GM: We got outcoached in that game, we didn't get outplayed. They dictated to us how our offense was going to run. They had us just throwing into their pass defense instead of running the ball. We had six turnovers. I think Vinnie had like four picks and two fumbles. I know they outcoached us. Their defense outcoached our offense.
CT: How did it feel to kind of redeem yourselves the next year?
GM: It felt good because we knew could do it, but to be honest to win it 1986 would have meant more. The '86 team still had guys I came in with. In '87 most of them were gone. Those were my buddies. We came in together out of high school, so it would have meant more to me to win in '86 with everybody instead of just ‘some' of the guys. That would have meant more to me, plus we would have gotten to beat Joe Paterno. I had already beaten Oklahoma. I beat Oklahoma three times. I wanted to beat Penn State and I wanted to beat Joe Paterno. That would have meant all the world to me. I like to say my career was like Ted Williams though, because Ted homered in his first and final at-bat, and I won the championship in my first and 5th year.
CT: The competition by the time you got out of there was pretty intense. I know that you got suspended for the Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma, and Tiger Clark stepped in and won MVP of the game. That's not the only case obviously; it became this situation where you always had to fear for your job. Was that something that you had your whole career or did it become more pronounced as Jimmy continued to bring his own kids in?
GM: No, that was my whole career. Nobody had a job that was wrapped up. I mean, there were a few of us that you knew…but they still had to work. If you were not doing your job, there was no hesitation. They'd pull you in a heartbeat. We had a lot of good guys there. The competition was always there, and we always had to produce. We had to go out there and we had to work to get better every day.
CT: Do you think that maybe Shannon coming in and preaching about accountability will yield similar results? Do you think that recent teams before Randy lost that a little bit?
GM: I think that some of those teams got complacent and some guys came in thinking they were superstars and the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the coaches kind of catered to that. They weren't hard on them. That's what happened. We would be in practice and if you caught a ball, you were scoring a touchdown. Michael Irvin, Blades, Perriman. They'd catch a slant and sprint the extra 40 or 50 yards. Prior to Randy, guys would catch a ball, run 10 yards and stop. That's not a winning attitude. My thing is, I don't need guys like that. They can watch from the sideline. I've spoken to Randy and he's told me that.
CT: What are some differences in practice or similarities to how things were when you were around now that Randy has been in charge?
GM: With Randy I think I see a little bit more of the "I'm the Coach, you're the Player" mentality, and I think that's the way it needs to be, especially in college because they are still kids. You have to coach them with fear. Put the fear of God in them. I think he's doing that now and that's how it used to be with us. I see the accountability for your actions on and off the field. I see Randy putting that in. If you don't perform or do what you're supposed to do, he'll find someone else. If you don't produce and you don't do it how he wants to do it, he can find someone else, and that's how they used to do it in the past.
CT: Tell me something about Randy Shannon as a player that nobody knows.
GM: If I had to pick out the way that Randy was as a player, Randy was a blue collar player. Wasn't a lot of flash, he wasn't really big, wasn't really fast. He was very consistent and did not make mistakes. He didn't dominate physically, but he did not get beat mentally. If you look at it, it overlapped into his style as a coach. He's a stickler of the defense, as a head coach he's very methodical about what he does, and that's how he was as a player. He was a blue collar football player. He was always there, he was mentally into the game, he was smart. I used to teach him a lot of stuff. He came over and he was a safety. That's what Randy was. He was just a quiet guy but just got the job done.
CT: Was he personable? I ask you this because he's going into living rooms across the country and making an impression on high school students and has been a very successful recruiter, and yet he always seems so reserved.
GM: Randy's got the million dollar smile. He's got the perfect smile. Randy doesn't have to say a thing. He can just smile at you and you feel comfortable. He was quiet as a player, a practical joker. He could play around with guys and he'd help us get through practice. The one thing he did though and I can never understand it to this day; he never wore his shoulder pads buckled. He let them hang, and that used to annoy the [expletive] out of me! I used to look at him and think ‘how in the hell does he play like that?' His pads would be flapping everywhere and I would want mine to be like a part of my body. He would be in a game and his damn buckles would be flapping everywhere. How the hell did he do that? But yea, he's got that million dollar smile. I'm not surprised at all he was so successful recruiting.
CT: How long until the recruiting classes and mentality changes translate to wins on the football field with the frequency that we're used to?
GM: You've got to understand about that #1 class. They have to come in, learn the system, understand the coaches, learn everything, play their first big college game on a national stage, and people are going to expect them to play like they've been together for ten years. That's why I say it's going to take two years. I think this year they're going to be a better team. This past year they were very close to having a winning season. Few different things here and there, and they're a 7-5 team. I think in two years, if he sticks to his plan, and the guys he brings in do what they are supposed to do, I think they'll be a dominating force in two years.
CT: Is it going to be difficult until we get to that point or are we going to be able to see tangible evidence on the field? What has to be done if we lose a few games to keep the guys from getting discouraged?
GM: What the coaches have to do is find a way to find positives from every game. You can't look at the glass half empty, it has to be half full. When you go in there and build confidence in players you help them out. Look at this play, look at that play, if we win those plays we can win the football game. That's what they can do – say ‘guys, we were this close to being 8-3, 7-5 or whatever and having a winning season'. Then, they build on that. This is what I have to correct, this is what I have to get better at. If you find the positives, and from there, that's what you build on. In 1983 we started the season by losing to Florida 35-3. Howard went in there after game, and we were terrified. We thought he was going to drill us into the ground. He came out and said ‘I saw a lot of good things.' Those were the first words out of his mouth. We had a lot of positive things we could work with. A lot of players couldn't believe it. That's how he did it, and the season went great after that. That's what they need to do. ‘Hey, we lost this game, but we saw a lot of good things and a lot of positive things to work with.'