Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin Post-game Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Sumlin.
We'll let you make an opening statement.
COACH SUMLIN: You know, my voice is about gone. But these guys I think tonight was really indicative of this season. It's one of the teams I thought in the country that truly got better every week. We didn't always do everything right all the time, but I don't think there was ever a game this year where these guys didn't play with tremendous effort.
That's a credit to these guys. You know, players play and coaches coach. I think every week these guys understood what the plan was and they went out and executed it at a high level and played with a lot of energy.
We were excited to play tonight. I think the energy in the building helped. What a great crowd. Just loud. We fortunately in big time situations, these guys have handled that all year. Like I said, this game is really indicative of how we've played all season.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Coach, how critical was the stretch at the start of the second half where you forced two punts, scored two touchdowns?
COACH SUMLIN: We made some adjustments, huh? You guys are usually on us about that.
The way we play football, I know it's foreign to a lot of people when you're in a no huddle. We really don't care about time of possession. What we do care about is third down conversion. People still think I'm crazy for that, but that's where we are. Turnovers, penalties and third down conversion.
First half, I think Oklahoma was 7 of 9 on third down. That allowed them to most of the football. Were they 0 3 in the third quarter on third down conversions which allowed us to get the football and do something with it.
Again, both teams made plays. But I think the difference in the third quarter was our defense being able to hold up on third down, get off the field and us to convert offensively on third down.
Q. Coach, can you speak to the contribution of Clarence McKinney stepping in for Kliff Kingsbury who moved on to a brighter future?
COACH SUMLIN: I don't know how many weeks in a row we've scored on the opening drive. Our guys are used to it. I think everybody was a little nervous whenever there's a change.
I said weeks ago that Clarence has been in this offense for five years. There's a direction that we wanted to go. If we had hired someone, they would have had to learn what we do in two weeks.
I think you could see there was a little bit of different change, a little bit more misdirection. We had some time to work on some things in a bowl preparation mode.
Clarence, you go back to his days of being the OC at Booker T, when I first met him, at North Shore, then being the head coach at Yates. He's been in all those things, understands what we're doing.
Our players executed. Continuity is important for what we do. Our guys have a lot of confidence in all of our coaches. To me, change wasn't necessary at that point. I think Clarence and our whole offensive staff did a great job.
Him calling plays tonight, obviously you can call plays randomly, but unless the players believe in it, doesn't really matter. These guys executed and made the plays, but I thought he did an excellent job this evening.
Q. Coach, considering how well y'all are playing right now, is there any part of you that asks what if college football had a playoff?
COACH SUMLIN: No. We know what the rules were before the season. It's all set up that way. When the rules change, then there's time to talk about that.
Everybody's playing under the same rules before the season. You have your schedule. You play your games. You try to win 'em all. That's the way college football is set up right now. That means that every game you play is important. Every game that you win gets you closer to that. One loss or two losses, depending on who you played, can change your season.
The way things are set up now, no, there's no reason to look back and ask that. When that format changes, as a coach, as a team, you try to play your way into that playoff system. Obviously that will be a goal when that changes.
As for now, you know, the rules are the rules. We get that. We know that before the year.
Q. Can we go back to the beginning of the third quarter. You said you made some adjustments. Did you make some changes, what were the adjustments on offense?
COACH SUMLIN: Did we punt one time in the first half? We didn't have the ball. I mean, we scored. We had the yard differential at halftime even though we only had the ball maybe nine minutes or something like that for the half. There wasn't any adjustment. We had 250 some yards at halftime. We didn't have the ball.
They were on the field. They drove the ball the length of the field. We stopped them and they kicked field goals.
Offensively, we didn't change much. There was no reason to change. Defensively, we did. Like I said, for what we do in a no huddle situation, third down conversions become a big deal. That gives us an opportunity to get our offense on the field.
So that's where the real changes were, were on defense. Like I said, these guys understood, they were out there 52 plays in the first half. Trust me, it wasn't hard to tell them to get off the field on third down. They were ready to get off the field.
Q. Is Damontre Moore an example of what college football is all about?
COACH SUMLIN: I don't know if it's what it's all about. I think there's definitely an example of growth, a method to our madness, whether it is Coach Jackson in the weight room, in our strength and conditioning, whether it's Terry Price in demanding excellence, whether it's our academic people in Troy, Dan, requiring guys and class checking, all those things that build a student athlete.
One of the things I enjoy about college football, strangely enough, is seeing guys go from young men into adulthood. Guys come from all kinds of different situations, from all different backgrounds, and it's our role to help them in the maturation process. That's not just football. That's in life.
Hopefully, you know, I think what Damontre accomplished this year in that growth process is an example to other guys, and continued to be an example to some of the young guys who may be fence riders. Guys who say, You know what, I saw Damontre when he couldn't make it through practice, he was upset about this, didn't want to do this or that. You look up and he's one of the better players in the SEC.
As a coach, the biggest compliment you can have from another coach is when they say, Boy, your guys play hard. That was the whole thing that was behind Damontre. The thing that I got from everybody every week is those guys are playing hard, 94, he's on the highlight film every week chasing guys down from behind. That's the kind of progress that you make, when a guy didn't want to play, just when he wants to play, but understands that every play is important.
Q. From July to now when all those questions at the SEC Media Days were being asked about how this season was going to play out, what does this win as icing on the cake do for this program going forward?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, I think we're a different team. So, you know, there was reason for people to doubt us. You know, moving into a new league, .500 program over the last 10 years, I don't know why anybody would have doubted us.
I don't see one game, and I've said this before, one game doesn't define a program, doesn't define your recruiting. I think your body of work does. This game tonight was indicative of how these guys have played all year.
I think some people were surprised early in the year of how they played. I can tell you that walking in that locker room at halftime or at the end of the game, our guys weren't surprised, expected to win. That's probably the biggest change that we've made over the course of the last six months.
Q. A lot of Heisman Trophy winners come into these games flat after the banquet circuit, so to speak. Talk about why Johnny was so well prepared, and in the spring, what do you want to see him grow in?
COACH SUMLIN: First let me say this. The AT&T Cotton Bowl, we've had a fabulous week. The people here are second to none. I've been in a lot of bowl games. Our practice facility, practicing at SMU, Highland Park. Our practice rooms, our meeting rooms, how they treated our players, our families, it's a first class operation.
You put that in with this venue, I've coached in a lot of games, but walking out there pregame with people all the way to the roof, it was pretty loud in there. It really had a big time game feel. Our guys have handled that.
To answer your question, though, with the Cotton Bowl being the 4th, I think it helped us. You got to remember this. We're used to preparing for another game in really four days. Saturday we play, Sunday we give the players off, Monday we do a little bit, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, that's the game plan. Friday, you walk through, you're on to the next play.
With us playing the 4th, we had plenty of time to get grounded, get these guys, including myself, I felt like I lived in New York, Orlando, going back and forth. But we had plenty of time, and our guys understood the plan.
I said beforehand everybody was worried. It gave us a chance to get guys away, get home for Christmas, then get back, get us a couple practices back at Texas A&M, get up here and get some work done.
Our guys understood it. Took care of them. Larry Jackson does a good job. Gave us a chance to game plan and work some of our younger players in the earlier practices. I'm not surprised by our preparation and our guys, how we played tonight.
Q. I know a lot of the year was focused on the SEC. Looking back on it, the run you were able to put together, to make the statement you made in your first year, what does it say about this program? What type of a statement did you make? A lot of people doubted you going to the SEC West.
COACH SUMLIN: We never doubted ourselves. Everybody acts like I didn't know what we were getting into when I took the job. We were already in the SEC. We weren't coming in the league just trying to play games. Every coach is trying to win.
What kind of statement did that make? I don't know. You got to answer that. My job is to get these guys ready to play and win. They believed in it. We talked before this game, this is the last game of this year and first game of next year. For our seniors, they're going to set the bar for the rest of everybody. That was their reason to play.
For everybody next year, this is the first game of the new year. It sets the bar. It's a heck of a lot easier to get in that weight room after that confetti is down on you, than to walk out of it like, What's going on?
I think with the exposure that we've had, answering some questions about being able to not only compete, but win against the co champion of the Big 12, for us to come out and play the way we did tonight, you got to figure out what kind of statement that makes.
Q. I know you talked about Damontre Moore, his growth. It looked like you might have had another year with him. Dustin Harris, this was his last shot in college football. Take us from the spring through tonight, what he had to do to get to this level?
COACH SUMLIN: I'm not talking about juniors, I'm talking about young guys in our program that, Dustin, you could hear in his voice, we didn't always get along in the spring. Change is difficult for everybody, particularly on seniors. I'm very, very sensitive to that.
But I think, as we talked about afterwards with Sean Porter, they understand now, the underclassmen understand, too, his growth this year, a lot of these guys, you wish you had 'em another year.
But that's college football. The roster changes every year. I'm just happy for these guys because of everything they've been through over the course of their four or five years that they can walk out of this building. They've never won in this building.
There's a lot of things that these guys just couldn't get over. They didn't want to wear white helmets this year because they lost every time they wore them. This time we beat Oklahoma and Alabama in them. Has nothing to do with the helmets, has nothing to do with this building. It has everything to do with these players. I think that is probably the biggest change in this program.