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January 3, 2007

Les Miles

JaMarcus Russell


THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and begin while we wait on the most outstanding player quarterback, JaMarcus Russell. We'll start with LSU Coach Les Miles. Coach, congratulations on being the 2007 Allstate Sugar Bowl champions. If you could start us off with your thoughts on the game.
COACH LES MILES: I thought that the team played extremely well in all three phases. You're looking at an offense that had a dominant performance, a defense that was stingy all day and had a dominant performance, special teams that contributed very significantly. It was a team victory.
I'm extremely proud of this team. This is the winningest senior class in LSU history. A year ago a graduating senior class had set the bar and was eclipsed today by one victory by the '06 seniors.
I really felt like our teams matched up very well. I thought it was going to be very competitive. We have great respect for Coach Weis and a great Notre Dame team, but our team was better today. I have great respect for their great quarterback, Brady Quinn. He has every ability, and I've said this before, I just think I have the best quarterback in the country. He played well again for 11 victories and a Sugar Bowl championship. It's been a great year, a great team.
Any questions?
THE MODERATOR: JaMarcus, if you could start us off by telling us your thoughts for the game.
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: I thought the game was pretty great. We got up on top pretty fast. My thing was to tell the team not to get too high because there was a lot of ball left to be played.

Q. Coach, would you talk about the possessions in the first half? Notre Dame had the ball significantly longer than you, but in the third quarter they only had seven plays. Did y'all do anything different?
COACH LES MILES: In the first half they had the ball minutes and really didn't get out of their own end zone. It just seemed that they were picking up 1st downs and losing yards, and seldom did they have a real significant drive.
We get up 14 and really get them back in the game with some errors, but our defense was stingy the whole night. They got a couple runs going, a little block back and pull and a little crack sweep, but by and large, an adjustment was made at halftime; that was really closed off. When it became obvious that it was just a passing night, our defense becomes really, really good. While they had balance, they had their best chance of moving the football.

Q. Can you guys just talk about the 58-yard pass play before halftime, just how crucial that was? Coach Weis said it was a big downer for them. Could you guys just talk about that play?
COACH LES MILES: Well, it led to a score and very significantly just before the half it gained tremendous momentum in the game. It was a great play, great pass, great reception to Early Doucet coming across. It was a tremendous play.
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: From the looks, the way they were playing coverage-wise, they had the linebackers playing on one of the slot receivers who seemed to have a little bit of speed. Coach called a great play and it was up to us to execute, which thankfully we did very well.

Q. You talked about adjustments at halftime. Were they necessarily adjustments or just fine-tuning what you guys thought you could --
COACH LES MILES: It was -- necessarily adjustments are best when they're just small, and that's what it was, some small adjustments in alignments and a crack replace role needed to be put in place. And beyond that, we played coverage pretty good, got off the field and got off Quinn when we could.
Let me say this about our staff. I think our offensive coordinator, our defensive coordinator, special team coordinators had great nights, great plans. Our staff implemented them extremely well, prepared this team very, very well. As we came into this game we had great confidence in the plan, and our players, like they always have, come to compete. It was just a matter of time.

Q. Can you talk about JaMarcus and how good he is? Expand on what you said just a second ago. And then for both of you, in your opinion why was he never mentioned in the Heisman Trophy at all, and JaMarcus, what are your thoughts about that, as well?
COACH LES MILES: First, JaMarcus has all the natural skill that any quarterback would want to possess. He's got great vision, great height, extremely accurate, great arm, nice fluid throwing motion, very capable. What people don't understand about JaMarcus is how smart he is. He is a very bright quarterback, understands what he's looking at. He seldom comes to the sideline, even when we disagree. He says, this is what I saw, and generally speaking, that's what he sees.
He has a great leadership quality; the team loves to follow him. He is a unity counselor. He is one of the core leaders of our team, has a very commanding opinion and great respect given him by his team.
If there's a characteristic that a great quarterback has, I suspect JaMarcus Russell has that characteristic.
I don't know why he's not mentioned for the Heisman. I can tell you this: In short order, he has to make a very difficult decision, and it's going to be one where he will be offered a pile of money and he'll have to make a very independent decision, a personal decision, but if he returns, he certainly will be a Heisman Trophy candidate. Michael Bonnette, sports information director, he had better get the mock-ups ready (laughter).
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: My thing is not really playing for the Heisman, but it would be great to go out and win and show we're one of the best on defense playing in college football. My main thing is playing for my team and my coaches. People always have an opinion and you can't take that away from them. I really do think I'm one of the best in college football, and like I said, you cannot take that opinion away from me.
COACH LES MILES: You know, he makes mention there, he's never been anything but team, not from start to finish. We ask him to do difficult things; we may ask him to handle motion checks and then checks upon checks, and he does extremely well, whatever you ask of him. Maybe his greatest characteristic is his team.

Q. It just seemed like the overall ball control, they ran 50 odd plays in the first half but then 20 in the second half and four of those were punts. Was the key keeping the ball in your offense's hands as much as you could, one of those minor tweaks or adjustments you made at halftime?
COACH LES MILES: We went to the line of scrimmage many times with a run and a pass check, and they were in a position where they didn't want to be beaten by the pass, and so we ran the football. And then when it got to a point where the score was such that we wanted to run the football, that's what we did, and ate the clock up.
So in the second half as the score mounted after plays, that was exactly what we wanted to do was run the football. It was because of the ability to take what the defense gave us.

Q. I wanted to talk to both Coach and JaMarcus, from day one Coach Weis talked about all the offensive weapons that you had both in the running backs and the receivers. If you guys could talk about not only the unselfish attitude that those guys had to have in terms of the game plan and giving plays and calls and if using all those different guys that we saw tonight wore Notre Dame down. It looked like at the end they couldn't hang.
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: You know, having guys like that, everyone knows their ropes. You always do your individual team effort. You can't be selfish when you have everybody on your team making plays; it wouldn't be a team if you were doing it by yourself. Coach always talks about the team, go out and do it for the team, no matter what it is.
COACH LES MILES: The receiving corps blocks extremely well and it takes a toll on the defense and on the secondary, and we're very physical. That's what you saw; you saw big strong men really imposing their will on their opponent.

Q. JaMarcus, to what degree did the success that you guys had in the running game with Keiland and Justin, how much did that help you in the passing game softening up that defense?
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: A lot. Knowing that someone was behind you able to make the yards and plays by running, sometimes you look forward to it where you say pick your poison. If they're going to drop back and run up. It was a one-two chance of taking it.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about Keiland Williams and other players that stepped up that maybe Notre Dame wasn't expecting to show up like they did?
COACH LES MILES: Keiland Williams is a true freshman, a guy that kind of showed up just before camp started, and he gives us fresh legs, big strong back and very capable player. I think we're probably going by an offensive line performance that was pretty significant tonight. Offensive line blocked really, really well and really spawned a lot of these runs. I certainly want to give Keiland Williams and Justin Vincent great credit, but this offensive line played extremely well. The quarterback put us in the best play, and kind of what JaMarcus said earlier, it was the team thing to do. When you get the ball, your offensive line is blocking for you, you'd better get you some yards.

Q. JaMarcus, on the big touchdown pass to Brandon, what is the name of that play and what did you do and he do to make it successful?
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: It was sort of a rope double snake and see how the back gets in. My thing was to work backside, got a little pressure and pushed me to the right and up field. I knew I had the play, just an opportunity to throw and make the catch.

Q. It's kind of interesting to me at least that last year at this time Matt Leinart was the more heralded quarterback, Vince Young, a junior outplays him in the Rose Bowl, comes out early. If you don't mind could you comment on the similarities there and how basically JaMarcus did outplay Quinn tonight, could vault over?
COACH LES MILES: I think that by comparisons, I think JaMarcus Russell has any number of advantages over any quarterback in the country, not just Quinn. I think the observations that you make are about a game that's played for the National Championship and about a very significant evening for Vince Young to say, I just won the National Championship and I outplayed what would be the next quarterback. I think there are some similarities there. I think the fact that we played for a Sugar Bowl championship, the MVP is JaMarcus Russell, I think there are some similarities there.
I'm not trying to make the point where he goes out early. Now maybe you're supposed to make that point.

Q. JaMarcus, could you comment on that?
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: From the standpoint of what happened, I think there are some similarities, but at the same time my main focus is just to come in and play, not really thinking about leaving early right now. I have a lot of time to sit down with my family and coach and just talk about that situation. Right now I'm just happy we got a victory.

Q. Coach, could you address the first half defensively where you had Ali Highsmith out for most of the first quarter and Daniels out for the whole half, how you had to adjust, and then the second part, what you did defensively in the second half?
COACH LES MILES: Highsmith hurt an ankle and Jason Spadoni played a lot of football in that first half. We were very comfortable with Steltz in at safety instead of Daniels. I don't think the adjustments were as significant and as the score mounted our defense continued to play with intensity, and it was just a matter of time that we kind of bottled them up.

Q. You mentioned Justin Vincent. Can you talk about, I guess, the decision to give the workload you gave to him tonight, and then obviously his last game as a Tiger and playing his best game in a long time, just how you felt about the way he played tonight?
COACH LES MILES: There's a guy that's been extremely unselfish with his time and his dedication to his team. He plays special teams, plays running back, anything you ask him to do for his team, he'll do. We handed the ball to him a couple times and he seemed to have the hot hand, and we felt like it would be appropriate to keep the hot running back engaged, and so we didn't take him out, and he performed. I think it's very appropriate that he have such a big night in his last contest for LSU.

Q. 41-14, you got a lot of style points tonight, and believe it or not you're going to finish 2 or 3 in the nation when the dust settles. How do you and JaMarcus feel about that?
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: I think it's great. Early in the season we had two tough losses. We didn't think we'd be in such a big Bowl game and come out on top?
COACH LES MILES: After the Florida game this football team was stunned. We didn't expect to have two losses. This team had resolve and hung together and played as a team, came out and won at Tennessee, put seven great victories together, and I think they're very deserving to be second ranked or third ranked. This is a great football team.
If you look back, except for a ball bouncing here, an instant replay there, this may have been for the National Championship.

Q. Coach, the fake punt early in the game, just your thoughts on that and how pivotal it was for you guys to make that stop and cash in on it.
COACH LES MILES: The tragedy is we didn't get seven. We lined up to kick a field goal -- you're talking about their fake punt?

Q. Yeah.
COACH LES MILES: We kind of figured that they had run that fake several times -- really one time. Coach Peveto does a great job in scouting and they did exactly what we might expect. Prior to that snap we had alerted our guys on the field that it might well be a fake. We played with leverage. Those fakes still have a chance to get out; you have to make a play. Defense played extremely well, that gave us a short field and an immediate seven.
It appeared to us that they might be willing to take those risks, and so he -- the point was made that we had great speed, and if he was trying to let us know that we felt like we had advantages, we listened, and in those instances we were kind of prepared for unusual plays in the kicking game.

Q. JaMarcus, could you talk about the battle of the trenches, especially in the first half, and did you feel that your offensive line was holding up for the most part? Did you feel pressured at all or did they let you do your thing for the most part?
JaMARCUS RUSSELL: In games you have times where your offensive line, he might slip and the guy might get past. That's why there's four quarters. You always have time to back yourself up and do it again. It was a career high passing day. I didn't know it until it was said, but I give it up to the offensive line.

Q. This just happened today. What about Saban going back to Alabama? Do you have any thoughts about that?
COACH LES MILES: I don't give any thoughts to Alabama after a great victory. We certainly enjoyed playing in the Sugar Bowl. We felt very touched to be able to represent Louisiana at home in the Sugar Bowl. I can't tell you how many people came to us to say thank you for being here, thank you, and then telling us about their Katrina story. We were glad -- I don't want to give much thought to any school that has a red in their color or an A to start and is in a distant area, irrespective of their coach.

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