Mutual Respect Evident Between Bowl Coaches

SAN DIEGO – It is not only the Chamber of Commerce weather that has put both head coaches of ASU and Texas in a joyful mood, as they prepare for tomorrow's Holiday Bowl. A 20-plus year friendship has fostered a great deal of admiration between Dennis Erickson and Mack Brown. Both head coaches addressed the media, before putting the final touches in their team's preparations.

Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson is delighted to be playing Texas, and not just because his old friend will be roaming the opposite sideline. "Playing the University of Texas and their program is a real shot in the arm for Arizona State," said Erickson. "We haven't gotten to that level yet and that's where we're trying to get to. It's a big game for both for us, but it has also been a fun time and an experience that everybody can take and put it in their minds for the rest of their lives."

"Arizona State is not out there like some schools at this point. You need that (big bowl game experience) when you go out and recruit the best athletes you can and compete on the national level, compete in the Pac-10 year in and year out, to get those kind of athletes – a game like this helps."

Erickson has been quoted saying that tomorrow's Holiday Bowl is one of the most important games he's ever coached in, due to the fact that he's trying to establish the Sun Devil program. "When you get an opportunity to go on national T.V. and play a program like the University of Texas, It's important for us recruiting wise and for the future," he explained. "It's not necessarily that you have to win the football game, but just to get on that stage and compete against them is very important to our program."

ASU's Head Coach said that it took all of "two seconds" for his players to get over the fact that they weren't selected to a BCS Bowl game. "I don't think we're the most talented team in the country, but we found ways to win," Erickson commented. "I said this before – we didn't deserve to be in a BCS bowl. We had our opportunities. We had two opportunities – University of Southern California and the University of Oregon, and we didn't take advantage of it. The team that probably got it the worse was Missouri. They're the ones that should be upset."

Erickson stated that Texas is a team that is well-coached, and a program that overall has had a lot of success the last ten years. "Offensively when you look at them, they're so explosive," he said. "They have great speed…they have a great quarterback, great (running) back. Sometimes what gets away is how athletic their offensive line is."

He added that Longhorns' signal caller Colt McCoy reminds him very much of ASU's Rudy Carpenter. Both have ability to escape pressure and make plays on the run, which in Texas' case contributes to their explosive nature of the offense.

Erickson quipped that he was hoping for rain that would turn the field soggy and slow not only the Longhorns' offense, but their defense too. He described the Texas defense as physical and fast, and pointed out that his team will have to "mix it up" play calling wise and be consistent in moving the ball.

Texas Head Coach Mack Brown's first experience with Arizona State was playing the Sun Devils, as a member of the Florida State Seminoles, in the inaugural Fiesta Bowl in 1971. Brown made a point to pay tribute to legendary ASU Head Coach Frank Kush, who coached in that contest.

On the same note, Brown was also very complimentary of Erickson who "has done an amazing job wherever he coached…you can see the similarities (between Kush and Erickson teams)," he said. "They're always physical, they can always run the football, they take care of the football – they're +7 in turnovers and we're -3…he mixes the running game and the ability to throw the ball deep, as good as anyone in the country."

"We feel like it's a blessing for us to have a chance to play a team like Arizona State. We think that if we do our job, it could be one of the best bowl games in the country this year."

Brown mentioned that his team's season didn't end as well as he hoped it would. Consequently, he ripped up the depth chart, declared open competition for all spots, and his bowl practices were ultimately the toughest sessions of the year.

"Guys have done everything we asked them to do," Brown commented on the effect of those practices. "They worked very hard, they prepared really hard. We told them that we won't tell them who will start until game time." Brown did however hint that they will be some changes in the starting lineup.

The Big XII conference has shed its label of being a run heavy offensive league, and Brown remarked that Arizona State throws the ball as well as any conference foe they have faced this season. "Quarterbacks are spreading it out and skill (players) are scoring more than ever before," he noted. "Every rule change has been for the offense in the last 15 years…people are just scoring points at an amazing rate."

"Arizona State is as balanced and throws the ball well as anybody we played. They moved (the ball) against everybody and they moved it consistently. We're so disappointed that we're -3 in giveaway/takeaway ratio and they're +7. If you look up at the end of the year the best teams are the teams that take care of the ball, have balance and Arizona State has been able to do that. I think we forget sometimes that they're the Pac-10 champs, along with USC."

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