THE MODERATOR: Coach Campbell, could you start with an opening remark.
MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, first and foremost, I want to give a thank you to Derrick Fox and his great staff embracing not only, to be honest with you, our players but our players’ families, and certainly our fan base. It’s been a tremendous first-class experience all week. Beyond grateful for the support we’ve been given, the opportunities to play in this football game.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Leach, can you tell us how the practices have been going this week.
MIKE LEACH: I thought they went pretty well. We got good facilities, easy to get back and forth. I think practice has been pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Matt, what makes Brock so effective, especially in the fourth quarter, despite such a young age?
MATT CAMPBELL: I think the biggest thing for Brock is he’s been able to lean on some of those players around him, with obviously David and Hakeem and Matt Eaton, the tight end position continuing to grow within the offense. I think that’s been probably what he’s done the best, is play within himself.
I think for a young guy, especially at the quarterback position, it’s what you hope to see, is a guy that doesn’t try to do too much, has the ability to play within himself.
Q. Both of your quarterbacks are top four in pass rating in the fourth quarter and overtime. What have you seen from your quarterbacks, the ability to make plays in critical moments?
MATT CAMPBELL: Again, I think that goes back to what I talked about with Brock in terms of his preparation and detail. I think for a young guy, understanding the system and really working hard off the field to be able to know what to do in critical moments, critical detail, be able to execute, I think that’s a lot of his maturity off the field that’s allowed him to have that kind of success.
Q. Coach Leach, what is your formula for finding a quarterback, then molding that quarterback into what you like it to be?
MIKE LEACH: Really it’s remarkably simple: find somebody that’s accurate, and don’t compromise accuracy. Everybody says all he has to do is work on his accuracy. That’s where you start. You don’t work on accuracy, you start with a guy that’s accurate. Now you want a guy that can make good decisions. You can impact that as a coach.
After that, have all the other things, does he have quick feet, a strong arm, is he fast. I can’t think of anybody in the NFL Hall of Fame that’s got all five of those things, but I think you have to get those first two, then you can continue to polish them.
You want a guy that the team draws from that elevates the team, that makes the other players around him better. That’s kind of an intangible thing that I think you have to see. It can be developed, but I think you got to see that happen. From there, it’s just persistence. The coach refuses to go away, keep making him do what you want, you know.
Like Woody Allen says: 90% of life is showing up, so make sure you show up.
Q. Coach Leach, what is your lasting impression of the state of Iowa and the people in Iowa?
MIKE LEACH: Outstanding people in Iowa, very down-to-earth people in Iowa. It was a great place to be. I was in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, of course, Iowa Wesleyan College. Of course every town has some unique thing, unique place, unique story. Iowa is kind of a fascinating place.
It was kind of funny, Iowans love Iowa. There’s actually a great book, I think it’s call Breakfast in America, by Bill Bryson, and he’s from Iowa, he talks about Iowa, travels across the U.S.
Anyway, this is going to happen in this bowl, too. Folks from Iowa, they’d be going somewhere really cool. They’d be heading to, I don’t know, Disneyland. Yeah, we’re going to go to Disneyland, see what all that Mickey Mouse stuff is all about. Then when it was time to go, they’d be at the airport a couple of hours before the plane left. They’re on the plane, get back there, then they go to Maid-Rite or something once they get back, have their coffee.
They’ll say, Yeah, we went down there to that Orlando area, went to Disneyland, a little of that. It was nice. Ain’t nothing like Iowa, though. Ain’t nothing like Iowa, though (laughter).
People are enthusiastic about the place, it was a captivating place.
Q. Coach Leach, you spent a lot of time in the Big 12. When you’ve been scouting Iowa State’ defense, what have you seen that has allowed them to have so much success in a conference known for a great offense?
MIKE LEACH: I think they transition really well. I think that’s the biggest thing. The hardest thing about a defense is everybody going to the same place in a synchronized fashion. They do a good job of that. They run to the ball well.
I mean, you got kind of a second level of people that are trying to be involved both in the run and the pass. They do a good job of transitioning that way without leaving any holes.
Q. Coach Leach, as somebody who used to be in the Big 12, you probably have a good understanding of how difficult it is to win there. Could you talk a little bit about the success that Coach Campbell has had, just how he’s been able to do what he’s done in a tough league.
MIKE LEACH: I think we’re in quite similar situations. I think our teams are similar. But, yeah, Iowa State is a unique spot. I think it’s a place that once you get your players up there, they embrace it. I think you have an immediate identity, then you just kind of rally around that.
I think he’s done a fine job. I think it is a tough league. But I think they’ll continue to have success there, too.
Q. Coach Campbell, I know we’ve talked about it a lot, but how would you describe how challenging and rewarding it’s been to see the team go from having sort of an what-can-we-do mentality to we’re-doing-something mentality?
MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, I think you reflect on it a little bit because you see this senior class, you’re going to be with them for two more days. It’s a group, just like last year’s group, that really went through some really hard moments during the early stages of their football career.
I think Coach hit it on it a little bit ago. You want to give players hope, an identity, give them a chance to become the best versions of themselves they can be. That’s what’s been rewarding about watching these last two senior classes really take ownership in the program, really start leading from the inside out.
To me, it’s been really rewarding to watch these young men be able to have success and be able to create an identity for this football program.
Q. Coach Campbell, I know you read Coach Leach’s book. Spending time with him during bowl week, has your impression of him changed or been about the same?
MIKE LEACH: Give them as gifts (smiling).
MATT CAMPBELL: I was trying to help everybody with Coach’s book sales (laughter).
For me, I’ve always been such a great admirer of Coach. I have used this term a lot: coaches that are trying to do something rather than trying to be somebody. I think as a young coach, playing for a guy like Coach Kehres at Mount Union, I was fascinated with what made him tick and be successful.
As you look at Coach’s career, as a young guy, coming up through the profession, watching his Texas Tech team, now Washington State, you have an admiration for how his kids play, the success he’s been able to have, sustain in this profession. It’s certainly been an honor to be a part of this with Coach Leach.
Q. You guys were at the pep rally yesterday. What is that event like for you and your teams? How does that event compare to other bowl game experiences that you have had since you’ve been a part of so many of these?
MIKE LEACH: I think it’s unique. I mean, it starts with having a river. But I think it is a unique deal. On the stage there, it’s a little harder to get the full feel of it because the microphone is a little distorted, it echoes a little bit if you’re holding the thing.
The people I’ve talked to, you probably have a better perspective of this, the visual of it was quite impressive, with the boats full of players, then just the way the whole thing appeared and came across with the spirit squads and all that.
I heard from the frontside it was very impressive. From the backside, it was impressive, too, so…
MATT CAMPBELL: I’d echo the same thing from Coach. Obviously being on the river, having the opportunity for our kids to come down in the boats, I think was really well-received from our young men. I think really a first-class experience for everybody involved.
Q. Coach Leach, as the ‘quarterback whisperer’ of college football, what are your thoughts on Brock Purdy?
MIKE LEACH: Good player. I think the best thing he’s done impressively is he’s been effectively able to take the reins at a young age and elevate the players around him. I think that’s the hardest thing. I think sometimes a young guy doesn’t feel entitled to lead because everybody has been there longer than they have, things like that.
It appears to me just watching film from the outside, he’s kind of embraced that role as being the guy that guides the offense there.
Q. Mike, you’re a history buff. How much fun has it been to spend a week in a historic city like San Antonio? Did you learn anything about the Alamo?
MIKE LEACH: I did go to the Alamo. Fascinating. A lot of details and nuances to the Alamo that are impressive. We had a guided tour through, did just a tremendous job of that.
I’d like to explore more. I mean, actually practicing and meeting more than exploring. Some days I wish it was the other way around. But, no, this really is a great city to check out.
Q. Coach Leach, what stands out about Matt Campbell and his coaching style as a rising star?
MIKE LEACH: I think a lot of passion, enthusiasm. I think he’s passionate and enthusiastic, so then I think his players are, too.