didn't make the plays we needed to make. Even when the lead dwindled, we had a chance to make some plays late in the game, clock was working against 'em, we missed tackles, enabled them to get first downs, which stops clocks, out of bounds, stops clocks, a couple times they got a measurement to stop the clock. That didn't happen the first half.

Q. At what point did you really sense it getting away?
COACH MASON: Getting away?

Q. What point did you really sense it had turned in their favor?
COACH MASON: Well, I don't know. When the lead was cut to 10, we didn't move the ball, the way they were moving the ball, we knew we had some problems to look at.

Q. What is the legacy of some of your seniors? This being Bryan Cupito's last game, obviously not how he would like to go out. What do you think of his career here at Minnesota?
COACH MASON: Bryan is leaving the University of Minnesota as the all-time passing leader. During his tenure, we went to five Bowl games. I think Bryan had a tremendous career.

Q. Did they do anything different defensively? It seemed like when you really needed a first down in the second half, eat some more clock, you guys weren't able to get it, they were sort of able to stop your running game a little bit more.
COACH MASON: We probably didn't block as well. You know, I mean, I think we had a couple breakdowns there coming down the wire.
I don't think we played too conservative because we did some things there that, you know, tried to keep them balanced up. They just played better than we did in the second half.

Q. What part do you think fatigue might have had in the breakdown?
COACH MASON: I didn't sense that at all, to be quite honest with you. I really didn't. Probably ask the players. They could probably answer that better than I could.
It's the longest game I've ever been involved with. A lot of time-outs, it seems like. That gives you time to rest, I guess, if you're a player (smiling).

Q. First half it seemed like everything was going right. Did it feel like to you you could do nothing wrong offensively and defensively? What happened in the second half?
COACH MASON: Well, everything was going our way. We were playing well in all three phases and seemed to get every break. You think about getting a penalty and take the ball to the one yard line, throwing an interception, making a tackle, fumbling, recovering it in the end zone, next thing you have it on the 20. You know, some days you can't buy a break, some halves you can't buy a break. Other times it seems like the ball bounces your way all the time.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much for a terrific season. We'll let you get back to your players.
COACH MASON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.

Q. Mike, from your perspective, what was the difference in the second half from the first half?
MIKE SHERELS: Well, you know, any time -- they just came out ready to go. They never gave up. Credit goes out to them. Played a heck of a second half. Kind of got away from some of the things we were doing. Maybe started playing a little lackadaisical, you know.
By the time we get our heads on right, it was too late. They had all the momentum. It's real tough with a team like that, a quick-hitter, really good, very talented at the skill positions. When they get a lot of momentum, it's really hard to stop the ball from rolling.

Q. What makes that offense difficult to stop?
MIKE SHERELS: You know, just the many different sets and things that they present to us. They have tons of wide receivers, throw the ball a lot. It's not something we're used to seeing a whole lot in the Big-10. They have incredible skill positions. They have a good offensive line that keeps people away from their quarterback, gives them enough time to go in and make their little cuts, just really work the windows.
Once they got the momentum, it was real hard to stop 'em.

Q. You had the big lead at halftime. At any point in the locker room at halftime do you think the team lost the edge, maybe thought it was over?
MIKE SHERELS: You don't really want to say so, but you kind of feel that everybody was kind of on Cloud 9. We didn't think we could be stopped. In retrospect, it was definitely a mistake on our part, to think we had the game won at that point.
It's something we can definitely learn from, just try to buckle down and keep our heads on straight from now on.

Q. Jack, you had a spectacular first half for a tight end. Do you think they might have forgotten about you in the second half?
JACK SIMMONS: You know, I wouldn't say they forgot about me at all. We tried to do some things scheme-wise to run the ball more, work the clock a little more. I think they took away more things in the second half. A lot of credit goes to them.

Q. Jack, when Coach Mason said he thought the blocking and your offensive line blocking changed in the second half, you nodded your head. Did you feel that was a factor in the second half or a big difference?
JACK SIMMONS: You know, I definitely do. They did some different things defensively that caused some problems for us as far as movement on the defensive line. It caused some problems for us.
I think when we look at the film, we're really going to kick ourselves because we're going to see some opportunities we really missed. You know, it's just unfortunate.

Q. Mike, this is the largest comeback in a Bowl game in history. You didn't really turn the ball over in the second half. Talk about the last drive, 93 yards, less than a minute to go. What was your defense like?
MIKE SHERELS: Well, obviously we were back on our heels a little bit. The goal at the time was to keep 'em in front, keep the ball inbounds. We had some missed tackles. They made some key plays on their part.
But, you know, we just broke down. You know, you kind of just got the feeling we were playing on our heels, playing not to lose rather than to win.
Again, it's a learning experience. It's something we can all take into the future.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.

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