Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops Press Conference
January 1, 2017
COACH STOOPS: Thank you. I first would like to express our appreciation to the entire Sugar Bowl Committee, everybody that we have dealt with this week. It’s been a fabulous week. Everybody from the hotel to the practice site over at the Superdome and transportation, just everybody. It’s been a special week and a great town.
And I feel like our players have really handled it well. Everybody has been attentive and on time at meetings and practice, those kinds of things. So I feel like we have had a great week of preparation and we’re excited to play an excellent Auburn football team, a team that is now healthy. As everyone knows, they had some guys banged up towards the end of the season and they’re now expected back.
Coach Malzahn and his staff and team do an excellent job. Very good football team. We’re just excited, really, for tomorrow night to have an opportunity to play, after such a break, and I know our players are excited about it and looking forward to the challenge of it all.
Q. Bob, you brought it up a little bit and talked about they’re now healthy and on the offensive ball especially. Can you talk about the challenge of trying to stop a running game, I think, that is ranked 5th in the country?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah. It’s a challenge. They got a lot of motion. A lot of distractions to try to get you out of your space or get your eyes in the wrong place, with a big, strong physical back also that is back and healthy, that’s another challenge just with his strength and size. So, it will take a lot of discipline defensively to be where we need to be, and then we’re going to need to tackle well and be physical.
Q. Bob, a couple of weeks ago in your press conference, you mentioned that you worried about the damage to the brand with the video [Joe Mixon]. In the couple of weeks since then, what is your impression on how you have handled that and what has been the fallout from it?
COACH STOOPS: I can’t say I have been able to keep up entirely with all that has happened. I know in the end, I gave our reasoning and our intention to help; you know, build a young man and give him a second chance. And that’s what we did, you know, two and a half years ago, and I feel like this young 18%u2011year%u2011old deserved that opportunity and has made the most of it, really, overall.
And I don’t believe a person’s %u2011%u2011 all of his opportunities need to be finished in the reactionary moment, split second, you know, reaction to something. He has been given another opportunity, and has grown from it, and it’s really been a positive influence around our team.
Q. Obviously, you were 1 and 2 on the year; you’ve won 9 in a row, made this nice run to get to a major bowl. How important, considering you lost your last game, to wrap this with a win tomorrow?
COACH STOOPS: Every year it’s important to win your last game. It’s always %u2011%u2011 it makes for a better, you know, out of season. And so that’s always the goal, you know, to win this last game.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the fact that in the Big 12 you play a certain style of defense that you see week after week, and so you’re equipped and recruited to play against that, and you get in games like this against a power conference. How that is a challenge for you? And if you consider changing schemes?
COACH STOOPS: You know, you can only change so much. But every team that you play is a little bit different in different ways. You know, this team and the way they try and run the football with the quarterback as well as all of the different motions and the number of running backs they get in the backfield at one time, you’re going to see three of them back there or motioning a receiver back there a lot. They just have different methods of doing it. In the end, you practice it and it still gets down to blocking, tackling, and executing, regardless of the style that you play.
Q. Bob, because of the vibe created by the release of the video concerning Joe [Mixon], does a win tomorrow night help change that? Does it make that more important to sort of feel good again, just surrounding the vibe of the program?
COACH STOOPS: Well, you know, that’s not going to change that. So we have won a lot of football games already. And that has not changed that. So in the end, it is what it is. We will continue to move on from it. We do have a very positive vibe around our building, in our hotel, at our practice; so winning can help continue that, but some of it won’t change.
Q. Gus Malzahn has gotten a lot of credit for what he has done on the offensive side of the ball in terms of scheme and things like that. I want to get your take on him as a coach and what he can do to make things difficult for an opposing coach on the offensive side.
COACH STOOPS: Just very creative with all of the different formations, personnel groupings, motions, you know, they give you a lot to read and to figure out, you know, as they try and create their seams and their gaps to run the football. So you have just got to be very disciplined to be able to handle it all.
Q. Could you comment on the health of Mark Andrews? He got off to a fast start in the season and as Dede [Westrbook] emerged, he went to the background. I know he’s kind of banged up. What do you expect out of him tomorrow night?
COACH STOOPS: Mark is fine and practiced and ready, hopefully, to have a good game. But he is in good shape and hopefully he can have an impact on the game.
Q. Bob, your offensive line really came on during the year, even when you lost a starter and Ben [Powers] then stepped up there. They’ll face a line in this game that a lot of people regard as one of the top ten defensive lines in college football, could you talk about that matchup and how your line has looked in practice and things working up?
COACH STOOPS: Definitely, our line has done an excellent job through the year of really just gelling as we went through the season, got better and better. We’re going to face, as you said, a great defensive line. The two guys that really stick out are [Carl] Lawson and [Montravius] Adams %u2011%u2011 great players up there. But all of the guys that rotate in there with them really do an excellent job; so very physical active, up front. It will be a challenge.
Q. I want to get your take on Auburn’s quarterback, Sean White. You mentioned he is getting healed up. What have you seen from him and what does he bring to the table?
COACH STOOPS: Good quarterback, good decisions, has got a good arm throwing the football, great competitor. Very good football player for them and has the ability to run some as well. Not as much as some of the other guys, but still he can hurt you when he pulls the ball down or the opportunities he gets, he does a good job with them.
Q. Bob, have you any discussions with Samaje [Perine] and Joe [Mixon] about the NFL? And if not, how soon do you think that will take place?
COACH STOOPS: We have just had some preliminary discussions, but that’s something the following week after the game that will be talked about more.
Q. Bob, you guys have talked all week about the Auburn running game and the misdirection and those things and the problems that presents, but the one thing you have been most susceptible to this year, the deep ball, is something they haven’t done a lot of. Is it a relief or fun or exciting challenge to play somebody that is not going to try to go over the top every other play on you like some teams have?
COACH STOOPS: We expect to get it. So they still %u2011%u2011 to go along with all of the misdirection and running game, they’re going to leak people out and try to get behind you. That is always a challenge as well, not only receivers but running backs as well. So I’d say it’s something that’s not a relief, but it’s something that you’re always prepared for and always working against it at practice, trying to improve at it.
Q. This is your third trip to the Sugar Bowl, your second in the last three years, so a lot of your coaches and some of your players have been here. You had a run like this with the Fiesta Bowl, ’06 through ’10, went to three. Is there any advantage in coming back to the same place multiple times within a short amount of span? Just comfort level, knowing what you get, those kinds of things? Sooners used to have it with the Orange Bowl in the old days. Does that become any kind of advantage or help?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don’t know how much of one. I think you do have a level of comfort and familiarity with everything that is coming to you %u2011%u2011 your practice, your hotels, the way it is going to flow and operate, your meeting rooms. So you have a great comfort in knowing, you know, it’s going to be done well, as everybody here does it so well.
But does that end up transferring to the field? I don’t think it has a lot to do with it, really, when it gets down to it. Your execution on the field, you know, still gets down to that reaction, that moment of being out there and making plays when you get the opportunities and who will make more plays than the other and who will be able to come up with those plays when you need them.
So I don’t know that, you know, just the familiarity and all has that much to do when it gets right down to it.
Q. Bob, the Big 12 gets hammered quite a bit from a reputation standpoint. If you guys win, it goes 4%u20112. How do you think the league has fared in the bowl season?
COACH STOOPS: It seems like they have done pretty well. I can’t say that I’m up to speed with everybody, to be quite honest with you. You guys get it; I’m in meetings and in practice. You guys pay attention to all of that. That’s not my job, you know? So I can’t say that I’m up to speed on how everybody else is doing. But you know, the few of the ones that I paid attention to, it seems like they play pretty well, but we will see.
Q. Bob, earlier in the year, there seemed to be a thought that your leadership wasn’t there yet, you know. But talking to a lot of these guys, it seems like your seniors have really stepped up. They all brag him up and talk about him, and Baker [Mayfield] has always been that guy, but it seemed like a lot of other guys, Ahmad [Thomas] and Jordan Evans and things, it seems like they really loved being a senior here at this game. And has that been something that’s been present at practice and around the program over the last few weeks?
COACH STOOPS: I think it’s fair to say it definitely improved somewhere there in the middle part of the year where they took a little more ownership of it and, you know, and stepped it up more, as the season went on.