An interview with:
COACH MAJOR APPLEWHITE
THE MODERATOR: We welcome the University of Texas offense. I’ll introduce Coach Applewhite who will introduce his players.
COACH APPLEWHITE: We have Mason Walters, senior offensive guard; Trey Hopkins, senior offensive guard and tackle; Mike Davis, senior wide out; Malcolm Brown, junior runningback; senior quarterback, Case McCoy.
THE MODERATOR: How has bowl preparation gone?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Gone well. We got here Christmas Day. Guys had three great days of practice. We’ve enjoyed our time here. We’re ready to get going for the game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. What is the difference between coaching in the booth and on the field?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I like the booth a lot better. A little bit more calm up there than it is down on the sidelines. You want to be down there at certain times for certain players, but then there’s other things you can be up in the booth. Especially working with Case, I feel better working from the booth. With my eyes up there, I don’t feel like I need to be out on the field with him. I like being up there in that environment.
Q. Major, you have had the injuries on offense, had to change week‑to‑week. Now that you’ve had a month to prepare, do you feel this like this unit going into the game is ready to play as well as they can?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Yeah, we still had some of those same things. We got some guys that won’t be playing with us in a couple days. We’ve had to kind of fill those positions, build some depth at those positions, whether it be O‑line, runningback, wide receiver. So we’ve been working on kind of filling some of those spots and getting some of the younger guys reps so they’ll be game ready.
Q. Major, and Case, you had a chance to look at film of Oregon. What have you seen about their defense? Case, you’re going up against two corners.
COACH APPLEWHITE: First, I think they’ve got great guys outside. A lot of man coverage. They’re multiple in the back end. They’ll play man, zone, match patterns. Do a lot of things up front in terms of the front game, disguising their blitzes. Guys are difficult to get ahold of.
They’ve done a great job outside. They have great players, very athletic, fast. Their safeties are good players, too. They can play well in man coverage. Kind of reminds me a little bit of the way Coach Akina tries to train our secondary, to where all four of them can play man coverage if need be.
There’s not one guy that’s a tackler that’s down in the box. They’re all pretty versatile. So when you look at third down, they can be effective in third‑down situations, get some turnovers. I think that’s why they’ve got so many this year.
CASE McCOY: Yeah, exactly, they’re incredible athletes out there, played a lot of ball. For the most part looking at them, they play together very well. They put those guys on islands out there, trust their safeties to make plays, but also get down in the box and make plays.
Definitely you can see when you watch them on film, they played a lot of ball together and they know what they’re doing back there.
Q. Malcolm, a lot of runningbacks in the last month of the regular season had a lot of success rushing against Oregon’s defense. What do you see from that 3‑4 that you might be able to exploit?
MALCOLM BROWN: You know, first of all, they do have a great athletic defense. Have a great front, great linebackers.
The 3‑4, we feel like we can do a great job of running the ball right at them. Like you said, past teams have had a whole bunch of success in regular zones, powers, things like that. Just got to be more aggressive. I know our offensive line is going to do a great job, so…
Q. Major, talk about Malcolm’s season, how he’s done.
COACH APPLEWHITE: Somewhere early around I guess maybe the third week of fall camp, something happened. I don’t know if it was an ankle or a hip or something. Got set back a little bit, not much. Jonathan and Joe were doing some good things in the first couple games. When we got to the Oklahoma game, we had some ball security issues. Malcolm always did a great job of taking care of the ball.
Really felt like that Oklahoma game, might play a big role in that game in terms of it’s a man’s game, you know. You got to be mature. You have to be able to handle the ebbs and flows of that game. Recruiting Malcolm, seeing him around his family, the kind of young man he is, I knew he would be ready for that opportunity.
He went out and played a great game, and the offensive line did a great job in that game. Really kind of gave us a little bit of an identity to go on a six‑game stretch right there. We did a great job of running the football, both Joe, Jonathan and Malcolm. All three of those guys did a tremendous job. We were able to kind of get in the hunt.
Give Malcolm a lot of credit. But I know that Malcolm would be the first guy to tell you to give those other guys a lot of credit, too.
Q. Case and Malcolm, you came in the starting lineup midyear, now that you’ve had a month with this group, do you feel like the preparation for this game set you guys up to have the best offensive game against Oregon?
CASE McCOY: That’s what we’re hoping for, no doubt about it. Obviously we’re starters now. Obviously we filled in roles throughout the season. We’ve been playing these roles for quite some time now. We’re expected to play like starters.
Fully expect Malcolm to go out and play a great game. I got to play great. I got to take care of the ball. When I take care of the ball, in the games we’ve won, that’s been the circumstances.
That’s our plan. Malcolm would probably give you the same answer.
MALCOLM BROWN: Definitely. He hit it right on the head. It’s football. Guys go down, guys have to step up. Me and Case, we chose to be those guys to step up in those roles. We’re enjoying it. We have a great team around us.
Q. Now that you’ve begun practicing, has the atmosphere and the preparations changed knowing this is Mack’s final game?
CASE McCOY: I think we as a team, and our coaches as well, prepare hard. That’s never been a difference. Win or lose, that’s not a critique whether we prepare or not. I know the preparation we put in week in, week out, that’s not going to change going into this game being his last one.
As we saw who we were playing, we were all in the film room the next day. This is a big game for us, no doubt about it, playing a top‑10 team that’s well‑coached. Five weeks ago they were in a hunt for the national championship.
We understand what’s at stake. We’ll play hard. Coach Brown will coach hard. If we play that way, we take care of the ball, I think it will be a good night for us.
Q. Major, the 2000 Holiday Bowl is pretty well‑remembered by Duck fans. What are your memories?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I remember getting beat, quite honestly. I didn’t get a chance to play. I was injured. I wasn’t cleared to play. Maybe I’d just been cleared.
I just remember, I think it was Onterrio Smith had a great game. Joe had a great game. Rashad Bauman, corner. Just kind of vague memories. I remember we had some shots at the end zone we didn’t capitalize on. I remember Victor Ike taking a kickoff return back, but nothing more than that. We came up short. I think we lost by 5.
Q. Major, the 2000 Holiday Bowl, your perception of Oregon then as a player, 13 years ago, as opposed to now?
COACH APPLEWHITE: Well, just a tremendous amount of respect for any set of coaches that can go in and raise the expectations of their program and can make it a nationally recognized program and a prestigious program. Whoever that coach may be who can do that to his program. I have a great amount of respect for that coach and his coaches around him.
That’s something that Chip Kelly and Coach Bellotti was the beginning of that, now Coach Helfrich is carrying that on. They’ve put themselves on the map. Now kids want to pay attention and look at that school.
Q. Mason, the Oregon offense, does that put pressure on you to get off to a quick start?
MASON WALTERS: I definitely think so. Just watching film, every now and then you’ll get a chance to turn on the other team’s offense and see what your defense is going to go up against, seeing how effective they are. Knowing every time you go out and don’t capitalize on a drive, 6 points, a touchdown. That gives them room and they’re able to blow people out.
As we take the field, you have to put the onus on us. The game starts at 0‑0. That’s how we’ll be taking it as an offense come Monday.
Q. Major, in your game against Baylor, are there a lot of similarities between the Baylor offense and defense and what you have seen against Oregon?
COACH APPLEWHITE: You know, first of all, from the offensive standpoint, I don’t study those guys as much. I know that Baylor is high tempo, runs the ball a lot. Oregon is the same way. A little bit different in terms of how they throw the football, how they approach the throw game. Going fast, trying to wear down teams, make their hay that way, very similar.
Defensively, Baylor’s a four‑man structure. A little more simple in the back end. You really see, you know, Oregon’s multiplicity throughout the season. When you watch a 12‑game season, you can see all the different fronts and coverages they get into. As Case and I were talking, one thing about the secondary, other than being athletic and trusting their guys in man coverage, there’s a lot of ball. There’s two seniors and two juniors back there. A lot of football between those four guys.
Reminds me a lot of Oklahoma State’s defense. So when you talk about Gilbert and Lowe, all those guys that have played back there for Oklahoma State, you understand why their turnovers or take‑away numbers are high. They’ve seen a lot of routes, they’ve seen a lot of pass concepts, at the same time they have a lot of instinct.
Q. Mike, can you tell me how Ifo, No. 14, compares to Justin Gilbert?
MIKE DAVIS: I’d have to say he’s a very good player. He is just a good football player. Can he cover, run. He’s not afraid to tackle.
How he compares to Justin or Rhett, they’re similar in size. From Oregon, he’s a little bigger. Justin Gilbert is taller. I feel like he’s probably more athletic.
All them guys are good. I’m looking forward to going against him.
Q. Case, you mentioned your preparation. I read an article that said preparation helped set you apart against that Oklahoma team. What is this pattern and routine you’ve gotten into? Can you describe what’s helped you be good at preparation.
CASE McCOY: I mean, I take that on my shoulders being the quarterback. I didn’t know what all these guys needed to do on every play. I get that from Major. That’s what I’ve been coached to do my whole life.
Just having this long amount of time to prepare and know the game plan front and back, know all the ins‑and‑outs, the checks, that’s where we’re at right now. That’s why I think we’ve had an incredible week of practice so far. We’re on top of things. We’ve repped it. We know what we’re doing. Now we’ve just got to go execute it on game day.
Q. Major, as far as being without Daje and Kennedy, having to leave them behind on this trip, the impact on the offense.
COACH APPLEWHITE: As we’ve said before throughout this season, whether it is BYU, Kansas State, where Mike had an ankle injury, whether it be ‑‑ doesn’t matter what the game is, Texas Tech, we don’t have Daje there. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. These guys have rallied through a whole hell of a lot this season. Really proud of them.
Obviously we wanted to win that game in Waco and be conference champions, but we didn’t. Really proud how these guys made ‘no excuses’ their motto. It will serve them well in life.
Q. Major, you have spent a lot of time with Case over the months here now. You know him as a person, as a player. How would you describe how he has survived and thrived in the Texas fishbowl being the quarterback?
COACH APPLEWHITE: He’s been tough. He’s been tough. That’s what it is. You’re going to get a lot more credit than you deserve, a lot more blame than you deserve. You’re going to have people say things about you that you couldn’t fathom as a player. That’s okay, though, because you want that pressure if you play quarterback. If you’re a coach’s son, you grow up the son of a coach, your dad’s kind of the hero of the town, looked up to, expected to produce, you’re kind of raised in a household of pressure.
When your older brother has already been through that position, it’s like growing up in a family full of cops. That’s what you’re expected to do, handle that pressure and go do it.
Case has done a fabulous job. The team has done a great job of playing around him in that six‑game stretch. What we need him to do is go out and play 60 minutes of great football one more time.
Q. Mason and Trey, the front four, a lot of seniors are in there. What do you see from that line? Anybody in particular that you focused on and see as maybe their most dangerous defensive lineman?
TREY HOPKINS: I spent a lot of time watching No. 66. He’s a great player. I mean, all four up front are great players. They’re great athletes. They show a lot of looks for the front four up there. They have different ways of disguising their blitzes, making sure you don’t get up to their linebacker level.
No. 66, he plays defensive end. He’s shown he can be physical. That’s something that’s set him apart from people we’ve played before. The bottom line, when it comes to looking at lines of scrimmage, it’s who can be the most physical for the longest throughout the game. It’s something we’ve focused on. We have to finish blocks, we have to extend drives through being efficient on first and second downs in the running game.
MASON WALTERS: I’ll say the same. You go against a 3‑4 defense, you have to be showing the front of that, be able to contain the gap at linebacker level. 66 and 92, guys that flash, are able to do that. Makes it tough to run on them at times, but we have seen some things that we like in their defense that we think we can capitalize on if everybody executes.
That’s what it comes down to. You see some guys running the ball on Oregon at times later this year. It’s simple execution. Guys doing their job in those games that other teams weren’t able to do. There’s really no magic or trick to it. Just go out there and execute the game plan. Everybody runs the plays we’re going to run.
Q. Mason, the fact it is Mack’s last game, is that more motivation or distraction? Could that possibly even be a factor during a game?
MASON WALTERS: Everybody is motivated by something. It’s been a drawn‑out process since we’ve known he’s going to retire. Getting to the game, I think all the emotions of that are going to be worn off. Maybe they’ll resurface around game time. No matter any game, what’s going on outside of the field, once you get on it, the only thing you’re thinking about is your job and the guys out there doing it with you.
Q. Trey, people are wondering what the atmosphere is like around practices with assistant coaches who are looking for jobs, trying to hold on to recruits, get you a game plan to beat a top‑10 team. Take us inside what the atmosphere has been like with all that going on around this team.
TREY HOPKINS: I mean, you always have the excuses of distractions. We’re all seniors up here, except Malcolm. When you come out there, for the two hours you’re at practice, the hour and a half you’re in meetings, it comes down to being a man, being able to focus on what is at hand. We still playing for Texas, we still wear the Longhorn emblem. We’re still on in it to win this last game. That’s where you put those things to the side. You put those things behind you when you’re on the field.
You really play for each other. It’s not really about you or anything else you have going on in your life, distractions. I think we’ve done a good job, everybody on this team, of focusing and playing for each other, not letting things on the outside become distractions for us.
Q. Major, both teams now have coaches who are going to step down. Nick Aliotti for Oregon is going to step down. Do you know Nick? What are your impressions of him?
COACH APPLEWHITE: I don’t know him personally. Just a tremendous amount of respect for him. Been in the business a long time. Been at the place for a long time. Obviously, when you’ve done that, you’ve done things right on and off the field. Just a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s obviously developed a lot of goodwill in that community.
As a young guy, you admire guys that can stay in it that long and do it at that level.
Q. Trey and Mason, have you watched any of the Stanford versus Oregon film in your preparation? What was your take away from watching Stanford’s offensive line?
MASON WALTERS: They’re a physical front. Everyone sees that when they run that power down. It’s something we’ve kind of tried to look at, really emulate that. One thing you see is they were able to extend drives just by being physical up front. That’s something you have to do going up against a high‑powered, explosive offense, make sure you keep the ball in your hands, control the time of possession.
TREY HOPKINS: I’d say the same thing. Stanford has built their identity on that, being a physical run team. That’s Stanford, that’s what they do. I think they did a great job. It worked out to their advantage.
We’re going to have to put our own spin on it. We’re not Stanford. We’re the University of Texas. We have our own identity. It might be similar, but I think we’ve got the people and the plays to get the job done.
Q. Mike, I know last year you thought about maybe going to the NFL early. How do you feel like this year went for you? Are you glad you stayed?
MIKE DAVIS: As of right now, I’m glad I stayed. My whole goal and stuff was to come back and have a conference championship, beat OU, try to play for a national championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that taken care of.
I’m just proud of this team. I’m not really worried about the NFL until after this game. Right now I’m just focused on this game. Being proud of what we’ve done this year, how we bounced back. I’ll just miss all of it.
Q. Case, how much more does this game mean as Mack Brown’s last game?
CASE McCOY: Yeah, I mean, obviously we want to send him out right. The man has done a lot around this university, for college football. You can’t look past that by any means. You can look at his records. You can look at what he’s built at Texas.
For all of us, for the senior class, for him, for the coaches that are going to be here, for the coaches that are going to leave, we all love this university. If you came to this university, you accepted a job, you accepted a scholarship, you want to play here, you all have that pride.
There will be no doubt or no question if we’re going to go out there and fight and play hard. There’s not going to have to be a whole lot of motivation for that. Everybody is going to want to go out there and finish this thing right.