Outback Bowl Post Game Quotes

Here is the complete post game press conference transcript, with comments from Florida and Michigan players and coaches.

January 1, 2003

Florida Players and Coaches

Florida Head Coach Ron Zook

Opening statement
"I told our seniors that I felt bad for them. It's a tough way to go out. To the younger guys, I hope it hurts them as much as it does me. We played a good football team, there's no question. This is as good a football team as there is in the country. They easily could have beaten Ohio State, they easily could have beaten Notre Dame. They could have easily been 11-1. I told our players we got beat by a good, good football team. I feel like we did a lot of good things as well. There's a lot more positive out there for us than negative. We've got a lot of work to do, we'll start right away and go from there. We were beat by an awfully good football team. I thought it was a great football game."

On the selection of the last play
"We had been getting nearly all man coverage that whole series, and Rex was going to be open. When you're in man coverage you don't account for the quarterback, and at that point in time I felt like it was a good opportunity to do it. I know every call that is made, and I'm involved with that. When it was brought up earlier in the series, I made a statement are we sure we want to do that now, we're moving the football right after the 15-yard penalty. I said are you sure we want to do this now. They were lining up in man coverage all the time. Any time you're in man coverage, the quarterback is uncovered. It's something that we've worked on quite a bit."

On Vernell Brown's pass attempt that was intercepted
"Vernell is a former quarterback, he's a left-handed player. Coming back that way, it was perfectly set up for him. Usually when Vernell is in there, it's for a reverse. You would be thinking it's the possibility of a reverse."

On not utilizing the run as much in the second half
"We were in a situation where we were throwing the ball more. We didn't have the luxury of being able to just run the football. When we were down by two scores, we were throwing the ball more than running. I thought we ran the ball extremely well. We had 180 yards rushing. Usually when you have 180 yards rushing, you feel pretty good about that."

On the two-point conversion attempt in the first half
"Mitchell was not in there because he was having back spasms. Shannon came out. If everything goes as it should, you've got two points. The second time when we went for it, it took too long. It was there in the beginning and we took too long to get the ball off."

On whether the season was a success
"In my eyes, there were a lot of great things that happened. We got our hand on two punts today. We played an awfully good football team, and when you play a good football team you can't make some of the mistakes we made. Early in the game we were in to many first and second and longs. You don't want to get in that situation. Obviously it's not where we have to be. That's not the standard that's been set there, and that's not the standard we're going to have there. But that's where we are right now. I'm excited about the future, I'm excited about the progression of the program, I'm excited in where we're going."

On quarterback Rex Grossman's performance
"I think Rex has played better, but I think Rex had a good day. He had a couple of balls dropped. He had 323 yards passing. That's a decent day. Two touchdowns, no interceptions, I thought he had a good day. Obviously, when you've got a guy as good as Rex, you want him to throw for 500 or 400 (yards), or four or five touchdowns. Once again we're playing a good football team and that didn't happen."

Florida Quarterback Rex Grossman

On his decision of staying for his senior year or leaving for the NFL
"I really haven't made up my mind yet. I'm going to talk to my parents but I really have no idea what I'm going to do."

On the last call of the game
"It works everyday in practice but it is usually thrown a little bit quicker. It's a risky call, he might have had pressure but I didn't see it. Any time you do a risky call it can go both ways."

On teams ups and downs
"We stuck together well we had to learn a whole new system and a whole new coaching staff, we have to be a better team right now than we were last season."

Why did you think you had a rough start?
"Month off, nerves, I thought we moved the ball pretty well, we just didn't put enough points on the board."

On next year
"I think we're only going to get better, we'll know the reads; we'll know what the coaches want. At times this year we looked like a great team."

On relationship with Coach Zook
"I think they are great coaches and great people to be around. They are always positive and always making sure you are moving a thousand miles an hour and working hard so it's going to pay off. We will get the system it will click whether I'm here or not, I have a lot of faith in this coaching staff that they will get this program and take off with it. I think a lot of new coaches have their biggest success in their second year."

On making the last call
"It's safer to do something easy, quick and what you're used to but like I said it could have been a huge play that could have won the game. There was a moment that we should get out of it but I went through with it and it didn't work out."

On overall experience at the University of Florida
"I have loved my time with the gators, I bleed orange and blue. I've had some of the best times of my life playing football at the University of Florida. It's going to be sad if I leave but I had a great time and don't regret a thing, a throw, a pass because that's what I wanted to do at that particular moment."

Florida Linebacker Mike Nattiel

On how the defense performed
"We just gave up some big plays, allowing them to go down the field with long drives. We had some breakdowns on defense and you can't have that against a team as good as Michigan."

On getting to quarterback Rex Grossman
"We didn't get much pressure on the quarterback, allowing him to step up into the pocket and make some big plays. We played great run defense, but gave up big plays on third downs. That was what really hurt us today."

On playing on New Year's Day
"It's great to play in a January 1 bowl, something we look to accomplish every year. I have been able to play in one in each of my four years. It was great to be here, but we just couldn't pull out the win."

On Michigan quarterback John Navarre's performance
"We expected them to run the ball more and it didn't seem like he threw for 300-plus yards. He (Navarre) made great decisions out there in their short passing game and didn't throw any interceptions. He ran their offense really well."

Florida Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff

On the team's performance this season
"This was a learning year for us, anytime you come in and get a new offense and a new defense and you have young players stepping into follow All-American players your going to have a down season. But the team is in good hands, the coaches will have good game plans and come out and compete every week. You can't base next year on what happened this year because its going to be a whole new team and a whole new chemistry."

On the return of Rex Grossman
"Everybody on the team wants (Rex) Grossman to come back, you never want to see a great quarterback leave early when he can come back next year and help the team out. He is a Heisman candidate quarterback so you always want him to come back."

Michigan Players and Coaches

Head Coach Lloyd Carr

Opening statement
"I think this is my fourth time in Tampa for a bowl game. We've had some great wins, and we've had some agonizing losses. But we've always had a great time, we've always been treated extremely well. Our players have always enjoyed it. I'm very proud of our football team. I thought it was a great football game. There were a lot of things that went on out there with two teams that fought right down to the end. I'm proud and I'm very happy for our seniors. I'm extremely happy for our kids."

On Victor Hobson's penalty and the ensuing interception to end Florida's final drive
"First of all, Alain Kashama and Grant Bowman, those guys came up with a great play to contain the reverse and really force a mistake. Of course, Victor did come up with a play. I knew he was fast, but he looked pretty fast to me running down that sideline. Even had things gone badly for us after Victor's penalty, that penalty was not a dumb penalty. It was an aggressive penalty. Penalties, you always hate them because you're always going the wrong way when you have them, but I don't think that was a bad penalty."

On how Florida handled Michigan's rushing attack
"I thought Florida did a great job early. I thought we had a will to run the football, which I think you have to have, and I thought we had patience. Our coaches did a good job with the game plan, but I thought eventually we would be able to run the football even though there was a period there about halfway through the second quarter where I was about ready to abandon ship. We put a couple passes together, hit a screen pass, and ended up getting back into the game. At that point, Florida had done a great job against the rush."

On Outback Bowl MVP Chris Perry
"Chris Perry has had an outstanding season. I don't care where you're at at Michigan, if you're a tailback or quarterback, for some people you're just never good enough. But Chris Perry is good enough for me. He's good enough for our team. When you gain over 1,000 yards in that conference, and against the schedule we play, you're a damn good back."

On the decision to go for it on fourth and goal at the one in the first half
"I told our team this morning that we were going to play to win. We got the ball to the one yard line, fourth down we were going. When you tell a team something like that, you hope they'll rise to the occassion, and they did."

On Florida's offense and the no huddle
"Florida gives you so many problems in terms of their personnel substitutions and formations. I was disappointed that they ran the football against us than I thought they would. I think that allowed them to keep us off balance. The no huddle is tough because from the time you're seven years old and you start playing the game, you get in the huddle and the linebacker tells you what to do, and then you see them come out of the huddle. It gets you out of your rhythm. There were two plays that really bothered me in the first half. With the exception of those two plays, I thought our defense did a good job eliminating big plays."

Outback Bowl MVP Chris Perry

On Coach Carr possibly abandoning the run
"I think coach was being facetious, but I'm happy we had faith in me to keep those running plays. At some point in time during the game the running game was not going to work well but this game we worked through that and played well and it came back."

On implementing the swing pass in the offense
"We've been working on swing passes all year but just recently they started letting us use them, I took advantage and tried to use them the best I could.

On B.J. Askew
"He's a great player without him we wouldn't be where we are today. When I saw he got a broken hand I knew that he wasn't going to do the same things he has always done so I knew I would have to pick up my play as well as every body else."

On Florida
"Florida is a great team they have a great defense. We had a game where people missed blocks, I missed cuts. You always go through that in a game but you have to fight through it and persevere they bring opportunities.

On Season
"Of course you always want to go undefeated but it was a great season. We're here at the Outback Bowl and we enjoyed it. It's a great city and a great time and if they ever have the National Championship game here I'd like to come back."

On taking this win onto next season
"We gave everybody a preview of what to expect for next year."

Does he think it is his best game?
"I think it's up there. It wasn't my best game but it was one of them."

Michigan Quarterback John Navarre

On how they adjusted to Florida's defense
"We made some good adjustments when we saw man coverage, taking advantage of match-ups downfield. We have a good deep program and wanted to take advantage of that. Everyone says that we are a smash mouth football team, but we have the athletes to go down the field and stretch it. We did that today."

On overall offensive performance
"It was one of our best offensive performances of the season, especially since we got the win."

On earning the tenth win of the season
"It was great to get to ten wins with this victory over a prestigious program like Florida. It sets the tone for us and gives us momentum heading into next season. It was a real big win for our team."

On Outback Bowl MVP Chris Perry
"Chris did a great job for us today. Credit the offensive line and his effort. He finished some key runs for us and really pushed himself to get into the end zone."

On Michigan's game plan entering the Outback Bowl
"The game plan was traditional 50-50 (run-pass), but if things work, we would keep going with them. We kept attacking them with short passes and broke some runs after the catch. They were aggressive on defense, but we just kept attacking on offense."

Michigan Tight End Bennie Joppru

On Michigan's game plan Wednesday
"We've been throwing the ball around all year, but today we were just more successful, with more points and yards. We knew we would stick with our game plan. We were comfortable with our plan, worked on it all week and knew it would be successful."

On the victory over Florida
"Today was a huge win for us, getting our 10th win. We had some disappointing losses this year, especially to Ohio State, but the ten wins are good. We had a top five schedule. Any time you can get ten wins against our type of schedule, it is a successful year. Four losses would have been a disappointment. 10-3 is much better than 9-4, especially for our players, coaches and fans."

Michigan Wide Receiver Ron Bellamy

On the importance of today's win
"We came in here with a lot to play for, ten wins and a possible top ten finish. We really wanted to send our seniors out right."

On how Michigan was successful with a mix of run and pass
"We felt we could come in and establish the run today. Chris (Perry) ran hard, getting four touchdowns, and everyone, the line, tight ends and receivers, blocked well. Once our run game got going, it really opens up the passing game. We were able to get some man coverage out there and John (Navarre) was having success putting the ball in the air."

Michigan Free Safety Cato June

On how they handled Florida's offense
"We've seen the run and gun offense before, when we played Purdue. I thought we matched up well with them, but they killed us on the ground. They ran some big draw plays and made other plays on the ground. When they have success running, you become a bit hesitant on defense, but we got a hold on what they were doing and held up well in the end."

On Rex Grossman
"He's one of the best, a great quarterback. He does it all well: runs, throws, thinks. He had some trouble running from our defensive line today and our line did a great job containing him."


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