12/14 Holiday Bowl Press Conference

Texas Coach Mack Brown and Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel conducted their press conference this afternoon. Brown teleconferenced into the Don James center and both he and Neuheisel addressed the media and answered questions about their football teams.

Texas returns for the second year in a row to San Diego to play a Pac-10 team. Last year, Oregon held on to defeat Texas 35-30.

Brown's Longhorns come into the game as the favorite. Brown is the fifth winningest active coach over the last six years, going 57-16 with North Carolina and now Texas. This season, they came within a whisker of playing for a national title. That whisker was a thick one, however, and loaded with turnovers as the Horns went down to Colorado in the Big XII Championship game.

"This year, we've had a great year. It's the first time we've won 10 game since 1995. It's only the second time we've beaten Texas A&M at College Station since 1983. We're very proud of our senior class," said Brown.

"We haven't finished in the top 10 in 18 years. We're rated #9 right now, so that's one of our goals. Our guys are excited about playing the University of Washington. We are a team with 23 seniors and our players have won a lot of football games. They also have a very healthy respect for their opponents."

Perhaps the biggest issue raised thus far has been Brown's very early decision to start senior Major Applewhite over Chris Simms at quarterback against Washington.

"We've talked about it for about 14 years, it's been discussed more than Coach (Darrell) Royal here lately and he won three national championships," joked Brown of his quarterback controversy.

"Major is a great player. He was player of the year three years ago and then had a knee operation. He wasn't 100% to begin the next season, so we decided to start Chris." Both quarterbacks have played extensively over the past two years, but Simms was the starter as Texas entered the Big XII Championship game.

"Against Colorado, Simms had a tough first half and we had four turnovers. Major came in and gave us momentum, so we just felt like the success that Major had out of that ball game that it would give us a chance to win. Chris will be back next year as the starting quarterback," said Brown.

"Our focus is on the Holiday Bowl. Both guys are great young guys and we have not allowed it to be a negative for us. Hopefully Major will have a great game."

Rick Neuheisel knows that the Longhorns will be a formidable foe. "We are excited to line up against them and prove that we belong."

"We don't want the focus to be that Miami game. Our focus is to fix the things that need it. We're looking forward to playing, not just to get back up off of the mat, but because we want to show that Washington belongs out there."

Of the road woes this year, Neuheisel didn't believe that it was a huge issue. "I think too much has been made of that. Playing football is playing football. The crowd doesn't make any tackles. The crowd doesn't make any catches."

He did go on to share what his feelings were after each devastating road loss the Huskies suffered this season.

"During the UCLA game, we had made the decision that the option was not in the plan. We put Taylor (Barton) in one spot and it was uphill all day. We were one-dimensional. We also gave up a huge game to (DeShaun) Foster. We took a look at our personnel after that," said Neuheisel.

Neuheisel and his staff came to the conclusion that it wasn't scheme or personnel, but rather execution. "If we would've stayed in our gaps, we would've been OK."

Against Oregon State, Neuheisel believes that psychologically the Huskies may have felt that they would just win the game if they could just keep improving. "We had just beaten Stanford and may have felt good about ourselves, and we knew that we were playing a team that was probably not going to a bowl. Well, the second play of the game showed that we were wrong. We are not talented or experienced enough to just show up. We have to play with everything we've got on every play."

Against the Hurricanes, Washington ran into a very angry team in a hornet's nest. "They were down there sharpening their teeth and couldn't wait to play us. We didn't play very well and it showed. Obviously. But we can't wallow in it. We beat Stanford, Washington State, and Michigan, all teams that are ranked ahead of us," said Neuheisel.

"I make no apologies, I'm proud of how we competed given our experience level."
Husky Notebook:

Stevens decision coming soon: Neuheisel is hopeful that tight end Jerramy Stevens will make his decision before the Holiday Bowl for everyone's benefit. "I'd prefer to have all of that done," said Neuheisel. "He kind of pressed in his last two games so it would be best to put it behind him so he can go out and play his best."

C-Dub in San Diego for the holidays: Curtis Williams will be in attendance at the Holiday Bowl. Neuheisel is very pleased. "Not a day goes by where we don't think about the tragedy. How he handles it all is stirring to me. When he talks to the team, you can hear a pin drop. He's clearly one of my heroes."

GA changing of the guard: Graduate Assistant Steve Fex will have completed his two-year stint at the University of Washington at the end of this bowl game and will move on. He'll be replaced by former Colorado Buffalo Ty Gregorak. He'll take over in the spring as the defensive GA.

Current Offensive GA John Pettas is currently taking finals and looking for employment. "He did exceptional with our receivers this year. If the opportunity presents itself here, I'd hope to keep him," said Neuheisel.

Recruiting importance: Coach Neuheisel put all his cards on the table today when asked about what recruiting means to him. "If you don't believe that it is the most important thing you do, you're crazy. It's the most important thing we do and we'd better be good at it or they'll find someone else that is."

Washington will conduct 14 practices in all for the Holiday Bowl. Neuheisel said that they didn't expect any position changes from any players until the off-season.

Dawgman.com Top Stories