VETTEL: Conversation With Mattison on Outback

After about a month of waiting, the Outback Bowl matchup with Iowa is within hailing distance as the Florida Gators try to put a positive ending to a season for the first time in years. The Gators have lost five of their last six bowl games and the only win didn't turn out to be much of a springboard into the off-season.

The 2001 Gators got a dominating win over Maryland in the Orange Bowl but lost Coach Steve Spurrier less than a week later, deflating that balloon in a hurry.

Recently I sat down with Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen and Defensive Co-Coordinator Greg Mattison to get a feel for what the Gators think about this Iowa team, and how importantly the players are taking preparations. Today we'll start with Coach Mattison.

One-on-One with Mattison

LV: What's your overall impression of the Iowa offense?

GM: Tremendously tough offense. They're hard-nosed and if you don't come ready to play they'll make it a long ballgame for you. They are totally based on perfect technique and toughness. They'll take the same steps every time. They are very simple in that everything is based on the running game, and they'll run the play-action pass or the boot (QB bootleg) off of it.

LV: Their quarterback Drew Tate has pretty impressive numbers (63 percent, 2,482 passing yards, 19 TD, 6 interceptions). How would you assess him as a player?

GM: Really strong arm. He's a competitor and can scramble. So you have a mixture of things that can make it tough for a defense. He'll run out of the pocket if you pressure him and he can throw it a long way. He's a tough kid and he gives them what they want.

LV: They proably throw to the tight end more than anyone you have faced this year. What kind of problems does that cause you?

GM: Their leading receiver is (Scott) Chandler (40, 463, 2), who is a great big target who is really deceiving. You watch the tape and you think I'm not sure how fast this guy is, but they don't catch him and he always catches the ball. The other young man (Tony) Moecki (8, 112) is a guy I recruited at Notre Dame. He's out of Chicago and is an outstanding athlete. So that gives them two big guys who are good as pass receiving and can also block. They make it harder for you because you can't load up on pass or run and that makes them a good offense.

LV: Your defense has been very good in the nickel lineup, but this seems like a team that will be difficult to get into that alignment.

GM: Larry you know what's been happening the last five ballgames, and it's a real compliment to our kids, teams have stopped letting us get into nickel. They're keeping their regular people in the game in order to give them more maximum protection. You remember when we talked almost a year ago that we needed to get more pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. I think that has happened so now teams are saying, hey we can't let these guys just turn it loose and come after us. So we are seeing a lot more of people keeping a back in, keeping a tight end in and I think we'll see the very same thing.

LV: None of the guys on this team have won a bowl game. How much is that being talked about and serving as a driving force for this game?

GM: It's a huge driving force because we've talked all year long about making this defense special. Let's be something different. Let's put our name somewhere. We've done that in a lot of ways this but it won't mean anything if we don't finish the job. Beating Florida State, beating Tennessee, taking The Swamp back. Those are all things we addressed with the kids as things we wanted to do. Now the final piece if you want to really be something is to win the bowl game. That's what you're supposed to do.

LV: Not a lot of seniors have been a part of this defense this year, but talk a little about those guys (Jeremy Mincey, Todd McCullough, Vernell Brown, Jarvis Herring) and what they've meant to you and this program in this season of transition.

GM: They've been tremendous. When you come in new, there's always that adjustment period and that thing that happens when you change a little bit of philosophy and what you're asking of them. You assume there are going to be bumps in the road but this group would not let that happen. They did everything we asked them to do. They bought in completely. I don't know if I'll ever be more proud of a group of seniors than these guys.

LV: Finally one of the great story lines for this game is that Iowa has a defensive end you know well, a kid named Bryan Mattison. We talked last spring about this being a remote possibility. What has it been like for the family since the bids were announced?

GM: It's been good. My wife (Ann) doesn't like it at all. It's hard on a mother I guess because they're so sensitive and that is her little boy. Growing up all along he was a skinny little guy and he's really worked for everything he's gotten. She's flown to see every game that she could, but when this came out she said, "This isn't good" and I asked why and she said, "Because somebody has to lose." Bryan and I on the other hand feel like both of us get to win. We get to be together for the holidays, which when you're a major college coach and a major college player at different schools never happens. So our whole family will be together, which is kind of ironic.

LV: What's your relationship with Bryan like?

GM: He and I talk every day and we have ever since he went away to college. We talk about everything, life, football and school. We're really, really close. The biggest thing (about this game) with the two of us is I told him, "You'll play the best football game you've ever played in your life, I know that. And I'm going to coach the best game I've ever coached because I don't want to live with you for a whole year having to hear about it." We both laughed and it's going to be fun. You know, Larry, the really ironic thing about this whole deal is Urban Meyer was the first guy to ever offer Bryan a scholarship. Bryan was a freshman (in high school) and Urban had just gotten the head job at Bowling Green and we were neighbors. He walked over and said, "By the way Bryan you've got a full scholarship." He could see that the kid was going to grow and all that. So I reminded Bryan that he was playing against the first guy to offer him a scholarship.

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