Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze and TCU Coach Gary Patterson sat at the podium of the joint press conference of the two Peach Bowl head coaches and appeared as comfortable with each other as brothers.
"We are alike in what we believe in," said Patterson. "We both want to be successful and win, but we both want our players to be more than football players.
"We are two programs, if you will, with chips on our shoulders wanting to prove we belong with the elite and always seeming to be in the position of having to prove it. For both of us to be sitting here right now in a New Year's Six bowl is validation for our programs."
Freeze reiterated what Patterson, in his 15th year at TCU, said.
"There will be no losers tomorrow. The way both our teams have represented themselves here during all the interaction we have had is pure class and I would expect nothing less from one of Gary's teams," Freeze stated. "The great thing about this game is that tomorrow we both will want to win and we will do everything in our power to win, but when it's over, we will still be friends and I believe our players will have lasting friendships they have made with their players.
"To me, this game, against this head coach, is what makes college football special."
Patterson's Horned Frogs went from an uncharacteristic 4-8 record in 2013 to what TCU fans have become to expect under him, 11-1 in 2014.
"We brought in new co-offensive coordinators (Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham) and they have done a marvelous job of creating chemistry, having patience and developing our players," said Patterson, "but I'm still about the Jimmies and Joes. We had good players, they were just young and needed some new, fresh ideas.
"The tempo, spread offense Doug and Sonny brought in here fit our QB (Trevone Boykin) much better than what we did last year, the OL stepped up and we developed some go-to big-play guys out wide."
Freeze will counter the explosive TCU offense with the nation's top scoring defense.
"Our defense has been good enough to keep us in every game and give us a chance to win, but I am not sure we have played a team with the tempo and skill set of TCU's offense," Freeze noted. "You can have a great call against them, have them covered and look to be headed for a big play, and they they extend a play and hit a big play of their own. When I see their tempo, I wonder why I voted for tempo to be allowed. (laughs)"
Patterson immediately took the mic from Freeze, in a good-natured way.
"He won't say it - he's being modest. They are really, really good on defense," Gary noted. "They have a great front and they will be a great measuring stick for us. We have not faced a defense like Ole Miss' - they are as good as it gets. Not only that, but they have held up against great competition and, at times, dominated great competition.
"Hugh is being humble, but the Ole Miss defense is very, very special."
While the Reb Defense vs. Horned Frogs Offense is getting the headlines, the "other" side of the ball deserves mention too.
"Except for one game this year, TCU's defense has been very good," Freeze countered. "Gary is a defensive guy and has always been known for defense. My own DC (Dave Wommack) always studies them and what they are doing.
"They take your strengths away, they are always in the right spots and they are fanatical chasing the ball. They never sit still and their secondary is as good at tackling as any secondary group I have seen."
Patterson was not going to let Freeze have the last word of praise as he talked of the Ole Miss offense.
"How they change tempos all the time keeps you on your toes at all times," Patterson noted. "Coaches who coach like they are doing more with less, which is how Hugh approaches things, are the ones who scare me the most because they always gameplan the best and are the most thorough.
"Ole Miss has the toughest QB I have seen who is really good when he's on, which is most of the time. They have tough backs and they have receivers who go up and get the ball, plus their OL is big and physical."
And then there is TE Evan Engram. . .
"TE? He's not a TE and we won't treat him as such," Patterson laughed. "That kid creates more problems than you can imagine. Our kids will really have to be disciplined on defense to hang with these guys."
The mutual respect continued, and one could tell it was sincere, not a show for the media.
"What Hugh has done at Ole Miss in three years is remarkable, incredible really. And what I like about him is that he always credits his players, coaches, administration and fans. He's a winner, a humble winner," Patterson closed.
Freeze had some parting "shots" of his own.
"Gary is one of the most respected coaches in the country. In the past, he has done more with less than anyone anywhere. What's scary is that now he doesn't have less," Freeze smiled at his friend. "He is confident in who he is and what he does and he's been highly successful.
"I voted for him as coach of the year this year and have done so a couple of times in the past."
And then the fun began. . .
"I told Gary he should give me a turnover for my votes," Freeze closed with a grin.
There's nothing left to say, nothing left to do.
One of the most anticipated bowl matches of the year will kickoff tomorrow and to see these two coaches, who respect and like each other so much, match wits for 60 minutes will be special.
In the heat of the battle, know this, it will be done with mutual respect.
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