January 4, 2004
NICK SABAN: First of all I would like to congratulate our football team and our football players for probably being the most resilient team, with the best team chemistry and the best competitive spirit and character that I've ever been around as a coach. We started out this year saying that we might not have the leadership that we need and we challenged everybody to be responsible for their own self-determination. And I have never seen a group of players that were able to do that and become so close and unified in the way they did it . They believed in themselves, they believed in each other and this game was no different than a lot of other games we played this year. We get a punt blocked, they score a touchdown, we take the ball, however many yards, 80 yards for a touchdown to answer the bell. It's happened all year long that we were able to turn around and do whatever we needed to do. We fumbled a snap on 2nd and 2 on the two. And intercepted a pass and get it back two plays later. And that's happened time and time again because these guys never, ever, when something goes bad in a game, it means nothing. They have tremendous identity, character and confidence and know how to compete. And that's how you got to compete. You got to overcome adversity. And this might sound like a bunch of B.S., But I'm telling you that's why we won the National Championship, because the character and ability of these guys and the attitude that they played with. And I'm very very proud of them. I think Oklahoma has got a great football team and they got a lot of character too. And I would like to thank the fans that have supported us so well, our administration, our Chancellor, Mark Emmert, Skip, they have done a great job of giving us the tools that we need to be able to attract these kind of football players with this kind of character and quality as athletes. You don't do things like this by yourself. Our staff, our entire staff, whether it's academic, coaching, weight staff, it doesn't matter. Everybody has contributed and every player contributed to this, and I'm very proud of all of them. It's a great job, it's a great thrill, and I just can't tell you how pleased I am that our football team could do something that the people of the State of Louisiana can really, really, really be proud of. And I know they are proud of it. I have never seen such spirit for an event that I witnessed here in the last couple days. And what a great atmosphere to play a football game in with our fans out there today. And it's been that way all year long. And I do appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.
JUSTIN VINCENT: The game went very well. When we got here on Sunday, it seemed like something was getting ready to blow up, I guess to me, and it hasn't really set in that we were playing for the National Championship and as the day has gone on the National Championship is here. The fans are great and the coaches are great trying to keep us poised and we went out and executed plays and we had to get over adversity and things just happened to fall into place.
MARCUS SPEARS: I think it was a great team effort. Guys just having each other's back. And that's what we have done all year like coach said. I'm just proud of the effort that we put out. A couple of guys cramped up, had to go get IV's, came back out. It was for the team and we have been playing for each other all season and we saw that these coaches believed in what we could do at the beginning of the season and it was just something special brewing in the State of Louisiana and especially on our football team and it showed up today.
MATT MAUCK: On behalf of the players I would just like to say thanks to Coach Saban and the staff for the amount of time and effort that they put in to allow us to be successful. It's amazing. I would like to say thanks to the fans. Everybody said up here, it's amazing at the amount of support we received ever since we got in here. It was like a pep rally every time we got on the bus to go someplace. And they were definitely a factor tonight.
Q. Marcus, before the season started there was a lot of questions surrounding the defense and now you hold the number-one scoring offense to 14 points. Talk about the defense's performance.
MARCUS SPEARS: I think that we have been proving ourselves all year. I think the big key was it was a total team effort on the defensive side of the wall. We didn't have one player stepping out from each other. Even though Chad is a great player, he believed in everybody around him and he believed that when he wasn't there, somebody else was going to be there. And that's just the way we played all season. And it was positive for us we worked hard. We believed in Coach and we took the coaching in, we went through hard times, but it was something that we persevered through and we knew that we could be a good defense.
Q. I have a two-part question; one for Matt, the other for Justin. First for Matt Mauck, having won the National Championship, does it make it easier for you to make your decision to return having won it; and second for Justin, as a freshman, how do you feel winning the Most Valuable Player and winning a National Championship.
MATT MAUCK: For me it's about what, 10, 15 minutes old? So I really don't know right now. I'm just kind of numb right now. It's been such a wonderful experience and it's been so much fun. To be able to be a part of this team with the character of people we have.
JUSTIN VINCENT: For me it's kind of unreal. I never expected to win MVP. I just went in. Coaches told me what to do and I did what I was told basically. But I guess it hasn't even basically set in for me like Matt said, it's only 15 minutes old. Winning the MVP in the National Championship Game, that says a lot but I couldn't have done it without the team and my coaches behind me.
Q. Justin, could you talk about your touchdown run and why you had so much trouble running in the second half?
JUSTIN VINCENT: As far as the touchdown run goes, it was basically a zone play, the defensive line went fast forward, cut back with the option if it's there. I jumped back and there was nothing but wide open grass and the rest was history. But as far as the second half goes, as far as running goes, the defense was jumping on me and jumping on us. They seemed like they knew what we were doing before we did it . But we just kept poised and came out with a victory.
Q. Justin, you were so far down in the running back order at the beginning of the year, can you talk a little bit just about the change and what this means to you?
JUSTIN VINCENT: It means a lot. Actually I was at Number 5 coming into the season. I already had my mindset out there that I was going to be the best special teams player that LSU ever had. Every time I got a chance to go out, whatever it was, I was going to try to hurt somebody. It is me being a running back and doing things I'm doing now. I'm just blessed enough. It's kind of sad how I got the starting job because the guy ahead of me went down. They were helping me. They weren't the type of people that would look down upon me because of what I'm doing and they're hurt. They were all supportive. I practiced each day. They would pull me aside and say you didn't do this right or that right or take this step. It was basically a team effort what I did.
Q. Justin, a year ago you were watching games from the stands; can a kid from Lake Charles, Louisiana have scripted a better ending?
JUSTIN VINCENT: No, I couldn't have done that; a better ending for anybody. It's kind of a fantasy world I'm living in; so much happening so fast. I'm trying to take the time to adjust to everything that's going on.
Q. For Matt and Marcus: A lot of USC players made a point of saying they weren't even going to watch this game. What would you say to them right now. Do you consider yourself a national champion or the national championship or are you willing to share it?
MATT MAUCK: All I know is the powers that be selected us to be here. We just received a trophy. We won the SEC Championship. I don't know how you could not consider us the national champions.
MARCUS SPEARS: Same for me. This game has been set up like this for a long time. We have been using this system and this is the system we deal with and we are national champions in our minds because we feel like we deserved it and we earned everything we got.
Q. For Matt, Matt, you just said a minute ago you wanted to thank Coach Saban and his staff for the time and effort they put in. I think during the telecast Brent Musberger said he attended the practices yesterday and he said your team was the most prepared and just went off like clockwork. Could you elaborate on what the preparation was that you did ?
MATT MAUCK: I think the Chancellor of LSU is happy that the coaches couldn't work on an hourly salary. That would be a lot of money. They put in a lot of effort. The knowledge that they pass down along to us is the reason we have success. It would be hard on anybody to do that. They know it's tough out in the field. But they have been tremendous for me and everybody on the team.
Q. First play from scrimmage Justin broke off a 64-yard run. In terms of setting, making a statement, setting a tone for the game, how important was that in terms of the way that the evening progressed?
NICK SABAN: I think any time you make big plays in a game they have a lot to do with momentum. That certainly did. Unfortunately for us that we did not convert on that score, but it certainly changed the field position. We were able to get a turnover back and actually score a touchdown based on that change of field position, on the interception. So any time you make big plays I think it has a tremendous affect on the outcome of a game. You could take about every 100 yards that you make of them and convert them into six points. And it almost worked out perfect, a 64-yard run. And we got six points on an extra point on that. I think that that was a big momentum change. I think the most important drive of the game was is when Oklahoma blocked a punt, we took the ball 80 yards and scored and answered the bell. And changed the momentum back of the game. I think that was critical.
Q. For you personally, has the magnitude of what just happened sunk in or do you think it's going to take a little while for that to sink in?
NICK SABAN: You know, you don't really want to know what I'm thinking. Because what I'm thinking is how are we going to get this done next year. Because this year's accomplishments are next years expectations. Dealing with success and all that kind of stuff. I'm happy for everybody else. What makes me happy about doing something like this, is that it's made so many people happy and just like winning the SEC Championship, when you look in someone's eyes and see the pride that they have in what you've accomplished, that's the real self gratification that you get for what we have accomplished here. To see the players' hard work, resiliency, character and how they competed, to see them as happy as they are, and have a life-long accomplishment and a lot of lessons to be learned from this competitive season that they have gone through that hopefully will help them be more successful in their life. Those kind of things to me mean more than whatever. I guess it's something that you can be proud of and take with you forever more, I think when you win these kind of championships you want to win a state championship. When I was in high school, and I got to admit when I go to West Virginia it says 1967 AA state champion. It makes me proud. So I'm going to be proud for a long time about this.
Q. Some coaches advise players to return or some coaches advise players to leave. What will you do in Matt Mauck's case, given the fact that he will be eligible to return for next season. Will you ask him to return or leave that up to him?
NICK SABAN: We definitely want him to return. And I asked him to come back and told him we wanted him to come back. But we want what's best for our players. And when it comes to Matt Mauck, I think he has to make a decision whether he wants to go off and go to medical school or dental school, or wait or spend another year developing as a player so he has a chance maybe to see if he has a career as a football player at the next level and that just keeps postponing what he's always wanted to be from the time we recruited him in high school years ago at Michigan State. He always wanted to be some kind of a doctor or dentist. So we want what's best for him and we're going to support him in what's best for him.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about what caused the problems with penalties and the mistakes that were made tonight?
NICK SABAN: I looked on here and Oklahoma has 11 and we have 8. I think one critical penalty in the game and I still don't understand how we got a 30 yard penalty kicking a field goal. That may be the first time in the history of ball, any ball that I've seen, that that's happened. We got a dead ball personal foul and we got hands to the face. Which, when you block on field goals and everybody's going up in there and jumping over the pile, I mean I don't complain about officiating, but that was a pretty significant change of events. Because it put us up three scores at 24-7. And I'm going to be very interested to watch the film to see if these those were really penalties that should have been called that should have had something to do with changing the outcome of what could have been a National Championship game. I'm not saying we didn't get a personal foul. But two penalties? I didn't think it was a penalty when we hit the guy at the end of the game on the punt. So I don't agree with all their penalties. We haven't played a game for a long time so sometimes you get more penalties. They got lots of penalties too.
Q. Do your earlier statements mean that you're still going to hold yourself to the 24 hour rule?
NICK SABAN: You know what, when I sat up here after the Sugar Bowl two years ago -- we had 14 football games this year. We have been fortunate to win 13 of them. And my wife, my little girls back there, I don't know where Nicholas is, but I'm going to tell you what, they made a lot of sacrifices for me. Never being there and never being around. So I'm going to enjoy them for a few days, they got to go back to school tomorrow, but they're going to miss tomorrow. Life goes on. So we're going to enjoy this. We're proud of what we accomplished. We're going to have 24 hours to really enjoy what we have done here. And then we're going to go on and try to keep building for the future.
Q. When you took the job could you have ever imagined the passion that this state has for LSU football; and the fact that you won the National Championship now, talk about how it feels to take it to that next level?
NICK SABAN: Well, I've been on both sides of the passion here. My little girl was riding in the back seat after we lost to Ole Miss three years ago and listening to the talk radio shows. She was only 11 then. And she said, "Daddy, are we going to have to move again?" So I've seen it both ways, okay. And we appreciate the support and we love it. And I could never imagine the enthusiasm and the support and the passion that the people of this state has given our football team ever since I've been here really. And I think that's something that really you appreciate. That so many people have so much passion for what you do. I don't think there's a better atmosphere to play a football game than Tiger Stadium and I don't think there's a better atmosphere to play a football game than what was out there tonight in the Dome. And it's all because of the fans and the support that we have.
Q. You talked about competitive character, your team's ability to withstand some adversities tonight; where does that come from?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think for a long time we tried to start out telling players you got to play for 60 minutes in the game and you never look at the score board. And I think that's hard sometimes for fans to understand because that's exactly how they look at the game. And when you're in the process of being a competitor, you got to play, play to play to play. And everybody's got to win their individual battle on every play. And you can't let the last play good or bad affect the next play. And I think that's something that our players have bought into. And over a four year period I've never seen a team develop that kind of competitive character that we have so much resiliency to anything that happens in the game and nothing affects -- we got a punt blocked today and it was like, "Stuff happens." And they got it on the two yard line. Some people would completely melt down psychologically and it would affect them for the rest of the day.
Q. Oklahoma was coming up quick and quick snapping, what adjustment did you have to make there; and secondly do you think this will now merit you a national sponsorship with the Little Debbie Company?
NICK SABAN: We ought to get some consideration from the Little Debbie Company. Where is Mike? You got it? He buys me 1, 25 cent cookie every game we win. And I and that's my best reward for winning a game. We knew that Oklahoma would do that. I think they knew that we were tired. I think we had at least four or five players get IV's in this game. Three or four of them at least offensively. It was really warm out there. We haven't played a game for a long time. Our players really played hard. I mean really played hard. And expended a lot of energy and in the 70 play that is we played on defense, but we just tackled poorly in the fourth quarter and it really created some problems and some of it was created by the quick as soon as possible that we weren't ready for.
Q. Could you talk about Travis and Corey and how their play at cornerback, press coverage affected not only this game, but the way they improved and influenced the success of your defense?
NICK SABAN: Well, this is a team that averages 45 points a game. And they had 154 total yards today. And 102 yards passing. And the quarterback was 13 for 37. And there's nobody on our defensive team that has a more demanding task than our two corners. And number 9 is an outstanding receiver for them. Clayton is an outstanding receiver for them. And we play a lot of man to man coverage, Randall Gay goes in and place the fifth and Jessie played the sixth and our safeties do a good job as well, but really play well together. We didn't make very many mistakes, but we had a lot of close coverage in some critical situations. But it all compliment the -- the front compliment the back. We make it so they can't three the ball quick and we get good pressure on the quarterback and affect the quarterback and the combination of those two things I think has made us a very effective pass defense team this year. Thank you very much.
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