Just on behalf of our football program here at the University of Oklahoma, we're incredibly excited about this opportunity to compete down here in the Cotton Bowl, to play an excellent football team in Texas A&M, a team that we have a long history with and didn't get to play them this year, a great football team. Coach Sumlin and his staff have done a great job in a short period of time building that football team, so anyway it's a great opportunity, a great venue to play. You can tell the players are excited about it. The fans, I believe, the game sold out in one day. You know, so there's great interest in the game. Our players feel that. It's really convenient for their families and fans to be able to participate in the week and to be able to get here. So anyway, overall it's just an exciting week for us and we're looking forward to the challenge of it.
Bob, you mentioned obviously that you played Texas A&M quite a bit. How different are they, though? Have you seen any difference in them as an SEC team and have they made adjustments to that?
Well, the only thing you see different, I mean which is obvious, you have different schemes when you have new coaches. And I think it's been quite obvious to everybody. They brought a Big 12 obvious to the SEC, and they've kinda lit it up. When you look at their number three in the nation in total offense, number three in the nation in scoring offense, throwing it around and running it, you know, spreading it out like they have, they've handled those SEC defenses fairly well. So, in the end, that's what you notice is Johnny Manziel and the spread attack, the no-huddle, them throwing the football around and then him pulling it down and running when he doesn't like what he sees. So, it's a challenge, but defensively very physical team. I think they're really active up front, you know, with linebackers and of course their great D-ends and a well coached football team.
You know, Bob, it's interesting this game in that you have a quarterback that's thrown for over 16,000 yards and he's almost like the other quarterback coming into this game. But you always have to have great confidence, don't you, when Landry's your quarterback in any game you come into?
Absolutely. You know, Landry's been a very steady and excellent football player for us for four years. So, he's been through a lot of games and a lot of challenges and in particular how he's played down the stretch for us. He's been fabulous, so we have great confidence in Landry. We recognize what a great quarterback Johnny Manziel is, but we love our quarterback as well and got a lot of confidence in him for sure.
Bob, you've typically suspended guys after arrests. You decided not to do that with [Jalen] Saunders. Can you tell us why?
Well, you said typically. Not always. So, we had a statement issued. That's the statement. You know, we've been pretty consistent on what we do discipline-wise, and I feel we continue to do that with the athletic department and myself.
What in particular sticks out the most about Johnny Manziel when you watch him on video?
Just his ability to make plays. You know, if you don't cover guys, he puts the ball where it needs to be for completions. If you do cover him, uh oh, there he goes. Now he's running. You know, so he just has a knack for making something happen even when you've played pretty well. So, it's just hard to explain. I guess they've probably said the same thing. He just has a way to make plays.
What do you notice with each of the A&M offensive tackles that's made the All-American team? [Luke] Joeckel won the Outland Award. Can you just talk about a little bit of the challenges there on the offensive line and in particular those two guys and what they bring to the table?
Yeah, Matthews and Joeckel. Just they got great ability, great size and then you can just see the experience and the technique, everything really, their whole offensive line. The guys inside do a great job as well, so they've been taught well. You can tell they're talented guys that have really worked their craft in a great way.
You talked about Landry and obviously what he's meant to this program. But just kind of reflect a little bit. I mean his first game was here when he replaced Sam [Bradford] I guess when he got hurt in the game a couple years ago. Just talk about his evolvement and what he's meant to this program and just how hard it is to say goodbye.
Yeah, Landry's had a long and great journey. You know, it started here just out of nowhere when Sam [Bradford] got hurt and he was genuinely [excited], couldn't wait for his opportunity to go out and play. And thought he really through the year did a good job in a tough circumstance with all the other guys around him that were hurt. So, and then he's just grown and developed through the years. He's a great worker. He's got a great talent. His arm and, so you know, you look at all the records he's broke, the championships he's won are all pretty special. He's been a great quarterback for us.
Your team, it appeared anyway, kinda had some peaks and valleys through the year, but it seems like you're kind of on an uptick now. Do you feel that going into this bowl game that things are kind of going up?
Well, I feel, you know, through the whole year everyone you play, each week's a little bit different. We fought through some tough games and found the right method to win them. So, this will be another challenge, but I feel good in that we have healed up a little bit from some of the sprained ankles and some of the sprained ankles we've had through the year that we kinda have managed and worked through. And hopefully we'll be a little stronger. I believe we will be coming into this game.
Does Texas A&M look like an SEC team? Do they look like a Big 12 team? Look like a combination of both, or is that whole notion kinda overstated by media until recently?
Well, I've kinda all along have said—you know, everyone asks is it Big 12 offenses or the SEC defenses or lack of Big 12 defenses, this that and the other. I said it's always been a little of both and again, when you put offensively, they're a Big 12 offense when you look at them. And we run a lot of the same plays. Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor, we all run a lot of the same plays, and they seem to have managed it pretty well when you look at they lead the SEC in absolutely every single offensive category. I already said they're third in the nation in scoring and total offense, number one in third down efficiency. So, they seem to have handled them pretty well. So, in that particular area offensively that's what they work on. Now again, we see it quite often in our league with five or six teams.
Any thoughts on their defense?
Again, I really believe their front seven is incredibly active. Mark's [Snyder] doing a great job with them pressuring, you know, bringing pressure from different areas. So, in the end, sure they've done a good job defensively. You know, how they look? I don't know. You know what I mean? You can call it what you want. They're an SEC team now.
Bob, could you just talk about a kid like Austin [Woods], what he went through with treatments and everything else to get back to being able to play for you and not only maybe what you saw of him, but maybe the impact on the team as well?
Yeah, it's an incredible story. Austin Woods, his journey and going through chemotherapy and fighting cancer for the last year. You know, we knock wood and pray he continues to be cancer free now. He's been an inspiration to the whole team, the way he's handled it. If you didn't know it—you wouldn't know it if there wasn't us talking about it. He hasn't changed anything he's done. He's missed very few practices through the entire time, very few workouts. One day he's miss a Monday practice because he was in the hospital getting his chemotherapy. Tuesday he'd be out there on the practice field. So, anybody that was looking for a reason not to work or to be out there, he sure had it. And he always declined it and did all he could to help the team and continues to do so.
Bob, when Kevin left your program, Kevin Sumlin left OU for U of H, did you have a strong feeling, an idea that his coaching career as a head coach would be as good as it has been so far?
Sure. Sure I did. You know, Kevin's a bright guy, relates with players well, has a great background and the enthusiasm and competitiveness, all the things you want from an excellent coach. So, he did a great job with us and felt he would moving forward continue to do well.
Yeah, it's difficult. And they do move him around some from each side, so both tackles, whoever's in there, are gonna have to deal with him. So, it's tough. You know, we've gotta be aware where he's at. We've gotta be aware whether we can get an extra blocker at times to him, whether we're aware of the timing of our routes and getting it out before he has a chance to get to you. So, we're conscious of all those things and we'll practice to try and make sure that we can hopefully limit what he's able to do. But he's a great player.
Coach, when you look back on this A&M-Oklahoma series, how would you characterize it and did you hate to see A&M leave?
You know, it's funny how we seem to have all kinds of rivals. You know? Nebraska and then Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, so whatever reason we seem to be a lot of people's rival or close to being a rival. It was always a challenge. You know, they're an excellent program and you always knew you had to be prepared to play. So, you know, sad to see anyone leave. Hey, we're all businessmen. We're all doing fine, too. You know, if that's what needs to happen, it needs to happen. I say it a lot: very few things in this world stay the same forever. So, you just gotta keep evolving with it.
Bob, within the next four months it looks like we're going to find out what bowls are going to comprise the rotation for the playoffs coming in 2014. I'm just curious, we have already some bowls, the Rose out west, the Orange and Sugar in the south. When you look at it, would you like to see at least one in the Big 12 footprint that's in the semifinal rotation?
Absolutely and I think this is the absolute perfect location when you look at easy for people to travel in and out of, incredible venue to play football and to practice. You know, and the way everybody here manages this game, it is like a BCS bowl in everything that they do, in the way that you're treated, facilities to practice, to gifts for the players. It is. They're all set up for it, and I would hope that would happen. And I would like to see it. The location is more favorable for us in this league just like it has been for some of the other teams we've had to play in their regions.
Your relationship with Kevin Sumlin, does that give you any kind of insight when you're game planning and preparing for Texas A&M and those guys?
No, not really. I don't see that as a factor at all. Kevin and I, again, both of us are familiar with each other, but in the end we've got big staffs that are working, preparing strategies and whatnot that all [factor]. And you can see each other's personality all over videotape and what they do and you're not gonna change much in what you're doing at this point in the game. So, I don't see that as much of a factor at all.