Below are quotes from Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops' press conference Thursday morning and Miami.
"It's great to be back here in the Orange Bowl. As a team we're awfully excited about it. It's a great opportunity, playing a great team in USC, and just being here a few days, I can't say enough about the Orange Bowl, the committee, Miami, Broward County, everybody taking such great care of us. The practice facilities at Barry University are just outstanding, and all the people there have just been wonderful to us.
"Players are really working well. I love the way we've prepared the last couple of days, and we're getting into game week. Basically, today somebody asked me what day it was. I said Monday, I don't know what day it is. It's Monday of our preparation and practice week, so it's a great opportunity to be playing for a National Championship, and we're going to work hard to make sure that we're prepared for it and excited about competing with a great USC team here in about a week."
On if Garrett Hartley will kick field goals agaisnt USC
"Yeah, that's who's done it ever since he took it over. That's who we're set to go with."
On the possibility of the game coming down to a freshman who's never kicked a field goal before in college
"That's not true. He's kicked a lot of field goals and he's kicked a lot of extra points and he kicks them every day. I've got great confidence in him. He won't hesitate a bit. He's got great technique, great discipline in the way he works. That's why we went with him. We felt all year that he was awfully good. It's just hard to replace a guy that was a Groza finalist a year ago. Anyway, I've got no problem with it. He'll go in there and I've got great confidence he'll put it right through. He's got great range."
On what he'd say to Hartely if USC calls time out before a potential game-winning kick with two seconds left in the game
"Probably nothing. If I did, I'd say, 'Hit it like you do in golf, trust your swing and put it down the middle.'"
On Jason White having a better season this year despite the fact he didn't win the Heisman
"I don't think there's any question that he has had a better year I think. You look at his production and efficiency. I think it has been, though it was incredible a year ago, as well. He's able to do so much more this year with his legs being totally back and we use him under the center more. He's given our offense more variety and more dimension that way.
"We are fortunate that he was able to come back. He thought hard about that, and I don't think the Heisman had anything to do with it. It had more to do with the team and his opportunity to come back and help us win a championship. That's what he wants to be defined by, and he's got part of it with the Big 12 Championship.
"I also think it happened that we had a lot of seniors. We had a good group of seniors that he related well. Having some older guys on the team, I felt he still had a strong connection with so many of them."
On playing for their third title in five years and if he thinks this is another great time in the history of Oklahoma football
"I don't look at it in their terms, and myself, I'm right in the middle of it. I try not to look back too much. I try not to get caught up in too much of that, and I really don't. We're just so engrained and focused in pursuing and pushing as a team and as a program that that's what all my attention is on is continuing to build and continuing to improve as we go and to build young guys coming up. Hopefully in the end, it'll be, as people look back on it, it'll be one of those great times that we've had so many of, and I think we do have a nucleus of people that we can continue this kind of run and to establish it hopefully for a longer period of time."
On what factors being the underdog in the 2000 game against Florida State could help in this year game the underdog
"Sure, there are some factors, I guess. In the end it's just the questions you answer. In the end you prepare the same and get ready for the game just like you would. Outside of the questions you answer — I said at that time, I felt we were the only undefeated team at that time, and there were a lot of strong reasons why I was surprised that we were such an underdog because of all the right teams we had played, how we had played.
"Anyhow, coming in this year, I don't know. It's a little bit different, but still, we're the underdog, but in the end does it make a difference? I don't know. You still have to go on the field and earn it and get prepared for it."
On if he worried decision to pull Marcus Walkers' redshirt
"Sure. I worried, I didn't want to take a guy's year that late in the season, but Marcus had been in my office a couple of times during the year just really anxious to play, felt he was ready, and he was. You'd watch him in practice. For a guy that wasn't playing, he was always ready to play and really pushed himself mentally and the way he practices working on his techniques, and he's a talented guy coming in.
"Everyone knew he was one or two of the top corners in the country rated out of high school. I made sure I told him a week or two before we did play, "Listen, visit with your family, make sure that if we get in a situation where we're going to play you that this is what you want to do and your heart is in it and that you feel great about it" because I'm not going to put a guy out there who doesn't. He did. He said, "Coach," emphatically, he was ready to play if it would help us and improve us and he has. He's very conscientious, disciplined. Some of the big plays we had given up were a result of mental errors, and he hasn't made them, knock wood, and he's been very disciplined in how he's played and he's a talented guy. It's made a difference definitely.
"Antonio Perkins being back is a huge factor. He gets overlooked because he's such a sensational return guy, but he's a great corner back and has been starting for us for three and a half years. The year he didn't start he was our first dime guy and has been a great player for us his fourth year. He's been excellent for us."
On his comparrison of Jason White and Matt Leinart
"It's probably not fair to compare because I think they're both great in decision-making, got great arms. So, I think it's maybe just the style of throwers. What the offense chooses is where the differences are. As you watch USC and Norm (Chow) and Coach Carroll, how they're really quick with quick throws, probably more shorter throws than we have, shorter and intermediate and maybe go to the check down guys, go to. They're looking for deeper routes, they go to their check down guys maybe a little quicker than we do. In the end, that may be just a style of offenses and what they choose.
"Both are very productive, but that would be maybe where the differences come. I think both quarterbacks are capable of making all the throws individually. We recruited Matt out of high school, as well, and believe me, it was down to us and SC. It's worked out good for Jason and him in a great way."
On the coaching matchup with USC and what he admires about Pete Carroll
"There's a great bit to like and admire. I haven't been around Pete a ton, but I watch, I read. Coach Pelini has had a strong relationship through the years with him and has told me a lot about him, so I see the pure energy, the excitement, enthusiasm he has, which we all try and do the same thing with our staff, and he's always been. I like watching, especially for me to watch disciplined, great defense and the way they stay square at the line of scrimmage, everybody is in position where they should be. You recognize that as a long-time defensive coach, and there's structure and discipline in it.
"You watch all of that, you can tell he's done an excellent job. His track record speaks of that. I don't need to say that, and it is exciting to match up with their coaching staff, not just he and I, but all of us. It's a great match-up that way. There's a lot of thinking that's already been going on between us in anticipation of what the other may do, and that's where you try and throw in some wrinkles and slight change-ups, but try not to be predictable. It's really exciting."
On the hype surrounding this game and if he feels a certain zip he hasn't felt before in preparing for it
"Probably, but it's hard to compare. We were pretty zipped up in 2002 to be here and pursuing a National Championship. I've always followed USC, as well, and their great history and tradition and the match-ups through the year, so it's exciting to be in this game definitely. The National Championship is exciting in itself, but then to be playing them probably gives you a little extra boost, as well."
On what challenge's USC's receiving core present
"First off, just their precision between Matt and the receivers. Their timing is always good, their spacing, and that's what you have to try and disrupt, their spacing, timing, crowd them and challenge them. Then you look at their size, you know a good number of them have good size, which is a factor. You've got to be able to put bodies on them. They really love to try and work you is the run and play action, that mix. We have to do a good job of handling that mix and be great against the run game to get them hopefully where you can anticipate a little easier."
On OU's offensive line being one of the best in the country and their matchup with USC's defensive line
"There are great players in there. I don't ever know how to compare that they're the best in all of college — they're the best we've had by a long shot. It's not even close. They've been healthy through the year, they've stayed together. I think they took a lot of pride in maybe how we finished a year ago and being more physical this year, and that comes with maturity, too, and continuity, all of them together.
"They have been strong. When you look at our production, running the football and a limited number of sacks, seven through an entire season, and the rushing yards together, they're a major part of that. Jason White and Adrian Peterson, nobody is talking about those guys without those guys up front.
"And then playing Patterson and Cody, their entire front four. They're strong and they're very good players, but we too feel that, hey, we've got strength and power up front, and that's going to be a big match-up, definitely."
On if he's surprised that USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow isn't a head coach at another school
"I am surprised because I believe, and I know we all do, he's an incredible coach. Again, I don't know Norm personally. I've been around him some and have always respected and admired the way he coaches, as well. He's had such a track record of success. It's really quite amazing that he's not. I'm sure there's been opportunities where maybe he has had opportunities that maybe weren't right for him personally, so there's always two sides of that. He's a great coach, and in the coaching fraternity, he's got as much respect or more than anybody."
On Mark Clayton being lost in the shuffle with all the attention going to Jason White and Adrian Peterson
"That's a great question because it is. Maybe not for us but in the national media. You can only talk about so many people and Jason and Adrian, they get that. A year ago it was Mark, and Mark has been an incredible player again this year. He understands, and he's gotten less opportunities this year for two reasons. One, the improvement in the running game and the big plays Adrian has provided in the running game. Two, we thought we got a little too predictable, not stressing and stretching the defense enough with everybody, and Mark sees that.
"We've got a lot of great receivers to spread out across the field, and now you have to deal with all of them. I look at all those guys and they're really good, and Mark understands that. I think it's allowed us to be also a little bit more diverse offensively and has put a little bit more stress on defense that we're using all of them more. Mark is a classic team guy and he's what you want. He's never said boo about it and understands and he's just all about winning."
On what he sees as a key to the game in the matchup
"LenDale White for SC is a great player and a big key. Being able to be great against a run game and be physical will be a major factor. I think for both teams being able to establish and have a run game is going to be a big factor for both sides. Whose receivers can make big plays, who can protect a quarterback, and special teams, who can make the key plays that you'll need."
On the pressure USC running back Reggie Bush puts on a defense
"I think he just puts pressure because he's such a great player. He has such an ability to create yards, make you miss them and to make big plays. When he's spread out wide he's a wide receiver, and he's a good one, and when he's in the back field, he's a running back, and he's a good one. To me, that's what it is. It would be no different if he's lined out wide, if he has No. 80 on, we're going to treat him as a really good wide out. If he's in the back field, he's a running back.
"So structurally, we're prepared for that, at least we're working to be. But in the end, you still have to defend him and tackle him when he has the ball, and that's going to be important. Just to be able to match his athleticism and tackle him in space and limit the opportunities he can get the ball in space, crowd him and not allow him a lot of room."
On if he was displeased with Larry Birdine's comments about USC last week
"Exactly. To me it just displeased me because he gets his picture in the paper for saying something that is pretty unfounded. I don't know where he gets his information, quite honestly. To me that's what I said. Neither one of us need any motivation. That doesn't matter.
When you get to this point, you have strong character. Anything anybody says isn't going to much matter to you, but to me, it takes away from the accomplishments of a team is what I don't like. You should have your name in the paper for earning, the way you've played, what you've done and speak about the team, so instead of writing about the team's accomplishments — I say this nicely. You have to fill up paper space, so let them write something about what the team is doing and what we've accomplished as opposed to what somebody has to say, whether it's about us or SC.
"In the end, it just cheapens what we're doing and what the game is about. It's too good a game and there's too much respect I believe both ways for anything like that."
On him not making Birdine available to the media this week was to keep him from saying else about USC
"It's not a big deal. You want to talk to him today? You can talk to him. Well, maybe you can't (laughs). I didn't think that hard about it. Kenny (Mossman) asked me, "Should we let him?" I said, "No, tell them no. That way he doesn't get his picture in the paper anymore."
On what he appreciates most about Adrian Peterson after coaching him for a year
"What I appreciate most maybe, the two things that really stick out to me are his toughness and his work ethic. Again, coming in out of high school, you see what a talent he is. You can see the size and how fast on tape, but when you watch him — when you get to work with him, first, the way he worked through the summer and got prepared for the year and then how he's worked through the entire season at practice. And then when you're up close to him and you see him — when he has nowhere left to go, he comes after you, and he's tough. For a young guy, he really goes after it that way."
On if there was a point in the pre-season drills that he envisioned Peterson having the kind of year he's had
"Well, people that follow us really closely realize he got hurt in our first scrimmage about three plays into it, and his first two plays didn't look real good. So did we really know? I can't say that we did. We felt he was still awfully special when you watched the way he ran through practice and worked, but when he had that injury, you wondered would he be able to do it this year and be able to pick everything up. I think it's probably even more remarkable what he did this whole season when you look at how much practice time he missed after the injury and two-a-days after the scrimmage. He missed the entire two-a-days after that, so it probably makes it even more remarkable what he's been able to do."
On if he sees Peterson catching more passes in the future
"Adrian catches the ball fine. It's something as we go I'm sure he'll get more and more catches and more and more opportunities that way. It's hard to knock what he's done, you know. I had a caller on one of my radio shows thought we were crazy that the TV announcer said when he's in the game, we're 99 percent run. I said, "Do you actually think that's the case?" I said, "Imagine, he still had almost 2,000 yards."
"I think we've used him in a good way. Sure, as time builds, we'll give him more opportunities catching the football because he doesn't struggle with it. But again, he can only play so many plays and you want him fresh when he's carrying the ball. You just have to try and manage that in a good way, and I think our guys have. It's not our style to split them out wide, any of our running backs and those kind of things. It just hasn't been what we choose to do."
On Mo Dampeer being out of the doghouse and improving this season
"Well, you guys put him in the woods, I don't. Just as I said earlier, you earn your opportunity to play by your actions, by the way you work, by not only what you do on the practice field and what you do to get to the practice field, the running, the lifting, the responsibility of the day, going to class, being in study hall. So in the end, if you've been short in those areas, then you're still working your way to get more time.
"If you guys choose to say he's in the woods or the doghouse, that's yours, not mine. In the end, it's the only true way for me to be fair and have structure in our program. Mo has come a long way. He still has a long way to go, and hopefully we're working with him. I love him as a young man, and I believe he's got a great future if he's willing to do the things necessary that you need to do when you're a college athlete. We're going to keep working with him as long as he's willing to put forth the effort."
On the versatility of Mark Bradley
"Mark is probably just overall, which says a lot on our team, our best athlete when you look at everything that he can do. Really, I bet he could start at quarterback for about half the teams in the country. He really throws a great ball. You look at all the run plays you can run with him. He's a great receiver and he's our best special team player. He's on every single special team, scores a touchdown, then he turns around and holds for a right-footed kicker, he'll flip around and hold for a left-footed kicker. It doesn't matter to him. If we had left him a corner two and a half years ago, the NFL would be looking at him seriously to draft him high as a corner. He can play about anything."
On if he thinks about taking a look at the NFL when he sees LSU Coach Nick Saban get a $5 million dollar deal with the Dolphins
"Well, not right now, no. I think there's a time for everybody maybe, if you get those opportunities, and somewhere down the line, that may for me. I enjoy too much right now what we're doing, the opportunity, the way we're building our program. Right now I'm enjoying too much what we're doing here. You know, it's just hard to say never or always, so somewhere in the future that may be something that I want to pursue. But right now, again, I feel too good and great about what we're doing at Oklahoma."
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