2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl Head Coach Transcripts
Vanderbilt University vs. Baylor University
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018
VANDERBILT HEAD COACH DEREK MASON
“First of all, congratulations to Coach Rhule and Baylor. I thought they played one heck of a ballgame. I'd like to thank the Texas Bowl for their hospitality and really, just for providing a great Bowl week and a great Bowl experience for our young men. I tell you, it was a heck of a ballgame. I saw great offense on both sides. You know, explosive plays. I thought (Charlie) Brewer was exceptional for them. I thought he played well. I thought their backs made plays. They made plays when they had to. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, special player. Obviously, he had a banner day. I feel for these 26 seniors, I do. They have put a lot into this program, and we weren't able to finish today. That's the tough part of Bowl season is that, when you're done, you're done. It's done. It's over and you don't get a chance to get it back. But, I do know this: this group's going to bounce back. I believe this group is resilient. I think all year, we sat with a young man by the name of Turner Cockrell, and we worked hard, extremely hard to honor his memory all year long. I know Turner is up there smiling. We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but his offense battled and it's just really a microcosm of the season. Defensively, we didn't play well, we didn't tackle well and that reared it's ugly head. Generally during Bowl season, it does, but today, just some missed opportunities and that’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for this football team because again, I thought our offense played well enough, but not good enough to win. With that being said, I'll turn it over for questions.”
Just playing off of what you said about RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, he looked like an NFL-ready back tonight do you think that performance affects his decision or affects your conversation with him going forward?
“It doesn't affect my conversation. I think Ke'Shawn, you know, will get the information from the NFL and really respond to that information accordingly. The reality is, he's always been a good back. I mean, I don't think that's changed. I think he's an elite back. I think, capable of when the time is right of maybe being a first-round back, but there's a lot of distance between now and then, like in my opinion. But I've always said he's special. That's why I wanted Ke’Shawn back here at Vanderbilt and I'm glad to have him, and as of now he's a Commodore.”
It seemed like Baylor's offense, whenever they got to the line, they were looking to the sideline to audible or pick a play right then and there. How did that affect the way your defense approached it and how did that play into some of the issues you had in stopping those big chunk plays they were able to get?
“I thought they did a good job of keeping us off balance. The dual-threat at the quarterback position, I thought was huge tonight. I thought he ran as well as their running backs did. The reality was, he was the difference in this ballgame when you look at it. I know they had some explosive plays, but he was able to keep drives alive with his legs and that was tough for us. You know, even when it got to fourth down, they went for it. I don't know what the percentages are, but they were pretty high on fourth down. They were pretty good on fourth down and that was, again, the difference in this ballgame. For me, I look at Bowl games. I mean, it's a slugfest. It's a heavy weight fight and when you look at this one, we didn't throw enough punches, we couldn't get them off the field and really that was the difference in this ballgame for us, stopping the quarterback.”
DB LaDarius Wiley said yesterday that tackling is often lacking in Bowl games because players haven't finished tackles in a month. Do you think the month off played into that at all?
“I really don't. I think, for what we did fundamentally in practices – what I saw sometimes in this process was just guys measuring and not bringing their feet to, through and beyond contact and that happens. I truly believe not going for three weeks with a ballgame can be difficult, but what else do you do? I think you put your players in position to be able to tackle, OK, and they were in plenty of position to tackle. Bring your feet to, through and beyond contact, wrap up and then get guys on the ground. Again, it showed on both sides, but we happened to be the bigger culprit tonight.”
How different do you think the performance of this team and this Bowl was from the Bowl two years ago?
“Much different, I thought really, offensively, we were able to put up points and sustain some drives and really when we didn't sustain drives, it had more to do with us. I thought we were more fluid offensively. Defensively, again, couldn't get off the field on third and fourth down. That was the difference in this ballgame. But, our offense kept us in it. Our offense really kept us in it. We had some timely stops at times defensively, but explosive plays sort of ruled the day. For our guys, it feels similar because you don't get the outcome you wanted.”
What did you think about that crazy interception in the end zone off deflection?
“It's football. You know, I look at football nowadays and nothing really surprises me. I thought, a receiver goes to make a play, hits his legs, it pops up and Randall (Haynie) is aware enough to grab it out of the air. That's just a great football play by the DB and a missed opportunity on their part. It's football.”
When you look at the players that are graduating after this year, and moving into next year, what can you kind of take away from this game for the players that are going to still be here, and kind of let them learn and let them move forward into what's going to be another tough season?
“Yeah, well, we'll assess, play what we did, where we need to go, how we need to supplement this roster and make sure that we're moving forward. That's one thing about football, football continues to move forward. Our last game was today, guys will be traveling tomorrow and then we'll get back to it as a coaching staff and figure out exactly where we're going to be. But, I do believe that we've got a good football team coming back. I think we have the remnants of a good football team coming back, a lot of guys have grown up and even though we lose some guys, I think there's so much maturity from some of these young guys who have had to play that, you know, we're going to be better.”
You mentioned Turner Cockrell, can you think back even as a player, going back in your career, have you been around a team that's been as much as this team's been through this fall?
“No. No. Not really, not teams that I've been involved with. I mean, I've had a thing or two happen, but this year's been a little taxing on this group. But I thought it galvanized this group a little bit. I think it helped them understand their purpose and that the game is a special game. Play it as hard as you can for as long as you can because you never know when that opportunity will be taken from you. And like I said, Turner is up in heaven right now smiling down, and our guys know and understand where he is, but they will all go forward looking to honor his memory and his name. I think that that's something that shouldn't be looked at as just a low point in our season. We saw a young man live his life strong, and in doing that, these young men have been given an opportunity to do just that, except they are living. They are going to fight for life. They are going to work extremely hard to be good football players and great people.”
BAYLOR HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
“Well, first off, I want to make sure we thank the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. I thought it's been an outstanding week. I'm happy we won but life – not life changing but life altering, life happy moments for our players, for their families and our kids and our family, it's been a great week and want to thank the Texans and people of Houston. It maybe means a little bit more to us doing it probably here in the state, where our family and friends could be here. I thought our crowd today was awesome and we very much appreciate them for that. I thought today was a hard fought game, came down to the end. There are stories in there that you couldn't imagine. John Mayers kicking his first ever play and has to go kick a couple field goals. Issac Power, first of play and he has to kick it an inch from the goal line and he crushes it, and that's just two guys. But that's, to me, emblematic of the grit of our team, the toughness of our team, and the never say die attitude from our senior class all the way down to the freshmen that just walked on to the program. So, proud of our guys, very grateful for the Bowl, a lot of respect to Villanova (Vanderbilt) and Coach Mason. I saw the running back out there, unbelievable performance by him. That was a good football game, and hopefully our seniors leave feeling like they left a legacy, and hopefully our young players build off it as we move into the future. I'm very proud to be here right now.”
You guys showed a whole lot of resilience all night and it was needed in this game, as back and forth as it was.
“Yeah, as I told our guys, would we have wanted it any other way; the way our season's gone, the way we battled back. We didn't want it to be easy, and that was a great football game. And at the same time, who are we to think a team – they lost to Notre Dame 21-17, they beat Tennessee for the third straight year, they won three of their last four and they play in the SEC, like that's a real football team. They are going to fight and battle till the end, and I was proud of our guys for fighting and battling till the end, even when we dropped that last interception on third down, to go out and get the stop on fourth down I thought was huge. So many different guys stepping up, and that's what was fun about it for me was watching it, Charlie (Brewer) hits Trestan (Ebner) for a touchdown; hits Marques (Jones) for a touchdown. Marques is a guy that does his job, and plays hard, and plays well and starts the year as a walk on, and finishes it with the game winning touchdown. To me that's really who our guys are.”
Coach had at least five fourth down conversions, some short yardage, but 4th and 13th, not short yardage. Can you talk about that for a second?
“Yeah, you know, the fourth and one was a long one, and we did that against Texas Tech. We went for a fourth and one on our own 25, and we did a fourth and one again. You're going to look back, I think Charlie (Brewer) has been one of the great quarterback sneak quarterbacks of all time, this year. It might sound silly, but it's been so good for us. The pass to Denzel (Mims) was really I would say this was Charlie's football IQ because it was a high/low, where there's a guy at like six yards and a guy at 16, and he knew he really couldn't throw it to the guy at six yards, and he found a way to make that throw. I thought what Charlie said, I thought our offensive line did a really nice job. We were there to win. We weren't going to come out and be safe. We were going to push the ball down the field and go for it on fourth down and have some fun and we thought the best way to win the game was just keep possession of the ball, especially when they started moving it pretty well.“
One year ago, your team went 1-11. So from that point last year to now, how much has this program and team grown and how big is it to end the year with a bowl victory?
“You know, I asked them the other day and I said it to them before the game, I asked them to think about where they were a year ago and I think there's two things. No. 1, they did it with hard work. Like you're always looking for a substitute, looking for this, looking for that. They just did it with hard work. And even the team that played Duke earlier in the year, I just told these guys the other day, I don't even remember that team. That team doesn't even exist. Like they have just continued to evolve, every week into a good team, battle through adversity. So you know, they did it by working hard and working together. And then the second thing is, you know, as I said to them, this game was a gift. It wasn't promised to us. We got a thirteenth game, and we're here because of all the gifts that we've been given, whether it's gifts that the Lord gave us or our family and our coaches and even the wins and losses this year. Some of the losses were, you know, if you look at them, we learned a lot from them. We learned a lot from the TCU game. I learned a lot from the TCU game. We learned a lot from the Duke game. They are miserable when they happen, but if you're smart and tough and loyal to each other, you'll grow from the adversity. I want our guys to go out and take this game like a gift and learn from it, and I thought we did. We battled through everything, no matter what happened. Even me with the officials, a couple times, some plays, I was like, ‘What is that?’ and I tried to flip back, which is really hard for me, but I tried to do that because I learned that at the Texas game. Don't complain, just play the next play. I just think, you know, it's been just this slow process and the thing is that we want to be a program that's built on something and built on rock. So I feel like our senior class last year, the senior class this year, and then the guys that are sitting next to me and many more like them, they are building the program on the right things in terms of the right lessons and toughness and resiliency and battling back and celebrating together. That it will hopefully just continue from here.”
WR Jalen Hurd was obviously not in the game tonight and he was very special in the flats for you guys during the season. Can you talk about the adjustment period you had to make to make sure your receiver is still getting open in the flat?
“We have great receivers, and it's really just a matter of quarterbacks doing a great job of getting the ball to the right guys. You know, it was fun to have Jalen here. I appreciate what he did for us at Texas Tech. Had a hurt knee and played through it and went and had surgery and look forward to him going off to the NFL and representing Baylor with tremendous dignity and class in the NFL, but we have lots of good players. We knew that Josh Fleeks and R.J. Sneed and Pooh Stricklin and those guys would step up, and Denzel (Mims) would step up, and you know, we had a lot of guys do that. The backs, all the running backs had big plays tonight. I thought it was an opportunity for a lot of our guys to maybe step in there and fill that role and build some momentum going into next season.”
Before you guys came in here, you gathered all the seniors, took a picture with the bowl trophy. Considering the past four to five years with those seniors, what does it mean for them to cap off their career with a win like this?
“Well, I think at the risk of sounding corny, what I said to them is that I don't think they will ever, they won't recognize for a long time really what they did from last year to this year. They have been so in the moment, just kind of one day at a time. But not many people do what they have done. Not many people go from where they were the last couple years and the changes and stuff. But they’ve done it. I'm just as proud of the fact that we had 24 college graduates out there tonight as I am that we won the game. And I said, ‘You won't recognize it now, long after this game is over, but you will remember the lessons that you taught to our young guys and the humility and the loyalty.’ So I was just happy to see them have fun and smile and play, and play one more game together, and they’ll wake up tomorrow and the next part of their life starts for a lot of our young guys. They will hopefully build off it, but I think the lesson our seniors taught is keep battling, stick around. So often, guys quit, guys give up, guys transfer, they do all these things, instead of just hanging in there, man. And the guys that hung in there, the Iras (Lewis), the Gregs (Roberts), the (Christ) Platts, all those guys, Pat Lawrence, (Blake) Blackmar, Josh Malin, so many more, they have accomplished a lot now, and that's a key lesson I think for our whole team.”
What brings about all that emotion from not only you, but your players after getting the win?
“I think I'm in the concussion protocol right now because they hit me with the actual ‘Gatorade,’ Gatorade thing. They didn't hit me with the Gatorade. They literally hit me with the orange thing hard. We'll see how tomorrow goes. I was happy for them, man. No one knows how hard we work, you know, and the coaches, players, everybody. I had no part in that offensive game plan. That was Jeff Nixon called an unbelievable game and Glenn (Thomas) put together a great third down plan and Fris (Frisman Jackson) had the receivers playing well and Shawn Bell, and George (Deleone), with the loss of Fran (Brown), George was able to go back on the field and coach again and Joey (McGuire) and Phil Snow, proud of our coaches and players. When you see them all smiling and laughing and having fun and celebrating, when you end the year with a win, it's a big deal, and so you know, I really wanted that for them, so I was happy to see that. I always go back to our families. Like my daughter is coming up there, my son, our coaches' kids, they sacrifice a great deal. They get to do a great deal, too, though. It's not like ‘woe is me.’ They sacrifice a great deal and, I want them to celebrate it, and I want all of Baylor and the fans, I want them all to have bragging rights tomorrow. I want them all to smile tonight and have fun. You sit back, thinking about how far you've come and everybody is happy, is a nice thing.”
What adjustments did you make in the locker room in the second half to slow Vanderbilt down and then how did QB Charlie Brewer and the offense then pick up the offensive game?
“I think the thing that we felt like as I alluded to earlier, they were having fast drives, and we were having 7‑, 8‑, 9‑play drives, and you could see some of their guys starting to get tired, starting to lay around. So we felt like, hey, we can continue to run it. Anytime we've run the ball like over 150 or over 160, we've won the game. So I think we finished with 250, 260, 270 or something at the end of the game. I just think we felt like, hey, we'll be able to, because they are scoring so fast and we are having longer drives, maybe that will wear them down eventually because you know you don't win the game in the first, second, third. You win it in the fourth quarter and that's where we wanted to win it. I thought Phil (Snow) went down to a 3‑down front in the fourth quarter in the end and turned the pass rushers loose and big key turnover. So I thought the defense was constantly searching trying to find some things to slow them down and eventually did.”
What does it mean to you when you look at your players after the win tonight?
“Well, you know, the key, core philosophy of our program, other than winning but the key purpose of our program ‑‑ the job is to win but the purpose for our program is to make sure that players leave here with a life that's better than if they wouldn't have come. That they leave here better. Just watching them grow in two years is fantastic. I can't tell you. I think I've gotten four or five e‑mails from just random people in the community meeting Trestan (Ebner), and helping. Helping disabled people to their car, taking time after a loss to help people. They just kind of figure out who he is. And the way Charlie's (Brewer) handled stardom, I mean, fame. It's hard for Charlie to go places. People know who he is, and the humility that he shows and respect the respect he shows. Jalan McClendon and Garrett (McGuire) and the guys at his position, guys on his team, that to me is far more important than anything else. They go out and play football really well. So they are good students, good people, and I say those two, but they are a representation of our whole team, and I was proud to watch our guys this week at the charity events. I was proud to watch our people, our guys all week the way they carried themselves, the way they handled themselves. I think some of the people from the Bowl said to me, ‘Coach, I've been around a lot of teams and this is the most respectful, polite, fun team to be around.’ They might not always be that way Tuesday at a practice, but they are fun to be around for a week. I'm proud of all of them, and I hope they feel good about the decision they made and hope these two recognize that now we've got to start right back over in two weeks. Julie and I are going to México tomorrow, and then we're coming back and in two weeks we're going right back to work because we have to take another step and that's what they will want to do. Thanks, everybody.”
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