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December 6, 2008
CLAUDE FELTON: We'll ask Coach Meyer for a couple general thoughts on the game and then we'll take your questions.
COACH MEYER: Thank you very much, and we're awful proud and humbled to represent the Southeastern Conference as a champion. I think you give credit where credit is due. That's one of the best college football games I know I've ever been a part of. I know Alabama and Coach Saban and their staff, that was a dog fight. That was toughness. That was a check your will and come back and play in the fourth quarter, that says a lot about our team, as well.
We've had ridiculous amount of injuries throughout the course of the year. Watch Cornelius Ingram, Dorian Monroe were hurt before the season started. Two not just starters but potentially great players for us. And then you saw Brandon Antwine, he was coming on his own, playing extremely well, hurt his knee against FSU and then Percy Harvin, one of the best players in the college football. The reason I bring that up, I think it talks about who replaced them from Riley Cooper to Louis Murphy, Aaron Hernandez, Jeffrey Demps, of course our quarterback Tim. But I just think that's a sign of good recruiting, a good strength program, and that's a sign of a good team, and that's what we are, a good team.
I love these players. You don't hear me say that too often. I love this football team. I love the way they fight. I love what they're made of, and this will go down as one of the great wins in Florida football history.
Q. You had a lot of passes where you didn't have much of an opening there to get the ball in because they had pretty tight coverage. Could you just talk about some of those tough passes you competed?
TIM TEBOW: They played a lot of man coverage, and the receivers got the hard job in man coverage to get open, and I just got to put it there, and they made a lot of great catches. You come down there at the end, a lot of guys stepped up and got open and made some great catches. So I had a lot of help from our receivers.
Q. Would you talk about, you kind of took some body blows there in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter it was kind of a gut check time, and Coach Addazio says this is what you've been playing for all year.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I felt like we were taking some body blows, as well, but I have great confidence in our team. To see Brandon Spikes come back -- you're playing the top ranked team in America, and it kind of stuck it right down your throat, I want to say a 98-yard drive right at us, and to come back, and our offense answered. I think that was the play of the day. That might be the play of the year. That might be the drive of the year, to be able to answer it when they took it and jammed it right at us. 20 points against that outfit, we'll take that and go.
They played very well. Kept the ball in front of them for most of the night, and once again, you're down to four interior defensive linemen. Against that you need five or six to rotate and we're down to four. Lawrence Marsh, Tory Davis and Jay Howard did a magnificent job hanging in there.
Q. Urban, the penalty late in the game against you --
COACH MEYER: I want to research that without -- I probably can't say this, and I know the commissioner is here, but I'm going to go grab him here. It's not right.
Q. What was it for basically?
COACH MEYER: I have the best quarterback in college football, and we look forward to our next game and get back healthy and ready to go (laughter).
Q. For the best college football player in the game, did you know you had to bail your coach out with a touchdown pass?
TIM TEBOW: I was hoping we could. That penalty, it did hurt us a little bit because we were right there on the one-inch line and just had a lot of momentum, ready to just stick it in, and they moved us back. But I was really happy how our team bounced back from that and guys stepped up and made a play, and that was a huge play.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the shovel pass to Hernandez, what you saw on that play? I think you went with your left-hand on that, right?
TIM TEBOW: I was actually a little bit shocked that that was the play called. I wasn't expecting it. He threw it in there, I was like, that's a good call. They lined up in a different defense than they had been playing, and the guy came right to me and I shoveled it, and did a great job of getting the 1st down first, and then making a great play after that. But he did a great job on it.
Q. It's been over two months since you guys trailed in a game. What was the mood like on the bench, what was the message to the team and how did they respond?
COACH MEYER: Pretty much the way they handled things the last seven, eight games. I admired their professional. Very professional over the headsets. The defensive staff working together with our players and making adjustments and moving. Same thing on offense. You have a veteran quarterback. You have a veteran offensive line, you have three seniors managing it and you have a very good coaching staff, a great group of assistant coaches. It's a very professional demeanor.
Our team knew going into this game it was going to be that. If you would have told us it was going to be a fourth quarter you have to come up and stand up and make a play to go win the game, we saw this thing coming down the road. All you have to do is watch on videotape who you're playing. We've prepared. In the last couple weeks we've spent a lot of time on two-minute drill. We didn't have to go down to two minutes, but we knew it would come down to fourth quarter to win this game.
Q. Tim, do you feel like you have the ability to will your team to win like you did today in the last five-minutes? And Coach, and have you ever had a player like Tim Tebow who seems to be able to impose his will on a game like he did today?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I don't think it necessarily was just my will, I think it's his will. I think it's our team's will and our relentlessness and just our attitude and our focus that we don't want to be denied in anything we do, and so I think it was kind of that. Our off-season mentality of backs-against-the-wall-type attitude, let's just take it over here, and I think it was just not myself but everybody had that attitude, especially the offensive line had a little chip on their shoulder, and we wanted to go in there and get it done.
Q. Coach, have you ever had a player who was able to impose his will on a game the way Tim does?
COACH MEYER: I've had some great players and I have a bunch of good players on this team. I go with the Pounceys, I go with the offense line. I go with Brandon Spikes on defense. But to answer your question, I've never had one like this, and I've been around this game a long time. But Tim has got -- there's a special something inside of him, and I'm not talking about throwing, I'm not talking about running, I'm talking about the ability to make the level of play of everyone else around him better.
That fourth quarter was vintage Tim Tebow. I don't know the entire history of the University of Florida, but I can imagine that drive and that fourth quarter will go down as one of the greatest ever at University of Florida.
Q. Speaking of will, I'm just wondering, your statements after the Ole Miss game, how many times have you harkened back to that? Is there any opportunity in a game like today when you're trailing to recall saying what you said that day and basically making it happen?
TIM TEBOW: Well, you know, after that game I kind of sat in the locker room for a while to think about what I wanted to say. I just didn't want to just be so emotional, but I wanted to really be calm and speak from the heart, and I tried to do that.
Really all I was saying is that -- I wasn't saying we were going to win every game or we were going to be awesome or anything like that. It was we're going to play every play as hard as we can, and we're going to be the hardest working team possible. That's something that we can control. And I think that we've shown that. Win or lose, any games, it doesn't matter, we were the hardest working team, I believe, and I think we put that effort in. I think we played with that. I think you see the guys out there, they play with that relentless effort, just killing themselves out there for the team and for each other.
Q. I just wanted to ask, what do you think that Alabama did really well in this game?
TIM TEBOW: I think they're a really good team. I think they had a great game plan. Defensively they had a lot of good players, a lot of players that could match up and play man-to-man coverage and do that very well, and a very good front seven, two really big linebackers that were very physical, and they just weren't going to let you go out there and make a lot of plays. You really had to earn all the plays that you made, and they had a great game plan, as well. You've got to give credit to them and the players and the coaches for the way they came out and played.
COACH MEYER: I thought Alabama first of all, all three phases, I'm just sitting here statistically looking at the two teams that you watched play today are very strong in all three phases, and the statistics prove that. I thought out coverage units were outstanding against a guy like Brandon James. Our longest run from scrimmage was 14 yards and we have some fast athletes that can make some plays. I thought they contained the ball.
What they did do was they forced us to throw and take some shots downfield because they were playing a lot of zero coverage when the safeties were down to stop the run. I thought they played a hell of a game, but I thought Florida played a hell of a game, as well.
Q. Tim, after you guys scored the last touchdown, the kickoff team was getting ready to go out there, you intruded into the huddle at a high rate of speed. Wondering what the message was there to the kickoff unit. And if that is symbolic of what you were talking about?
TIM TEBOW: I was saying "just finish. Finish, make a play and let's finish this thing." All those guys were pretty much on the same page.
COACH MEYER: We have a guy like Brandon Spikes, Louis Murphy, the Pounceys, but some very vocal leadership on our team. Last year was completely void. It was nonexistent a year ago. And this team, Brandon Spikes is the guy before a game that handles the pre-game talk. I have a left-handed quarterback that's involved in defensive huddles, special team huddles, and a No. 9, my captain wide receiver that's very involved in all phases, as well. He's always involved in huddles on the sideline, when the defense calls time-out, motivating and working together and getting this thing going.
So those are three guys that -- some people are gifted with that ability to raise the level of play and let everybody know we're in this all together. Brandon Spikes is tremendous. You've got Tim Tebow running the offense along with Murph, and then you've got Brandon, what he does for this team on defense is phenomenal.
Q. You mentioned Louis Murphy several times. He was your leading receiver tonight. I don't know if you saw that. You shared a moment with him in your end zone afterward, and I was wondering if you could tell us what you said to him, and also speak to what all he meant not just this game but throughout the year.
COACH MEYER: Louis Murphy has come a long way. He lost his mom in the spring, and I lost my mom nine years ago, so we share that. We share a lot more than that. I'll keep some of that private. Louis Murphy is a very deep person, very strong person, strong in his faith and has a terrific family. We were just sharing some thoughts about that because I know she's watching him right now.
Q. Tim, I think you were 0-5 in your career going into fourth quarters when you were behind. I think this is your first comeback. Can you talk about doing that. For all you've accomplished that was kind of one hole in your rÃ©sumÃ©. And Urban, on a different topic, talk about what Cunningham did at the end of the third and fourth quarter, kind of stopped three drives.
TIM TEBOW: That was really never in my head. How do you know that? I just wanted to find some way that this team could get a victory today and that was really all I was focused on.
COACH MEYER: Jermaine Cunningham played great, and I think he certainly has the ability level to be a difference maker at defensive end, and when his number was called and we had to have a play, I think -- when you say "Cunningham," I also throw Dunlap and Trattou in there, as well, because they feed off each other. We're just much better defensively than we were a year ago, and Jermaine is a big part of that.
Q. Going back to the fourth quarter, you had mentioned a little bit earlier, you made some adjustments going into the quarter. What adjustments did you make to go from having the ball for less than four minutes in the third quarter to having it for more than 12?
COACH MEYER: Well, we put it in our quarterback's hand for one thing. We're a team that believes in the run, and we have some talented tailbacks. I don't want to say we're stubborn, but we all wanted to get that thing going as far as running the ball, but also our receivers, we have a lot of receivers and they always tell us how bad they're beating guys and you watch the film and they're not. That's typical receiver communication on the sideline (laughter). So we said Tim can win us the game with the receivers, and we had to do that, and they did. They made some plays down the field, Louis Murphy and Riley Cooper, and then Aaron Hernandez had a couple plays great.
We put the ball in the hands of our quarterback and let him make some plays with his arm.
Q. I'm wondering, after you've played in a game like that, how do you have the energy to go three quarters of the way around the stadium slapping hands?
TIM TEBOW: That was practically the hardest part of the day. I was getting so tired. These fans have supported us through everything, and they're great fans. I'm with them because I'm a Florida fan. I just wanted to give back as much as I could by going and shaking a hand. That's a pretty easy thing for me to do to give back, and they appreciate it. It's just something that I can do to say thank you for everything that they do.
Q. Billy told me that they used four guys in Percy's spot, X wide receiver, whatever that is. Can you tell me anything you did extra with those wide receivers to motivate or extra time?
COACH MEYER: Billy Gonzales did a terrific job, and when you take -- you don't replace Percy Harvin. You don't replace a Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes. You just don't replace them. What you do is you manage around them and you try to develop the guys that you have. Riley Cooper is a tremendously talented guy. Had his best week of practice. He's been dealing with injuries since he's been at Florida. We call it competitive excellence when your number is called, go win the game. And the shallow stutter bender, the last touchdown pass that Tim threw, that's against a good corner, a guy that's worked that pattern for seven, eight weeks, and it was a very well executed play.
There was extra motivation because they knew someone had to step up. David Nelson was collecting scholarship checks around here for two and a half years, and he should be writing a check back to the University of Florida. But his payback is done. We'll call it even now (laughter). He did a hell of a job. He comes from a great family, very hard worker, and made some plays to help us win this game.
Q. Do you feel Tim Tebow deserves to win another Heisman Trophy?
COACH MEYER: I do now. I on purpose have tried to watch. No disrespect at all because I think the Big 12 quarterbacks, all three of them, are tremendous players. I have a responsibility, and that's my quarterback. I think he's the best in college football. I think he's the best football player in America. Once again, without any disrespect to those other players, because I think they're terrific, as well.
At the end of the day when you evaluate what "player" means, not just how many yards and statistics because we've seen what he can do statistically, but to manage a game against the defenses he's faced in the last two months, I think someone should do that study, today's defense, FSU, South Carolina, Kentucky, and you can go down the board. When we played them they were either top ten -- I want to say the last few were top ten, and someone gave me the stat four of the last six were top ten defenses that our quarterbacks faced, and put up fairly ridiculous numbers. Tonight wasn't ridiculous, but he managed the game and won it.
Q. Did y'all say anything to Percy before the game?
COACH MEYER: Percy?
Q. Yeah. Did you say, we'll go out and win it for you?
COACH MEYER: I think a lot of the players did. I gave him a big hug and he's extremely competitive young guy. He wouldn't let us -- he was so convinced he was going to play, and we locked him down until Friday, and it just wasn't right for him. A very emotional time for Percy because two years ago he was the MVP. He was a big part of our offense obviously and a big part of this team.
Q. You gave us your thoughts yesterday on how deserving the winner of this game, the SEC Championship game, is in getting a spot in the National Championship game. Tim, do you think that the winner of this game, Florida, deserves a spot in the National Championship game?
TIM TEBOW: I think so. I think there's a lot of great teams out there, but I think the SEC is a very good conference, and I think the winner deserves a chance to play for it.
Q. For Coach and Tim, you're ahead 24-20, you stop Alabama, you have a huddle on the sideline, and your offensive team doesn't trot on the field, they sprinted on the field. Would you talk about that? What went on in the huddle, and talk about that.
TIM TEBOW: We just gathered all the offense up and said, "We have a chance to go win it here." We were very excited and we had a lot of momentum, and we said, "Let's just go win it here. No reason not to. Throw it on our shoulders and let's go get it." We were able to put that drive in and it kind of sealed the game a little bit.
It was a great drive, but it all started with the offensive line and everybody around them. I think you look at that drive and we probably had six or seven guys touch the ball, which is great, and all those guys were involved, and all those guys stepped up and made plays. So it was a total team effort.
COACH MEYER: Our team, we use any form of motivation we get our hands on, and when your toughness is questioned, white collar versus blue collar, old versus new and all this other stuff, from day one the foundation of our program is built on toughness, and obviously Alabama is a very tough football team, but University of Florida, I would like to say when people talk about Florida, I know we're fast and all this other stuff, but we're very tough. Our strength Coach Mickey Morotti, I could go on and on, and I should, because I'm so proud of our assistant coaches and our strength staff to develop the toughness on our team. It starts with mat drills in February, with starts with fourth quarter wins in the SEC Championship game. We are a very tough program.
Q. What do you think of a potential Oklahoma or Texas match-up?
COACH MEYER: I'm going to enjoy this win. I'm very good friends with those two coaches. Two very good friends, and I'm going to enjoy my quarterback, my family, my team, and get the hell out of here, and we'll hopefully get to watch some of that game.
End of FastScripts