THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome everyone today’s head coaches press conference, our final official press conference of the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl. This year Texas is the home team and Oregon is the visitor. I would like to introduce Coach Mack Brown, if you could do opening statements and then we’ll introduce Coach Helfrich.
COACH MACK BROWN: Thank you. It’s been a great week. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mark and his staff. His defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is one of the great ones in our business, and for him to be stepping away is significant because he’s such a great coach, and been that way for so many years. Mark’s done a tremendous job of taking over for a program that was winning like they are now, and he’s continued to keep it in the same light and will continue to do so. The players have gotten along great this week. The city of San Antonio continues to be awesome for hospitality. The Alamo Bowl and the city are just a great combination for fun for kids, but it’s always fun when you can appreciate and enjoy. The coaches on the other side and the players last night had a lot of fun together. So that’s fun and builds up to a great game. What we did on Christmas Day when we got here is we told our players that this was not about farewells; this was not about where I am in life, it’s not about where the coaches are in life. What this is is a reward for them for winning the games they won this year in fighting back and coming from behind and playing a great opponent on Monday night. So we have actually asked them not to mention the coaching situation because that would be very, very unfair to the Alamo Bowl, to Mark or to them. This is about them. It’s about the seniors’ last game. It’s about the younger players moving forward. So we have not talked about that all week. And if you watch Oregon on video, that takes your mindset away. You don’t have to worry about what happens on Tuesday. So we’re excited about the game. It’s been a great week, and Mark.
MARK HELFRICH: Thank you. Can I just say ditto to a lot of that? But it has been a great week. We’ve had ‑‑ the reception here from the top down has been outstanding. The people associated with the Alamo Bowl have been outstanding. Pat and Derek and everybody else we’ve come in contact with has been beyond our highest expectation. City of San Antonio has been a lot of fun, had a great time last time, as Coach Brown said, with our players and families out on the River Walk for a great event. And like Coach said, a tremendous challenge of watching Texas on tape woke us up immediately of starting to prepare for the buildup to this game, and our guys had a great couple of weeks of kind of Texas prep as well as getting a jump with our younger players for advancing their jump on spring ball a little bit. And I will talk about the coaching change a little bit because Coach Brown, just again, I call him an icon of our game, and as I’ve been around him more and more this week, it’s made it more and more difficult. I like to get a little anger going before the game; and when you’re around him, it’s just more impressive, more classy, you know, just better than the high expectations that I had coming into this deal. I’ve had a ton of conversations with him about things that I’ll take with me forever and will hopefully make me a better coach, and just can’t say enough about how impressive it is to be around him and his wife Sally. And again, like he said, the players, every player that I have come in contact with at Texas have been top‑notch human beings, and I think that’s, again, a testament to him and his staff. As for the game, we’re excited to go. I think we’ve had a great week down here of focused football and then fun when it’s time to have fun, and we’re getting closer and closer to kickoff, so it feels more like a football game than a bowl game.
Q. Mack, there was a story out this week that you stepping aside was not your choice. I wonder if you can address that.
MACK BROWN: I can address that after watching Oregon’s video, we have been totally focused on Oregon and nothing else.
Q. Mack, the players came in yesterday. We talked to Greg Robinson yesterday. They all seem to be full speed ahead. How have you managed the information so that your players are doing nothing but being focused on the game?
MACK BROWN: This has been one of the more fun groups that I’ve ever coached, being around the assistant coaches and the players. From our poor start and a lot of speculation and negative things being said early, these guys have focused on winning. And they had that great run for six weeks, and they had a chance to beat Baylor in the last half for the conference championship and came up short, but at no time have they not given us their best and been focused each week. And the assistant coaches the same way. After Ole Miss these guys committed to us that they would continue to do everything they could do to help Texas, because that’s really important to us that Texas play well and do well. And I asked the assistant coaches even this week, let’s focus on this game; let’s don’t talk about other jobs. If you need me, I will help you, but I’d rather do it after Monday night. I’d rather do it Tuesday. So let’s do nothing but give Texas our best this last week and let’s give these young people our best. And it would have been impossible for us to ask them to focus and give us respect and discipline and effort for the last week unless we gave them the same. So we think that’s all worked out for both. Very proud of everybody in the Longhorn organization.
Q. Mack, real quick about Malcolm Brown. You know, he talked yesterday about he felt that there was an opportunity around the OU game to sort of step in, make his mark. I know Joe had some issues there, and then Jonathan had some fumblitis issues. Was that game as a staff where y’all felt, hey, Malcolm, here’s your chance and he really took off with it?
MACK BROWN: Yeah. We felt since he’s been here it’s ready to happen. Ole Miss two years ago he was unbelievable, just had an amazing game, and in the third play of the game against Oklahoma State he hurts his ankle and really doesn’t come back for the rest of the year.
He played a little bit the latter part of the year, but he was never the same. So this is the first year he’s been healthy all year, and I just think he’ll have an opportunity to leave obviously, but I think if he comes back, and I would think he would come back, that he would be one of the better running backs in the country next year.
Q. Coach Helfrich, we have an Alamo Bowl hash tag question. What was your reaction and player reaction to the end zones?
MARK HELFRICH: I didn’t actually ‑‑ I walked around the Texas end zone I saw it; it looked fantastic. I didn’t get a chance to get down to the Oregon end zone. So hopefully we’ll find that Monday night. But we just went in, took the team picture and hustled here. But anything that Nike has designed has been fairly impressive, and I’m confident it’ll be fantastic on television for the crowd in attendance.
Q. Mack, have you come close to reaching terms on your buy‑out agreement with Texas?
MACK BROWN: We are excited about Oregon and Monday night. So I can’t wait. Great week. I said at the first of the week we would focus on these kids and this game, and that’s absolutely what I’m going to do. Every ounce of my energy will be doing the best I can do to coach this game on Monday night. And by the way, we’ve even said we’re not coaching it like it’s the last one. We’re going to coach it to do everything that we would do if it was 16 years ago to win the game. So we’re going to do our best, and that’s our job and our responsibility. It would be disrespectful to Mark and his great team and staff. It would be disrespectful to the Alamo Bowl for me to sit up here and talk about me today because this isn’t about me.
Q. Do you worry about being overly emotional in your last game with the Longhorns?
MACK BROWN: I’m overly emotional for 16 ‑‑ 30 years I’ve been a head coach. So that’ll probably be the same.
Q. Coach Helfrich, we talked to Josh yesterday. Talk a little bit about the edge of your offense, the attitudes they have. We talked to Marcus yesterday. We talked to Josh. Kind of how they manage themselves and the vigor with which they play offense.
MARK HELFRICH: Well, that’s something we take a lot of pride in is not only the tempo we play at, but we want to play physically as well. We don’t want to be a run‑and‑shoot‑esque type of edge to our deal. And one of those things that we always point out is our ability to block on the perimeter. And that’s something that we take great pride in, our receivers blocking in this case some tremendously talented secondary people that Texas has. That’ll be something that will be huge in the game, as it is every week. And we do need to play with an edge. We don’t need to play with chaos. The last time we were in Texas Josh was a little over emotional at the beginning of the game and so we’ve talked about that a little bit of playing within ‑‑ right on the fine line of that edge and still executing.
Q. Mark, I know in talking to your players this week, they said the last four or five weeks have really been good for them to get their edge back. Do you get the feeling that since November they’ve kind of got their mojo back as far as approaching what they were doing early in the season rather than late in the season?
MARK HELFRICH: We sure hope so, I guess. I think when we lost our first game and the world came to an end, you know, we realized when we woke up the next day that, hey, maybe the world didn’t come to an end, but there were still some stragglers and there was absolutely some disappointment, kind of punched‑in‑the‑gut type of feeling for a few guys that just needed to grow up and realize that there was a lot of ball left to be played, and as it played out, we could have played ourselves into a better situation, quote, unquote, but we didn’t earn that.
And I think a part of that is how I managed that, that I can do better. Part of that is realizing that the guys in the helmets are the guys that make it happen and earn it. Like I said the other day, they don’t give us points because the O shows up and we step on the field and we put 27 points on the board. Can we do that, by the way? 28 maybe?
MACK BROWN: I’ve been saying 65.
MARK HELFRICH: But just that mentality of grinding out everything, earning everything is something that has been our calling card for a long time, and especially our younger guys just need to realize that, and I think the disappointment or whatever those emotions were we handled as well as we possibly could in some regards. In some facets of our team we didn’t handle that so well. But these last couple weeks I think our guys have prepared well, one, out of respect for our opponent, and another, of playing Oregon football.
MACK BROWN: The expectation for both of these programs is to be playing in the last game at the end of the year, and neither one of us are doing that, but a lot of people would love to be in Oregon’s situation as a Top 10 team that lost to a great team and then had a tough one on the road, and that’s it, and have a lot of people back for next year. So those guys have been on a great run. Their run, and I told their staff this the other night, their run as of late here has been like the run we had from ’04 to ’09 and it’s been fun to watch them.
Q. Hey, Mark, Nick said that we wanted to retire after the Fiesta Bowl last year and you talked him into coming back and helping the transition. Is that accurate, and if so, what does it mean for you to have him this year?
MARK HELFRICH: As I said the other day, Nick’s contributions have been ‑‑ you can’t overstate them enough, and I think that’s the best way to put it of his contributions on and off the field have been immeasurable, as Coach Brown just said, the advancement, so to speak, of our program. There was never a talking into or talking out ‑‑ I don’t think that’s ‑‑ that’s exactly how I put it to him. That’s a lifetime decision that you’re making. He’s at a point in his life where he’s happy and healthy. His wife and his family are happy and healthy; go play golf. Make some tee times. I guarantee you he and Coach Brown already have two for a foursome at their country club of choice for years to come. That timing was totally his call.
MACK BROWN: Nick told me he was a 20 handicap.
MARK HELFRICH: 24.
MACK BROWN: Oh, there’s no question. I didn’t buy any of it.
MARK HELFRICH: Smart man.
Q. Mark, you said that your team couldn’t quite match up from a talent standpoint to Texas. Where do they rank among the other teams you’ve played this season?
MARK HELFRICH: Really high. The context of that, somebody had asked how do you prepare for a Malcolm Brown, how do you prepare for the offensive line. Like most people, we don’t have those guys laying around. We don’t have a Malcolm Brown on our team let alone the third guy or the fourth guy that can simulate that guy in a scout team situation, but Texas is obviously legendary for its ability to recruit, and obviously the talent in the state in a talent‑rich state and a talent‑laden roster of those in‑state guys, and just seeing them at the banquet last night, that was not fun. But you know, we’ve got some things that we hope we’ll be able to do and our guys will certainly show up and play hard.
MACK BROWN: The problem for us is we tried to catch some of theirs leaving the banquet. We couldn’t catch them either.
Q. Mack, can you talk about what you’ve seen from Tyrone Swoopes in these bowl preparations?
MACK BROWN: Yeah. Tyrone has done very well, so we’re very proud of him, and I think he’s got a great future ahead.
Q. Mark, last year at the Fiesta Bowl you were offensive coordinator; your responsibilities certainly were different. Can you talk about how you’ve managed as a head coach this year the bowl responsibilities as a head coach?
MARK HELFRICH: Just trying to make sure everybody’s on time and working hard. I think for the most part of having a plan coming into it of kind of how we’ve managed in the past in tweaking some of those things or getting some different input, whether it’s from Jim Radcliffe, first string coach or just peaking on Monday night. That’s the whole point of this. And how we managed Christmas and all those things. We didn’t do anything terribly different from a logistical standpoint from the last couple years, but just getting, I think, more or less just the psychological nature of things, getting everybody’s minds rested, happy and healthy and ready for these last couple of weeks of pure Texas preparation.
Q. Mack, hindsight obviously being 20/20, but if you look back at this season, is there anything you could have done differently or you would have done differently as you look back on things or did it play out just the way it was kind of meant to play out?
MACK BROWN: No. I would have won all the games. That would have been the better thought for me if we could have done that, by a lot. Played a lot of guys, had happy moms and dads and happy media and happy fans, that would have been fun. We’ve done that, and it’s a lot more fun.
Q. Mark, what went into your decision to have Nick announce his retirement on Friday?
MARK HELFRICH: Well, you know, he’d been talking about this for a while, and again, his thing that he kept saying is he wanted to manage the message or be able to control the message which in the modern Twitter verse that’s difficult if you don’t make the announcement. And so he was bringing this up, and the only way to do that would have been to do it before the game because he wanted to tell the team and he wanted to tell the staff before anybody else, and to do that you have to do that before Monday night. There’s no other way. And I think the timing of it just of how he wanted to do it with the press conference the next day was something that worked out. But that was definitely a group decision.
Q. Mack, if the four‑team playoff was in effect now, do you think Oregon would be good enough to be one of those four teams?
MARK HELFRICH: Let me give you his answer. Yes.
Q. Ranked No. 1?
MARK HELFRICH: No. I’d go four.
MACK BROWN: Four with the best chance to win. (Laughs). No, I said Mark announced Nick, so our farewell party wouldn’t be good. He’s got their defense pumped now for that stage.
No, I do think that’s one of the great things about the playoff moving forward. I’m hoping that at some point if you get a great team like Oregon that has an injury or two and it costs you a game at mid season, I’d rather see it be eight teams and see who the best teams are at the end. I think right now a loss in college football is the most difficult loss in any sporting event across the country. And I’m not saying that about Oregon. There’s some other teams that we’d all like to see a playoff. What a great playoff if we had about four more weeks of the best teams playing the best teams instead of some of the bowls we’re watching, very honestly, and still let those bowls be out there, but let’s don’t take a great team and have them in a lesser bowl. Let’s let them have a chance to play for it at the end and I think that’s where we’re headed. I wish it was more than four, because next year we’re going to be worried about who’s five and who’s six and somebody’s going to get left out that’s a really good football team, because now I think we’re going to see a national champion with two losses at some point in the next four or five years, and that’s just where we are. I think we’re headed more to an NFL model than ever before in my coaching career, and there are some things that are positive about that, but there are some things that are negative. But it would give a team like Oregon a chance right now to be back in the mix instead of walking off the field against Stanford, everybody talking about you’ve lost your chance. I mean that’s not fair. It shouldn’t be that way in my estimation.
Q. Mark, what’s your time table for hiring a defensive coordinator? And as someone who was promoted from within, is that a priority for you to promote from within and keep continuity at that position?
MARK HELFRICH: Go last first. The priority is what’s best for Oregon football, and the second part of that, no time line. Our priority, A, No. 1, AAA, No. 1, is to beat Texas, and our focus is 100 percent on that. And we’ll manage that behind the scenes, and we have some great coaches on our staff and there are some great coaches we’ve either been around or been in contact with in the past that will be in the mix in that regard. And I’ve read a lot of things that I’ve done over the last three or four days that I haven’t done. So it’s been exciting to see those developments.
Q. Welcome to Texas.
MARK HELFRICH: Yeah, exactly. But in due course. There’s no hurry at all.
MACK BROWN: Mark asked me about it last night if I was interested, and I told him with all due respect, we should wait till Tuesday.
MARK HELFRICH: Tuesday morning. (Laughs). Had to wait for the negotiations.
Q. Mack, since we’re not going to be able to see you on Tuesday ‑‑
MACK BROWN: We’re not hanging out?
Q. He’s going to be in Bora Bora. A lot of people want to know do you want to keep coaching. What have you envisioned for yourself come Tuesday and beyond?
MACK BROWN: I have envisioned doing the best job I can do for this football team between now and Monday night, and it would be unfair for me to have even thought about anything else. And then after that I’ll obviously have some time to think, but it would be unfair and disrespectful to everybody here for us to keep talking about me.
Q. (No microphone).
MACK BROWN: No. I don’t drink coffee. (Laughs).
Q. Mark, in the Stanford game why did you decide to let Marcus keep playing after he partially tore his MCL and how much healthier is he now?
MARK HELFRICH: You know, Marcus was our best option. There was no point at which the medical team, you know, in any way was, hey, this guy’s in danger, a detrimental kind of situation to reaggravate something would come up, and he was our best option. Marcus is a great player, and if we make two plays at the beginning of that game, it’s a totally different story. Make a couple special teams plays on defense, like anybody, when you play against a great team, the margins are very slim. What was the second part?
Q. How much healthier is he now in his ability to run, which makes the offense a lot more dynamic?
MARK HELFRICH: One percent.
MACK BROWN: He’s looked really good in practice.
MARK HELFRICH: How do you know? (Laughs).
MACK BROWN: We’ve been out there.
MARK HELFRICH: We are in Texas.
Q. I just wanted to get your impressions, Coach Helfrich, of the Texas defensive line, Jackson Jeffcoat and your overall impressions of the defense.
MARK HELFRICH: Outstanding. You can certainly see the impact of the coaching change was immediate. The scheme was different, their pursuit of the ball was different, and that’s one of those things that, you know, is a tough deal ‑‑ tough call to make in season, but the impact was huge. And Jackson Jeffcoat is one of the many, many things that make them really good on defense, two great corners that can cover anybody. And you see the best of the Big 12 getting locked up every week, and they do a great job of mixing a ton of coverages. They’re very similar to Stanford in that way of a bunch of different coverages, a bunch of ways that they can attack formationally from a defensive standpoint, and then up front they do a great job of mixing and matching by game plan. They’ll play one team completely different, then another team completely different, then another. So it kind of gives you a bunch of straws to pull at as far as what they’re going to do against us. So it’ll be a game of adjustments at some point and then a little bit of a game of just do what you do.
Q. Mack, as far as your offensive line with Kennedy Estelle out, and I assume Josh Cochran out and maybe Desmond Harrison, you got any new players coming in there?
MACK BROWN: Yes. I’m sorry. We’ve recruited four guys this week off the waiver wire. Desmond Harrison did not make the trip because he’s had a personal family issue at home, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers as that continues to progress. Hopefully it’ll improve. Kennedy Estelle is obviously at home. Josh Cochran will not play tackle. He’s played some tight end, but he’s lost too much weight after his shoulder injury to do that so he comes in in short yardage and goal line, some at tight end, so what you have to do is move Trey Hopkins to right tackle and Sedrick Flowers to left guard and move forward.
And also Hassan is out with an arm injury. And he will not play in the game, will not dress or play.
Q. Mack, throughout the season how much have injuries affected how you play and change what you have to do?
MACK BROWN: The biggest thing is it’s part of the game. You know, you go back and look, probably eight of our Top 10 players will not dress Monday night. So it’s been a difficult thing.
One of the things a new coach is going to have to look at is why we’ve had so many injuries over the last three years, and I think nationally we’ve all gotta look at it. It seems like there are more injuries out there this year than maybe in the past, or maybe we’re just hearing about them more. But I think the biggest impact is at quarterback when the quarterback that you’re playing isn’t ‑‑ he doesn’t run the same plays as the one that you were playing, so obviously you have to make a major change, because Case is not a guy that’s going to run the option and quarterback draws and do the things that David did. So that’s been a pretty big burden for transition for our offensive staff to change as much as we’ve had to. But I think they’ve done a good job and Case has done a good job stepping up. It also affects you on special teams. That’s one of the things. When you look at a team to see how well they’re coached, Oregon has probably had as many punt returns and kickoff returns for touchdowns as anybody in the country. One of the things I always look to first is the speed of your team always shows up on special teams. The depth of your team shows up on special teams, but also your coaching, because a lot of teams can run an offense; a lot of teams can run a defense, but these guys win a lot of games with kicking game. And that’s very impressive.
Q. Mark, would you ‑‑ we talked to some of the guys yesterday about embracing the challenge of this being a semi road game, considering it’s here in Texas. Would you talk about that a little bit, about embracing being on the road? And I think the numbers are 80 percent are going to be Texas families in the Alamo Dome tomorrow night.
MARK HELFRICH: Yeah, that’s probably a conservative number, too. But yeah, we’ve approached it exactly like a road game and a hostile road game. And just being in the Alamo Dome, it’s the first time I’ve been in there. It’s very similar to, what’s it called now, University of Phoenix stadium in terms of it’s a big basketball arena. That’ll be a great atmosphere. Along the lines in our conference of a Washington‑Oregon kind of hostile environment on the road, and it’ll be loud and hopefully we can do our part to keep that 20 percent doing the noise making.
Q. Mack, what’s the best memory from your time at Texas?
MACK BROWN: Oh, boy. There’s too many. I mean 16 years is a long time, and it’s been a wonderful ride. I’ve had a great time, and University of Texas has been wonderful to me, our family. We couldn’t have had the memories and made the friends that we’ve had anywhere else as well as we’ve had at the University of Texas. Some people have asked me that question, then when I start, I say, oh, no, that one, too; no, this one; gosh, that was fun. Oh, my gosh, I forgot about that. There’s just way too many. I’ll probably be able to reflect that somewhere down the road sometime, but not right now.
THE MODERATOR: Any final questions? Thank you.
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