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Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

TEXAS A&M AGGIES DEFENSIVE NEWS CONFERENCE

Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush

On whether it is special to play Tennessee in a bowl game after having grown up in Knoxville: “I’m not sure I thought we would ever be playing Tennessee again after we left the University of Alabama. It’s kind of interesting because just a year ago we spent a great deal of time with the Tennessee staff talking X’s and O’s with them. People would think it would make a lot of difference, but it’s usually the guys running those X’s and O’s. I’ve always had great, great respect for Coach Phillip Fulmer. I’ve known him for many, many years. I think he’s one of the finest football coaches in the country, not only on the field but a great, great recruiter. He has been able to do it year in and year out. If you look at their football team and the number of young, good football players, I think you can see that they’ve done a great job of recruiting. É They’re an excellent team this year, and they’re going to be better next year. É Having the ability to play a team as tradition rich as Tennessee is, I think, a special occasion. I have a lot of kin people who would probably like to see us get beat 2-0. We would have played good defense and still been beat. That way they would have accomplished both things.”

On what is expected from Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen: “If you look at what he has done the past three or four games, he has tremendously improved. The past two games I’ve seen a very poised quarterback who understands the game. The more snaps he plays, the better he gets. He has a very smooth release and throws a very catchable ball. I think he does a good job of making sure he sprays the ball around. Of course, we realize they have two outstanding tailbacks. Those two tailbacks are about as good as we’ve seen, and I think we’ve seen probably four or five of the top tailbacks in the country.”

On his personal style of coaching: “One thing I hope I do is get very close to the players so they understand that I’m not jumping on them because of their names or who they are. I’m going to coach them hard. And once we get off the field, I’m going to hug them around the neck and make sure they understand that all we want them to do is to do their very best. Once they leave that football field and leave this football program, they have become the best they can be athletically, academically, socially and hopefully even spiritually. They understand, and most of them respond very well.”

On how tough the Texas A&M schedule was this year: “I would like to play that first game (against Utah) over again. Utah has a great football team, but we didn’t play anywhere near as well as we could have played. É Oklahoma and Texas speak for themselves. Both of them are BCS teams. We also had a game where we just didn’t play as well as we needed to play against Baylor. And Baylor played awfully well, so you can’t take anything away from them. So if you have to pick out one game when we were really disappointed, that would be the game. É We had a chance (to have as many as nine wins). But you can look at it the other way. We won some games we could have lost. That’s normally how it is going to be. If you have a great season, you’re normally going to win two or three of those games. É To get to the Cotton Bowl with seven wins speaks a great deal for Texas A&M. It says a great deal for our program. We take a lot of pride in getting to play the University of Tennessee. They’re the East champions in the SEC, and that speaks for itself with the number of great teams in that conference.”

MLB Archie McDaniel

On the Tennessee offense: “They have great running backs and a great passing game. They do both well.”

On how close the players on this Texas A&M team are: “Very close. We’re like a family on and off the field. I think this (playing in the Cotton Bowl) will be great for our program. We can get our respect back, especially after what we did last year. This is a great bowl to be in.”

FS Jaxson Appel

On how far the defense has come since the first game against Utah: “Compared with the first game of the season, it’s the polar opposite. É Not to take anything away from Utah because they’re a tremendous football team. É Coach Torbush and the defensive coaches did an excellent job of putting players in the position to win any game they played. A lot of it was the players as well. We all came here to be a part of the Wrecking Crew, but after getting torched like we did last year, we’re not going through that again. We just made up our minds to not let it happen. É We have a lot of guys who have played together for quite some time. A lot of it goes back to Coach Fran and the team aspects he wanted to build this year by taking the names off the jerseys and doing all of the team activities that we did. This team has really become a unit. We decided we needed to play together to win football games.”

On how this season differs from last season: “This is much more fun that last year. This game isn’t fun unless you’re winning. When you win, meetings are more fun, you want to go to practice, you want to get better, you want to do the things it takes to win.”

On the importance of Saturday’s game: “This bowl game is the most important one because it’s the last one you get to play. If you lose, the first thing you want to do is go back and play again. É You can’t do that with a bowl game. You have to wait eight months until the next time you get to play.”

On the Tennessee offense: “They have two exceptional running backs. They have big pass receivers who make plays on balls in the air. Their offensive line is pretty strong, too. And their quarterback Ð I know he’s their third-string quarterback, but he’s extremely solid. He comes from a good background. É. They’re a dominant football program. Anytime you get to play in the SEC championship game, you’re going to be doing something right.”

CB Byron Jones

On how this year differs from last year: “This year we had a plan and stuck to it.”

On what he it expects Saturday: “Mostly it’s going to come down to tackling Ð who’s going to miss tackles and who’s going to make them. We’re going to try to make tackles and keep them from making that big run.”

On what it’s like playing for Coach Torbush: “He’s really intense. It’s different. He just wants you to be the best, and everybody understands that. He’s a real intense guy. He knows what he’s talking about. If he tells you something, that’s how it is. É He just wants the job done right, and he’ll let you know if it’s not to his satisfaction. That’s what a coach has to do. He’s a real calm guy off the field when you talk to him. It’s just on the field that he’s really intense. É You always want to play hard for your coaches. They prepare the game plan all week. You want to execute it to perfection and let them know that all of the hard work that they put in was worth it.”

On the Aggies’ 7-4 season: “We were a couple of plays away from having a nine-win season. We’re on the verge of being one of the elite teams in college football. It’s just a blessing to be a part of that.”

DT Johnny Jolly

On the week of preparation thus far: “It has been going pretty good. Everyone has remained focused. Everyone is down here having fun, but when we get on the grass we’re focused. We’ve been having some good practices. É It’s going to be like a home game for us. A lot of our fans are going to be there. We’re going to have a good time on the field and play hard.”

On what’s expected from Tennessee’s offense: “I expect a lot of fight from them. They have a big offensive front and great running backs.”

DE Mike Montgomery

On the A&M game plan: “I just think we need to go out there and play technique football, defending the run first and the pass second. É I know they have two good running backs in (Gerald) Riggs and (Cedric) Houston, and they have a very good offensive line. They’ll be running first and passing second. They remind me of Oklahoma on offense. Both teams have two good running backs and a great offensive line.

On the week of practice thus far: “We’ve been mostly focusing on us, on A&M not beating A&M. We need to focus on us and the things we do best. É It’s big to be here. We’re blessed. We went home (last year) and watched all of the other bowl games. We took advantage in spring camp of getting better. We wanted to improve, and we accomplished that.”

--69th Cotton Bowl Classic--
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