January 4, 2001
HERB VINCENT: We'll have an opening statement from the head coach and then we'll just take questions for the head coach or either of the two players who are here. Coach, could we get your next day comments after a night of reflection.
COACH STOOPS: Okay. First of all, I apologize up front for being a little late last night getting to the press conference, with everything happening outside, handing out the awards, taking pictures, taking pictures with the team. I believe in being with my team first. Some of you -- I apologize for getting there late but we did the best we could. Outside of that, I'm really proud of our football team for the toughness they showed last night and the way they have gone about this entire year and the way they approached this Bowl game and the way they played in this game. I said it all along that we came into this game fully expecting to win. Our players prepared the entire month with that in mind. It was never enough just to be in this game, glad to be here. There was never any of that. Our players prepared for one thing and one thing only and that was to win. That would be the only way that this season would be complete, and that's what they did when they were on the field. Particularly proud of the way -- of several areas played in the game. Our defensive performance is probably the best defensive performance I've ever been associated with, and too much of the time I've been given credit for that being a long-time defensive coach, but I must say, as not has gone by and the season has gone by, I am removed from that. Our defensive coaches -- and sometimes I'm careful not to brag on my brother, Mike, but I need to. Mike, along with Coach Venables, the two coordinators just had a magnificent plan, had our players prepared and our players executed that plan in a great way. It was just exceptional, the job that they did, and really, I had nothing to do with it. So it was all those guys, along with Coach Wright and Coach Shipp on the defensive side of the ball that just had an amazing defense last night that just made plays. Offensively, we moved the football. We had a few too many turnovers, but overall, we still used the clock, kept their offense off the field, worked the football, created field position, and really, played an excellent game, I felt, offensively. I thought our offensive line was outstanding against a very good defensive line and really played well. Special teams were a major factor in the game with field position. Our cover units were outstanding. Jeff Ferguson had an excellent night punting the football. Kickoff coverage, our return teams, everything was really solid and it was a big part of the game. I think it sort of exemplifies when I talk about all of the units we win as a team. Every unit helps and complements the other and that is how it was last night. It was an excellent all-around team effort and -- though, again, expected by us.
Q. Bobby, how much did your familiarity with Florida State, having coached against them when you were with Florida help, and how much did their coaching staff help you with information between the last game of the season and the Bowl game, Florida's coaching staff?
COACH STOOPS: You know, there was some familiarity there from playing them, but again, we're a totally different team from when I had competed with them three years ago, four years ago now, I guess. I believe I understood what has helped more than anything; being in a National Championship game against them four years ago helped in our preparation for this game. It helped for me leading into this game how we needed to practice, what we needed to do and how we needed to play them, and I think our players understood that. To play them -- and I wanted to say this -- I want to compliment Florida State who for three years in a row in the National Championship Game is an excellent football team. I knew for us to play them and beat them, we would have to be tough. We would have to play disciplined, tough, hard football for four quarters, but I knew we were capable. But I knew it would take that. So the familiarity with them helps to a point, but these players still have to make the plays. We're a different unit. As far as information from anybody else, it wasn't a factor.
Q. Can you pinpoint a moment any time in the last two years that you would call most crucial in taking a team that you had inherited that had not done much to the team that you've got today?
COACH STOOPS: I thought a big part of last year, what has happened this season also was part of that Bowl game a year ago in the Independence Bowl where we are down 23-6, I believe, in the first half against Old Miss. Our players, we come back, anyhow, have a great comeback and take the lead with about a minute and a half left in the game and we're not capable of finishing the game. They get a long kickoff return and end up moving the ball. They kick a long field goal in the last second of the game to beat us. Our players that made them hungrier. We understood we were right on the verge of having a good, strong season and it was good. But I believe that game made them hungrier, they had a taste of it all season and we wanted to finish this year in all of those games.
Q. Just about 30 minutes after the game when you were being asked about a certain vacancy about a Big 10 school, not to ask you about that, but how does that make you feel so soon after a National Championship Game? Does that kind of come with the territory of getting grilled with this kind of stuff?
COACH STOOPS: Unfortunately, in this day and age, it does. I'm not even going to acknowledge any of that. I'm an Oklahoman. Oklahoma is the No. 1 team in the United States, and there is not a better place to coach or go play football in America.
Q. Have you had time to reflect on what your dad might say if he were alive today? Have you talked to Mike about it?
COACH STOOPS: I have. My dad, being a long-time defensive coach, you know, to play defense like we did the other night, I've got to believe he's still shining on my brother, Mike, and I. And to play the way we did, he still must find a way to sort of give us some wisdom and insight. I said it last night: "The good Lord has got a football coach up there, that's for sure."
Q. They rushed for 27 yards or so. Obviously your game plan centered on taking away the run first. Can you go over that, your philosophy?
COACH STOOPS: That's true. When I said it a week ago, they looked at you kind of funny: "What do you mean, stopping the run game is what you have to do?" If you notice in the second half, they completely abandoned the run game, and it is because our entire focus initially was to dominate the run game. That's where we begin to make them one-dimensional, and once you make them one-dimensional, you have a chance to change some things up. And that was a big factor in the game not to allow them to run the football and our players understand that was the first focus, the first part of stopping them was stopping Travis Minor, and we were able to do that.
Q. One paper pronounced the Sooner defense after the win just too quick for the Seminoles. That was not talk; it was attributed to the Sooners coming in -- how much of that success defensively was a function of that athleticism, that quickness of players being in the right position to make plays?
COACH STOOPS: I think it was a big part. As I said all along, people are wondering how we would match up, and I always said I felt great about our match-up, the way we were athletically. I think what sometimes becomes -- so much of the time it becomes popular to say one team is more athletic or fast than the other. It just becomes popular. But you don't study the tape like we do and watch it day-in and day-out. Our players understood we matched up in a great way. I said it a number of times, as well: We have never been described as slow. In fact, we can run. We're quick. Our guys are athletic, the way we tackled in the open field and closed on the football, I think shows that. Our guys can run and close and are as quick as anybody.
Q. Bob, obviously you have some great seniors on this team, like the two sitting beside you, but you have a relatively young team. Would you say the foundation is in place to be good for several years?
COACH STOOPS: I don't think there is any question. A lot of times teams that have not played so well through the years want to talk about how young they are and they are developing. You don't hear that usually about a team that has just gone 13-0, but we are a young football team; I think with 23 freshmen and sophomores are two-deep. There's no question the foundation, discipline and hard work and toughness that these seniors have started in the last two years will carry on to those younger players and it will only help. We expect to continue to have great years.
Q. Bob, you guys have said all week that you never perceived yourselves as underdogs, but is there a sense of satisfaction of us against them, we have achieved a National Championship and showed everyone who doubted us that we could do this?
COACH STOOPS: Only to a point. It's sort of human nature. You want to sort of prove people wrong, but more than anything -- that wasn't a factor but we wanted to win. We felt we were capable of it. We felt that we played the tougher schedule. You know, you look at what Nebraska and Kansas State have done in their Bowl games and it speaks for itself and to beat Kansas State two times, to handle Nebraska the way we did, I think is proof of that. Then you throw in a Texas and the way we played with them. We had a strong, tough schedule. You look at all of the big games we have been in this year, we've had one at home; so our players, we understood that. That's stuff maybe the media didn't want to talk about, but we recognized it as a team. We recognized that we were prepared for this and that we had a team that could win this football game.
Q. Bob, when somebody says you outcoach another coach, which has been said several times this year, does that make you uncomfortable or proud?
COACH STOOPS: I don't look at anything that way. I look at it as a total team effort. Our players maybe outplayed their players or coaches had a good scheme; they had a good scheme. It still gets down to players making plays and I believe the credit goes to the players on the field, and assistant coaches, as well, with the game plan and putting them in position to make plays. You know, it's a team effort. I just think it is one team beat another team and did it in good fashion. You know, I'm proud of all of our players for the way they played.
Q. Also, I think you said your dad played a version of that press defense in high school, I wonder how far that went back, how much credit does he deserve for -- you brought it to Kent State?
COACH STOOPS: We didn't copy my dad's defense. He's special, there's no question, but I don't think and reflect on my dad in any way, shape or form as a football coach. It's as a person and as a man and as a father.
Q. Bob, Coach Bowden said that it seemed from a coaching standpoint they were a half-step behind all game; they couldn't figure out what you were doing either offensively and defensively and respond. Did you have that sense on your sideline that you were in control of what was happening?
COACH STOOPS: Sure. I don't think there's any question. We felt in total control the entire game. Defensively, when you're playing that way -- I think we forced ten punts. I think they were 1-for-15 on third down conversion and 0-for-2 on fourth down conversions. You feel in control when you are playing that way and offensively we were running the football, running and throwing the football and I love the way we ran the football. So we did. We felt great about the way we were playing, our plan and the way our players were executing.
Q. Is there any time in the last week you, your coaches or players determine maybe a lack of respect from Florida State or an overconfidence, anyway?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it's probably just natural for them to be somewhat overconfident, being that the media continually told them that they were to win by such a margin. But again, that was never a factor to us. We understood all along who we are, what we are and what we need to do to win this football game, and we were not overly -- what I like about our players, we respect everybody, but we're not impressed with anyone. We respected Florida State, but that was as far as it was going to go, and we felt that we matched up well with them. You know, we said it all along, the odds-makers have been wrong a lot, so it was no factor.
Q. Coach Bowden sort of admitted they were overconfident.
COACH STOOPS: Like I said, it is natural when everybody for a month has told them that we've got no business playing them. You know, I don't understand that. Again, I think what happens, it becomes popular to say that. It becomes popular to brag on Florida State in that they have been there for three years in a row. But if you look at statistically what we have done this season and analyze the teams that we've played, then I'm not so sure that's a wise choice and we've more than earned our way into this game, and I think now everybody realizes it.
Q. With you winning last night, it sort of wrapped everything up in a nice, tidy package in terms of the National Championship. Does it in any way change your thoughts about the BCS and how you would tweak it if you were King of the World?
COACH STOOPS: I still think, again, with us, no one will argue this: We had the more difficult road getting here and completing it. I think what needs to happen is teams that don't play a Championship Game, they either need to or teams that have to play one, they need to either adjust it or change it. It's not equal for everybody. So I'm sure something hopefully will continue to adjust and evolve, but the BCS formula, we never bothered to figure it out. All we knew was if you don't lose, you would have a great chance of winning it, and that sort of worked out.
Q. You mentioned the youth on the team and the guys coming back next year, but the two guys sitting to your right up there, how difficult is it going to be to replace them, particularly Josh, who seems to be kind of the heart and soul of the team?
COACH STOOPS: Particularly Josh and particularly Torrance, as well. Both have been excellent players, great leaders and really the nucleus of our offense and defense. These guys are special, make special plays. It will be difficult to replace them, there's no question. What you have to do is you put somebody in there and you develop them. But these guys will tell you, too, we've got some capable quality players coming up behind them, and we're excited about that. That's what makes it fun each and every year, to develop new players, new talent and I'm sure we'll continue to succeed.
Q. In a season when three coaches have been fired, despite taking their team to a Bowl game, do you think the fact that you have won in just your second year will increase the fever pitch even more nationally?
COACH STOOPS: Oh, I don't know. It may. I'm sure it will for me, as well. That's just the way it goes. Everybody wants to win. That's what we're here to do, to develop our players academically, and to graduate them, along with win football games. That's just the way it is.
Q. Torrance and Josh, you came in the exact same time Coach Stoops did. Could you both just kind of reflect and put it into words how you were able to get this done and what was it -- can you pinpoint some of the things that took place with the new coaching staff, with the new team, that was able to get to this point and finally win the national title?
JOSH HEUPEL: If I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be the first day I stepped on campus, I believe that everyone on the football team had their own vision for themselves and for the football team, they were worried about themselves. And what Coach Stoops was able to do and what is the key for any coach when he comes into the program if he wants to be successful and be successful quickly is to have the people inside the locker room buy into the vision wholeheartedly and genuinely care about the person that is standing next to them in the locker room and inside the huddle. In a short amount of time, there was a genuine caring for everyone on the team, a love for the person standing next to you, and a lot of that comes from the blood and sweat that you shed throughout the off-season and during the season, and I think that is the one thing that has turned this program around more than anything.
TORRANCE MARSHALL: I believe that we're such a close group that we all just believe in one another and care for one another, basically. That's it. Our coaching staff believing in us, also. That's basically it right there.
Q. Bob, can you talk about how the expectations will change now and how maybe people out there will feel as they did years ago that nothing less than a National Championship will be enough?
COACH STOOPS: That's fine. I've said for two years that I wanted expectations to rise; that we should be expected to win and compete for championships. So I welcome that, and certainly that's what we're going to push for every year. And if they want to be upset that we don't win a championship, they won't be any more upset than I am. That's the way it goes.
Q. I know how positive you are, I was wondering how soon after the game did you actually start thinking about next year and what do you think about your chances to repeat?
COACH STOOPS: It's really that way, having been through it before in '96 when we won the National Championship, you do feel a little bit of that after it's over. You think, "Well, now what?" Because the most fun, and I try to relay this to the players and I've spoken to them several times about this, the best part of this is the pursuit of it, and being in the Championship Game and being in the middle of the game and the practices and the preparation leading up to it, the pursuit of it is the most -- what's so rewarding and the most fun. Once it is over, it's sort of anticlimactic, it's, "Well, now what?" So now you've got to go try and do it again and that's what we'll do. But the best part of it is going for it.
Q. Your assistants have talked about how your balance is so important, as important as football is, having a life outside. Can you talk about the things that you do to keep things in perspective, whether it be breaking away for a jog or getting the coaches and families together on Wednesday nights?
COACH STOOPS: I'm sort of a person that I believe in being positive, confident -- coaches that are enthusiastic and excited about what they are doing. I detest people that are not that way or that are tired, and I don't want my coaches tired. I want them rested. I want them happy. I want them to be able to relate to their players that way. And so to do that, I just don't believe in being in the office all day or night. We're going to do whatever is necessary and there are some days where we do put in long hours. We're never not going to leave the office or the field if we don't feel prepared or ready to play. But, I believe in -- I believe in our coaches getting out jogging, running every day, doing something to remain healthy. I believe in the quality of family and time with them. I believe in rest. I believe in them having a chance to sleep, like everybody else does and come to the office the next day refreshed and ready to go again. Everybody has their styles. I'm not saying ours is right, but, you know, that's just the way we go about it.
Q. With the relatively quick ascent of Oklahoma, 13-0 finish this year, do you leave yourself any room for improvement?
COACH STOOPS: Not unless we're going to play a preseason game and then win the Big 12 Championship and then win the National Championship. I guess that would be 14-0. That would be about the only place you can go from here. But doing it again would be pretty special, too. And Oklahoma has done that before, I think.
Q. Torrance and Josh, just wondering, who do you consider the best team you've played this season and why?
JOSH HEUPEL: You know, I think it's tough to pinpoint one football team that's the best football team. Obviously, Florida State was a great football team, but I think some of the tests that we had inside the Big 12 Conference were extremely hard, as well. The defenses we faced in Texas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Florida State were all very solid.
HERB VINCENT: Torrance?
TORRANCE MARSHALL: I believe after we were voted No. 1, all of the games after that, because, you know, everybody was trying to knock us off, so everybody gave us their best shot. So since we were voted No. 1 in every game since then on through.
Q. Can you recall the conversation that you had with Josh when he asked you if you thought that you guys could win a National Championship in his time; he said last night that maybe you didn't believe it as much as he told you?
COACH STOOPS: You know, we had recruited Josh for, what, about two weeks or a week, once we found him and convinced him, hey, come in the middle of the week when nobody is on campus so we can meet face-to-face and show you our offense. After being there for a day and a half with nobody on campus, all he did was watch tapes the whole time. Josh is a bright guy. He wanted to know this would work for them. And once he figured that, hey, this is an offense I can run, I understand a good part of it already, this is going to work for me, his only question to me, was, "Coach, can we win the National Championship in my two years here." That's what he asked me. That was his only question. And "Sure," I said. "Yes, we could." I mean, I'm no dummy; I want to get the guy. But I tell you, he convinced me. Once he convinced me, we started convincing everybody else.
Q. What's the toughest thing that you've had to overcome in your life and how did that shape you as a person?
COACH STOOPS: Toughest thing that I had to overcome in my life, I'm not so sure. I've been pretty blessed. I'm not so sure I've had anything too difficult outside of losing my father. That's as tough as it gets. I don't know. Everybody has some adversity. It's hard for me to say.
Q. You mentioned how last year the Bowl loss really kept you hungry, but this year you won them all. How do you motivate for next year?
COACH STOOPS: These guys will tell you we'll enjoy it for about two weeks and I'll turn Coach Schmidt loose on them. I believe our players, what will help us for next year is we do have a great discipline and a work ethic that our players go through the year with. This win in this National Championship didn't start, you know, in September. Our players started earning this back in, you know, last January. Coach Schmidt will be after them in a few weeks ready to do it again.
Q. Do you think the speed with which you did this might lead athletic directors around the country to expect the same from their coaches? Should they? Is that a downside or can you only speak for yourself?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know. I'm sure they all have their own timetables or they evaluate their programs and see if they see progress, if they are satisfied and if they don't, they don't. I can't answer that. I guess for some it may and others it may not. But that's just like certain programs people label as never able to win, and then they do; and therefore, that displaces all of those excuses why someone cannot win. Kansas State is an excellent example of that. So, I don't know what it will do, but I can't worry about that.
Q. Bob, are you conscious of the fact that you've been at this two years, as a head coach and a lot of guys have done it 25, 30 years and won't have this to show for it. Can you just speak to that?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, I have. Believe me, I feel fortunate. I'm grateful and I'm appreciative of the players, of the assistant coaches I have, and I do -- I feel blessed because it is not easy to do. And having been in two of these games as a defensive coordinator at Florida and now as a head coach to be in National Championship games and winning is extremely special. I guess more than anything, I don't look at it as just me, though, so I don't sit there and pat myself on the back. I look at it again as a collective group, and I'm fortunate to have been involved in those groups and in those teams as I have. And I do recognize that it is very special and hard to do, and, again, feel very fortunate.
Q. You are sort of a student of an OU history. Where would you rank this team against Switzer's best teams and maybe even Wilkinson's best teams, if you've looked into that?
COACH STOOPS: I'm sure I'll read about it in the paper tomorrow from you -- no. It's got to be very special. The great tradition and history of OU football, there's never been a team that's gone 13-0, maybe not even 12-0. Certainly, it needs to rank up there with any of the great teams, and I'm not here to lobby as the greatest. We have got a lot of great years, and, you know, with such a great history and tradition, it is special. I'm sure it will rank up there with all of the great ones that they have had, and should.
Q. What was it about Oklahoma that made you think that you could turn this around? What was your timetable coming in? I don't imagine you figured "Second year we'll go out and win a National Championship"?
COACH STOOPS: We never had a timetable. We just wanted to work each week. I said this, we didn't come in in the first month and first week and start talking about what we were going to win. We talked about initially let's learn how to go through a winter workout like we're supposed to. Let's train in a way that athletes train to give us a chance to win. And then we get into spring ball and we talked about learning how to play football on the field the correct way and a winning way. Then summer, same thing; let's learn how to get ourselves in condition to compete for a championship, so it is just an evolving process, just working week-to-week, month-to-month to improve. What was it about Oklahoma that I felt? A lot of things: The tradition, the history. Anybody that's won as long and as often and as much as we have should be able to do it again, with the right direction, with the press and Joe Castiglione, with the leadership from the top, you have got an opportunity to do that and we had that here. So I trusted that. All of those things together led to that.
Q. Josh and Torrance, how much will you guys look forward to coming back in future years and being on the sidelines for big games in the future, maybe even more National Championship games like where so many past greats were last night?
TORRANCE MARSHALL: I'm looking forward to it. Seeing the other guys come back when I'm playing, that's special. That means a lot to us, motivating us, telling us what a great job we're going doing. I'm looking forward to coming back and motivating other Sooners and telling them what a good job they are doing, so I'm looking forward to it.
JOSH HEUPEL: I look forward to coming back in 15, 20 years and getting a chance to see everybody again, seeing Torrance when he is a little heavier and out of shape. (Laughter). But just like the players from the past that are already coming back and having a great pride in Oklahoma tradition, we have that that we've reinstilled, that pride back in the program, and it is a special time and a lot of special memories and bonds, the relationships that you've formed inside the locker room; it will last a lifetime.
Q. Coach, could you talk about the fun of being in the pursuit of the Championship, and today, maybe even a little sadness that it's over? And that touchdown run late in the game, was that sort of the apex for you?
COACH STOOPS: Probably. You feel comfortable at that point late in the game to go up 13; that things were in hand. But, you know, being a coach, you know a lot of things can happen, which still did, so you have to keep playing. But was exciting to see Quentin pop that run. We said it all year; that our run game has been a major factor in where we're at in the development of our run game, how it has helped us being a more consistent offense through the year and that is a great example of why it has been. That was a big play in the game.
Q. Just wondering if you talked to Coach Switzer after the game, and if so, what he had to say to you?
COACH STOOPS: I did. He was excited as anybody about where we are at. He agreed with me that OU football was back. Just happy for all of us. Believe me, he means a lot to all of us, and I know this program and winning and our tradition means a lot to him, so it is fun to see him and he takes a lot of pride in our program, so it was great to see him.
Q. If Ohio State contacts you, will you be willing to talk to them and have you been contacted by them at all?
COACH STOOPS: No and no.
Q. So you will not talk to them if they contact you?
COACH STOOPS: Well, if someone calls you, always talk to them. I mean, someone -- how will I know who it is? (Laughter).
Q. Josh and Torrance, I've played in National Championships, won Super Bowls. I wonder how you feel about this contest. I agree with Coach that the pursuit is what it is about. I felt a tremendous void after both occasions after it was over. Josh, you seem like such a staid individual; there's more to you than just even pursuit, as great as it is winning National Championships. Can you speak to how you felt specifically afterwards?
JOSH HEUPEL: First of all, the feeling is kind of indescribable afterwards. It is almost like, not a sense of relief like there was pressure to win and to do it, but just a sense of relief that everything you've set out in front of you has come to pass. It is great to be able to look your teammates in the eyes and see that look in their eyes, the sense of pride and accomplishment that they have had. So those are the things that you take away right after the game. But I would agree with Coach that there's doubt that the pursuit of it is more special than anything afterwards.
Q. Is there any trepidation about what is next?
JOSH HEUPEL: Well, hopefully, Torrance and I have got something next, but again, you want to enjoy the moment as much as you can for the next couple of days. Nights like last night don't happen very often, so enjoy them when they come.
TORRANCE MARSHALL: I felt real good, but I still have a job to do. I've still got kids to feed, so my whole mind state was I enjoyed myself for the night, but right now, I have to think about going on and living my life because college football is over. I still have to graduate and get a job and things like that. So my mind just really thought, you know, you're in the big world now, you ain't playing college football no more. You have to go on to -- you know, you're a man now. That's basically it.
HERB VINCENT: Thank you very much. Congratulations. Good luck to you.
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